H. E. Ms. Nada Korac
at the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children
9 May 2002
I would like to congratulate you on the election as President of this important special session of the General Assembly dedicated to children. Under your guidance and leadership the General Assembly will make a significant step forward in our efforts to build a better and safer environment for the young generation throughout the world.
I wish to thank all the dedicated and hard working people who participated in the preparatory process for the special session, particularly Ambassador Patricia Durrant, as well as UNICEF and its Executive Director Ms. Carol Bellamy. Their work has made this historic event a resounding success on the road to building a world fit for children.
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the past decade the children of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia grew in a very different world. So much different that it would be far from an overstatement to say that those who were born since 1990 had hardly had a single day of normal life before they reached the age of ten. Their environment, just as that shared by the millions of children around the world, has been shaped by war, social and political crises, isolation and poverty.
In this difficult situation, the reforms made possible by the democratic changes of 2000 still have a long way to go before the children have a chance to fully benefit from their effects. The reforms that concern children the most, those in the sectors of social affairs, education, health and justice, are already under way. To make them affect children's lives in a more direct way, my country is in a process of discussing and creating an overall children's policy. In working towards these general goals, a better coordination between relevant Ministries on child related issues will be ensured. The most appropriate strategy to make such coordination effective and productive would be based on the child rights approach. However, the public awareness of child rights is not wide spread, and substantial information and education efforts will be needed to increase it. Meanwhile, pressed by the size and urgency of the problems, the government has often had to act as a "fire brigade": to solve a problem in isolation and on an ad hoc basis. For this to change, an appropriate inter-ministerial body will be established to develop rights-based child-related policies and monitor and coordinate their implementation. In addition, an Ombudsperson's Office is about to be established with a Deputy in charge of child rights issues. We hope that UNICEF and other relevant international organizations will give us their full support in this regard.
To carry out all the necessary economic, social and institutional reforms, substantial investment is needed. In that context, international support and regional cooperation are of vital importance, as well as the mobilization of resources and building partnerships within the country itself. The civil sector has a lot to offer in this regard, especially in the area of human rights in general, including the rights of the child: over the past decade it filled the void caused by the lack of governmental capacity, interest and intervention and gathered professionals with valuable expertise. Therefore, government - NGO partnerships, keeping the partners' identities and independence intact, may prove to be a key element in making the child rights a reality in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
To achieve the goals established by the Outcome Document of the Special Session, international, regional and local consensus and partnerships are essential. Surely, the consensus and partnerships must include those for the benefit of whom they are established: children themselves. In that regard, this Session is of historic significance as, for the first time, children are provided an opportunity to participate actively in a United Nations session. Some may say that the participation is symbolic, yet it does give an important impetus to their genuine involvement in decision-making processes that affect them. However, in order to enable and empower children for such participation, they must be provided appropriate information formulated in a language that most children, in accord with their developing capacities, can understand. We, the participants in this Special Session, are now in a position to endorse such an effort: the child-friendly version of the Outcome Document, produced during the preparations for the third preparatory meeting. I therefore propose that this version, once finalized to faithfully reflect the final text of "A World Fit for Children", be published as a document of the Global Movement for Children. UNICEF and NGO partners (most notably Save the Children who has been preparing this document) should assist in disseminating the Document and in working with governments around the world to make it available to children in their local languages. Thus adequately informed about the commitments their governments have made for them, children in all countries will be in a better position to contribute to the process of their implementation.
However, the well-being of the world's children, i.e. the protection, fulfillment, promotion of, and respect for, the rights of each child, established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, remain the responsibility of adults, and therefore the prime task of world governments. Therefore, we all must continue to work very hard to make sure that we will keep the promises we are now making to our children.
Thank you Mr. President.