Mrs. Nadine Alatoa
Head of Delegation

On the occasion of the 27th Special Session
of the United Nations General Assembly on Children

New York
10th May 2002

Mr. President
Mr. Secretary-General,
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen
Young people of the world represented here at this august assembly

It is with great honour that I am here to address this important UN Special Session on Children. I bring you greetings from his Excellency President Father John Bani and the people of the Republic of Vanuatu.

I join the speakers before me in thanking the Secretary-General, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, and the capable staff at UNICEF for the warm welcome and the excellent arrangements made for this special and important session.

Mr. President,

On 30 September 1990, 71 heads of states and 88 country delegates gathered for the World Summit for Children to endorse the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of children. Vanuatu was represented at this meeting by the then late Prime Minister Father Walter Hayde Lini, who signed the declaration to show the nation's support towards the rights of children.

Prior to signing the Convention, Vanuatu had declared a national children's day, which was first celebrated on 24th July 1990. This day remains a national day for all children of Vanuatu. Following the signing, the Vanuatu Parliament ratified the treaty in November 1992.

Mr. President,

Vanuatu's commitment to the global goal has also resulted in the changes in my Government's policy priorities on Education and Health as the core sectors that recognize and contribute to child development, with the collaborated efforts of our development partner agencies, UN agencies, National NGO's and those whom I fail to mention here. I hereby ask them for their forgiveness.

The areas to improve are:

. Health and nutrition status of children
. Access to basic Education
. An expanded program on child immunization program
. Changing health status of women
. Programs and services for Youth

I wish to register the Vanuatu Government's acknowledgement and appreciation, for without such support Vanuatu may not have come this far.

Mr. President,

The Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Vanuatu is in the process of establishing a child's desk. This desk will provide a mechanism for handling complaints of children whose rights have been violated.

The emerging issues that challenge the, survival, protection and development of our children can be targeted in five different areas such as:

1. Rapid population growth
2. Urban squatter settlement
3. Urban food security
4. Equitable access to education and
5. Vulnerability of youth

Mr. President,

According to the population census of 1999, Vanuatu recorded a population of over 200,000. Vanuatu has a very high population growth rate of 3%
compared to other countries in the region and a very young population with over 50 % around the age of 15-25 years. The urban concentration has more or less doubled in the last decade.

The issue of urban drift has also contributed to urban squatter settlement. Living standards have changed due to high expectations of employment opportunities various changes in urban cost of living.

Food security becomes a problematic issue where there is changing demand for cash-cropping and imported processed-food items. The changing patterns in food consumption and life style has also brought about an increase in lifestyle diseases.

The Vanuatu Government recognises the changes in disease patterns and last year made a public declaration for public and private institutions, individual households to promote consumption of Local Island kakai (food).

Although Vanuatu may not have any recorded HIV/AIDS, recent STI surveillance showed that sexually transmitted infection is increasing. As a corrective measure, preventive programmes are currently in place.

Mr. President,

The strategies undertaken by the Vanuatu Government to address the issues and to improve the situation for children of Vanuatu are focused on:

. Policy development to guide decision-makers for meaningful results. To foster commitment and ownership at different stages of children development programs
. Development of action plans to bring about practical changes in the CRC implementation
. Development of a comprehensive information system and management
. Development and dissemination of information through awareness campaign and use of media
. Improve and expand access, quality and equitable education programs
. Promote community participation and ownership in Primary Health Care services
. Development of programs for people with physical and mental disability

In conclusion, I wish to mention that the Vanuatu Government is committed like other member countries to ensure that the global vision for children is achieved.
Vanuatu is conscious that for justice to be done for her children, she must be responsible so as to provide a Vanuatu fit for her children.

M. le President, Mesdemoiselles, Mesdames, Messieurs, je vous remercie de votre attention, thank you, mo tankio tumas