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The National Programmes of Action

As with all of the major conferences of this decade, national Governments are expected to assume primary responsibility for the implementation of the resulting plans of action. In the case of the Children’s Summit, countries agreed to develop strategies through national programmes of action (NPAs) that would adapt the global goals to national realities. To date, 155 countries have prepared or finalized NPAs.

To mobilize the resources needed to achieve the goals for children, the Summit Plan of Action urged developing and donor countries to accord higher priority to children’s well-being in their budget considerations. This impetus led to the “20/20 initiative”, a funding strategy which aims to provide resources to ensure access for all to basic social services, to combat the worst effects of poverty. The initiative proposes that developing countries direct at least 20 per cent of their domestic budgets to basic social services, while donor countries earmark 20 per cent of their development assistance for the same purpose. The initiative has gathered international support. In 1995 at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNICEF and WHO all backed it as a means of generating sufficient additional resources (US $30 billion-$40 billion annually) to ensure that by the end of the century everyone would have access to basic social services. A number of national Governments have also endorsed these principles and committed themselves to move in the 20/20 direction.

Mid-Decade Review

On 30 September 1996, the sixth anniversary of the World Summit for Children, the General Assembly received a comprehensive review of progress at mid-decade towards the goals for the year 2000. The mid-decade review, contained in a report of the Secretary-General (document A/51/256), provided an opportunity for national Governments to adjust global goals to national realities, to formulate and implement sustainable strategies and to attract adequate national and external resources to implement national plans.

At the midway point in the time frame set out by the Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children, the results of commitments to give every child a better future are more and more visible, despite civil conflicts and man-made and natural disasters in many countries. By the middle of 1996, about 90 developing countries, home to some 90 per cent of children of the developing world, were making progress toward goals for the year 2000.

The Secretary-General’s report points to impressive progress towards a number of the child-survival goals, including those for immunization coverage, control of polio, guinea worm and iodine deficiency disorders, access to safe drinking water, and promotion of breast-feeding.

  • Already, 89 countries have reached the end-decade target of over 90 per cent immunization coverage, and achievement of the goal of eradication of polio by 2000 is in sight.

  • There has been a dramatic improvement in management of diarrhoea at home over the past five years with the widespread use of low-cost oral rehydration therapy, saving the lives of about 1 million children annually.

  • In iodine deficiency control, almost all countries with an iodine deficiency-related health problem are now iodizing salt, and around 1.5 billion more people were consuming iodized salt in 1995 than in 1990. As a result, some 12 million infants are protected from mental retardation each year.

  • The population without access to safe drinking water has fallen by about one third since 1990.

  • There was major progress in meeting the mid-decade goal for promotion of breast-feeding by implementing “baby-friendly” regimes in maternity facilities.

The mid-term review also revealed serious problems. While under-five mortality has been reduced in all regions, the pace of progress has been too slow to meet the end-decade goal, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which together account for three fourths of all under-five deaths. There has also been limited progress towards achieving nutrition, maternal mortality, sanitation and girls’ education goals. However, the slow starts in these areas do not detract from the fact that the overall message of the mid-decade review is encouraging. Where political commitment is present, resources have been allocated; where underlying causes have been rigorously analysed, where communities have been mobilized, and where sound policies and programmes have been developed, notable progress has been made.

One of the important international achievements associated with WSC follow-up has been the work generated in connection with measurement. Setting measurable goals demanded a parallel effort to put in place effective systems of data collection and monitoring. Both national Governments and the international community are now in a far better position to establish baseline data and monitor progress for children.

The mid-decade review has generated ideas for new strategies in many countries. In some cases, these may require adjustments to existing National Programmes of Action, or the reformulation of goals and strategies in the light of a heightened appreciation of local realities. In others, special attention will need to be given to capacity-building so as to ensure the sustainability of achievements. In the second half of the decade, there will be increasing emphasis on the prioritization of goals at national, sub-national and community levels and on adaptations and refinements to suit local situations that reflect, for instance, the presence of serious epidemic diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis.


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© Copyright United Nations 23 May 1997 | Department of Public Information | Revised 23 May 1997