PRESS BRIEFING BY UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

10 May 2002

PRESS BRIEFING BY UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

10/05/2002
Press Briefing

PRESS BRIEFING BY UNICEF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

The outcome document of the special session on children included strong language on child rights, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, told correspondents this afternoon during a briefing at Headquarters.

The final outcome document had not been agreed on yet in its totality, but there had been significant movement over the last 24 hours, she said, as the Declaration had been approved.  The Plan of Action focused on four areas: promoting healthy lives; access to and completion of quality education; protection of children against abuse and exploitation; and fighting HIV/AIDS.

The special session had accomplished a great deal, she said.  The Children's Forum had played an enormous role in the session itself.  Within three days,

400 kids had come up with a good plan, which had been presented to the session by two children chosen from among them.  They said that children should not be seen as an expense but as an investment.  They also said in the past there had been plenty of promises, but now was a time for action.

Regarding participation in the special session, she said that despite the fact the session had been postponed because of the 11 September events, there had been 64 summit-level participants, two queens, one king and other royalty.  There were other actors, as well, including religious leaders from the major world religions, 250 parliamentarians from 79 countries, representatives from the private sector who had participated in the public/private dialogue, 700 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 119 countries, and 250 children who were part of official delegations from 132 countries.

Last night, during the celebration of leadership, 95 million pledges from the "Say Yes" campaign had been handed over to the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, she continued.  Ninety-five million people had cast votes in that campaign, choosing from among 10 items the most important child issue, which was "educate every child".

As to outcomes, she mentioned the Secretary-General’s report "We, the Children", a 10-year review of the 1990 World Summit for Children goals.  A great success had been efforts to eradicate polio; reducing the under-five mortality rate was a moderate success; and reducing maternal mortality had had minimal success.  There were strong regional plans of actions, as well.  Among the initiatives announced during the session were:  the GAIN (Global Alliance for Increased Nutrition) initiative announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on micro-nutrient deficiencies; the announcement by the President of Peru to reduce military spending and reallocate those resources for social services; Norway's call on the G-7 to become part of the "G-0.7" (meaning, allocating

0.7 per cent of gross national product to official development assistance); the announcement of the availability of new and improved dehydration salts; and Gordon Brown's announcement of the New Deal for Global Stability, which puts investing in children at the centre.

Pointing out differences between this session and the World Summit for Children, she said the World Summit had not been an official United Nations meeting.  Also, the outcome of the session was clearly very strong on child rights, and as such was a truly global document, where the World Summit document had focused almost entirely on developing and transitional countries. The vitality and freshness brought to the session by the inclusion of young people was another difference.

Answering correspondents’ questions, she said there was a role for governments and a role for NGOs.  A government had to commit to something and do something about it, which did not always happen.  Non-governmental organizations had to be strong advocates and had to keep pushing.  The UNICEF was very comfortable with the language agreed upon so far, but if NGOs were not satisfied, they should keep pushing.  The outcome document would be a strong move forward, underlining the rights of children.  There was no agreement yet on reproductive health services language, but there was agreement on maternal health language.

Regarding a question about a book on alternative kinds of sex issued in 1996 by the Mexican Health Agency, with some UNICEF funding, Ms. Bellamy said that that manual had been withdrawn in the same year on the urging of UNICEF, although some copies might still be around.  It was a compilation of articles by different authors with a disclaimer that the views expressed did not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.  That book had not held up negotiations on the reproductive health issue in this session.  She reiterated that UNICEF did not support, recommend or fund abortion.  Abortion was not part of UNICEF policy.

The fact that the United States had not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child would, according to her, not have any impact on other countries pursuing or not pursuing their obligation under the Convention.  However, when children rights issues came up in some outcome document or declaration, the United States had to find a way to sign off on the document.

The Children's Forum had, indeed, lived up to her expectations.  Not only the Forum, but also the involvement of children during the session.  The UNICEF would certainly continue to encourage engagement of young people, and that not only in meetings specifically about children, she answered another question.

The fact that paragraphs on resources had been deleted from the Declaration would not have an impact on follow-up by governments, she said.  There were now  21 strong goals dealing with health, protection, education and HIV/AIDS.  There had been an entire conference on resources, the Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, which was the overarching commitment to resources.

She said this meeting was neither a success nor a failure based on whether there was an outcome document.  It was a success or failure based on what happened after the meeting.  Over the last 10 years, there had been more promises than action.  The lesson learned was the need for more follow-up.  The NGOs, parliamentarians and young people were certainly strong advocacy groups who could remind their country leaders that they had made some commitments.

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For information media. Not an official record.