AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES SPECIAL SESSION, SPEAKERS ADDRESS NEGATIVE IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

9 May 2002
GA/10019

AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES SPECIAL SESSION, SPEAKERS ADDRESS NEGATIVE IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

09/05/2002
Press ReleaseGA/10019

General Assembly

Twenty-seventh Special Session

3rd Meeting (AM)

AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES SPECIAL SESSION, SPEAKERS ADDRESS

NEGATIVE IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON CHILDREN

Among the key issues raised this morning as the General Assembly special session on children continued its general debate were the negative impact of armed conflict on children and the need to put an end to their exploitation.

President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia said that as long as wars and violence sparked by greed and hatred continued, one might think that world leaders were the true enemies of children.  Urging the international community to say “yes” to children and “no” to violence, he said the problems afflicting the children of Africa, and indeed the world, could not be tackled without confronting poverty, war and terror.

President Alejandro Toledo of Peru, reaffirming his commitment to reprioritize public expenditure on education, health and nutrition, said his Government had decided to reduce its military expenditure and redirect those funds towards investment in children.  Addressing businessmen, he said, “Don’t give them fish, but teach them how to fish.  Don’t give them food, but open your markets, because with markets, we can generate employment and income.”  He suggested that the technology and knowledge of private enterprise be used to generate more social projects directed towards children.

President Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia said the ghastly shadows of poverty and protracted conflicts further darkened the future of African children.  Zambia was a “plateau of peace” and had therefore become home to many refugees fleeing war and strife in other countries.  He appealed to the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations to help Zambia share that burden.

The President of Bahrain's Supreme Council of Women said that by condemning all offences perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces, the international community would be taking a moral and humanitarian stand that could end Israel's aggression against the Palestinian people.  Events in the occupied Palestinian territories not only violated international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, but also constituted a breach of human values.

The observer for Palestine said that the lives of Palestinian children were marked by the systematic denial, by Israel, of even their most basic rights.  Hundreds of them were illegally detained in Israeli prisons, tens of thousands had had their education disrupted and thousands had been rendered homeless.  However,

3rd Meeting (AM)

although Palestinians did not exercise sovereignty over their land, that had not prevented the Palestinian Authority from endorsing and implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Georgia's Minister of Foreign Affairs said that conflicts, separatism and ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia, Georgia, and elsewhere in the world had brought tears and hardships to hundreds of thousands of children.  How could the international community accept the fact that the separatist regime in Abkhazia denied the right of the children there to study in their own tongue, to use the books written in Georgian? he asked.  Just as in the twentieth century, indifference remained the foremost enemy and sin of mankind.

The Minister of Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus said the continuing occupation of nearly 37 per cent of the country by a neighbouring State had prevented the implementation of a plan of action that would benefit all Cypriot children.  For Cyprus, creating a world fit for children would require a political settlement that would allow all Cypriot children – whether of Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Maronite or Latin origin – to have equal access to services and basic human rights, including the right to associate freely with one another.

The head of Ukraine's State Committee for Family and Youth Affairs, noting that general morbidity among children had increased threefold since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, said her country had demonstrated resolve to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies in the future by voluntarily renouncing its nuclear military arsenal and by fully decommissioning the Chernobyl plant.

Germany's Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth said her country could not stand by while 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years were subjected to ruthless exploitation and even enslavement.  She added that despite increasing awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, the number of victims, especially those exploited in connection with child trafficking and child prostitution, was growing worldwide.

Addressing the session, Willemijn Aerdts, Youth Representative of the Netherlands, said that her intervention meant that youth participation was taken seriously, but the fact that she was only one of the few youth representatives doing so meant it was not taken seriously enough.

The special session also heard statements by the Vice-Presidents of Uruguay and the United Republic of Tanzania, as well as by the Governor-General of Saint Lucia.

Also speaking this morning were the Prime Ministers of Mauritania, Mauritius and Guinea.

Statements were also made by the Minister for Human Resources Development of India; Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of Slovakia; Minister of Education of Tonga; Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates; Minister of Social Action of Paraguay; Minister and Head of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic; Minister for Development Cooperation of the

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3rd Meeting (AM)

Netherlands; Minister for Social Affairs of New Zealand; Federal Minister for Social Security and Generations of Austria; the Minister of Women’s Affairs and Social Security of the Maldives; and the Minister of Social Development and Child Protection of Niger.

Other speakers were the representatives of Morocco; Marshall Islands; Nauru; Federated States of Micronesia; and Belarus.

Also addressing the special session were the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

The general debate will continue at 3 p.m. today.

Background

The twenty-seventh special session of the General Assembly –- devoted to an end-of-decade review of the follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children –- met this morning to continue its general debate.

Statements

LEVY PATRICK MWANAWASA, President of Zambia, said in light of the tragic events of 11 September, it was now clear that tomorrow could be guaranteed for the world’s children only if the entire international community came together to combat emerging threats to peace and personal security.  A terrorist attack against one country was an attack against all.

Like many other countries, Zambia had created a national programme of action for children, he said.  Thanks to the technical support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), that programme had been effective in creating alliances for children and empowering communities.  He added that programmes promoting maternal and child health care, basic education, food security and nutrition, and family welfare had also been developed.

Giving some specific examples of the programme’s objectives, he mentioned, among other things, initiatives aimed at providing education for all.  Zambia had introduced free education for all children in grades 1 to 7. The country was also actively promoting education for girls and had fast-tracked a re-entry initiative for young mothers.  He also drew attention to Zambia’s sector-wide approaches to child health and the creative ways in which the Government had sought to guarantee children’s welfare.

In that regard, he said that plans related to vitamin A supplementation in food had been successfully implemented, as had plans aimed at broad-based eradication of preventable or readily treatable diseases.  At the same time, the HIV/AIDS pandemic continued to rob Zambia not only of the smiles of its children, but also of the nurturing presence of their parents.  Current estimates showed that 44 per cent of Zambian households accommodated orphans, while 13 per cent of children below the age of 18 were orphans.

He said the ghastly shadows of poverty and protracted conflicts further darkened the future of African children.  Zambia was a “plateau of peace” and had, therefore, become home to many refugees fleeing war and strife in other countries. He appealed to the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations to help Zambia share that burden.  He added that the hopes of the new millennium and the New Plan for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had rekindled hope for the future of Africa and its children.

CALLIOPA PEARLETTE LOUISY, Governor-General of Saint Lucia, describing the special session as a calling to account of world leaders, said that those leaders were so preoccupied with securing or increasing their market share in the international economic marketplace that they had lost sight of the players –- today’s children.  Unless they were forced into dealing with a crisis, leaders provided few opportunities for children to speak for themselves and so guide the policy decisions taken on their behalf.

In preparation for the special session, she said, Saint Lucia had convened a children’s forum that sought to canvass the feelings, ideas, worries, hopes and dreams that they wished to convey to the international community.  The issue raised most consistently by all age groups was their perception that they were insufficiently loved and cared for by adults.  That cry was borne out by the chilling statistics showing that the incidence of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment of children in Saint Lucia had quadrupled in the last five years.  That had been attributed to the migration of mothers, the contraction of the extended family-support system, early adolescent pregnancy and unemployment.

Also high on the list of concerns was the issue of HIV/AIDS, she said.  There was cause for concern as 14 per cent of cases recorded in Saint Lucia were children under the age of 20 years; 8 per cent were paediatric cases in the 1 to  5 age group; and 92 per cent of adolescent cases were girls between 15 and 19.  Saint Lucia’s children, therefore, called for programmatic interventions to reduce the spread of the disease and for the removal of discrimination against infected persons.

She said the children of Saint Lucia had also called for the creation of spaces of their own, such as recreational centres, a children’s hospital, foster homes, counselling centres and children’s resource centres.  With characteristic generosity, they had also made a plea for their parents in the area of parenting.  Saint Lucia looked to the continued support of the international community in maintaining the enabling environment in which it could access the financial resources and technical assistance needed to answer the legitimate call of its children for a more secure and less stressful environment.

CHEIKH EL AVIA OULD MOHAMED KHOUNA, Prime Minister of Mauritania, said that the United Nations had always given special attention to the interests of children.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1990 World Summit were high points and marked a historic turning point in how the international community dealt with children.  He commended the role played by UNICEF and other agencies in the area of children.

Mauritania was working to establish a foundation for sustainable development and expand the economic, political and social spheres, he said.  It was working tirelessly to create conditions whereby everyone in society had equal opportunities, a society in which people were central to the Government’s designs.  It had seen ongoing growth, provided basic services, reduced poverty and established favourable conditions for the improvement of society. 

Mauritania, he continued, had been one of the first States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  To implement the Convention, the Government had adopted an action plan for children and had campaigns to raise awareness of the special needs of children.  The Secretary of State for Women was responsible for formulating and implementing national policies for children and women.  Children were given priority in the country’s development policies.

To strengthen that momentum, national institutions, such as the National Council for Children, had been set up.  The Labour Code had been revised and better protection given to children as a result.  In addition, the minimum age of work for children had been defined and a penal code for minors was currently being elaborated.  School enrolment had gone up, health coverage had been expanded, and infant and child mortality reduced. 

AL HADJI YAHYA JAMMEH, President of the Gambia, said world leaders had gathered to review the progress made since the 1990 World Summit for Children, heralding an era of recommitment to international advocacy on behalf of the world’s children.  African leaders had likewise made a commitment to the cause of the children of that continent. Drawing inspiration from the African common position, those leaders had promoted the ratification of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children and had urged broad participation in the current session.

Such action, he continued, reaffirmed the priority that Africa as a whole gave to the future of its children.  It was obvious that more than ever before, children’s causes and the realization and promotion of their rights deserved strong and continuous support.  Such support would demonstrate a collective commitment to achieving the best for one of Africa’s most precious resources –- its children.

His Government had embarked upon various initiatives to elaborate policies conducive to creating an environment for the survival, development, protection and participation of children and women.  Those initiatives provided the necessary impetus for the smooth implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  For the next five years, the Gambia would work with UNICEF to, among other things, reduce the rate of under-five mortality by 20 per cent, increase equitable access to quality education in selected areas from 63 to 80 per cent, and to develop child protection policies.

He said that problems of the children in Africa, and indeed the world,  could not be tackled unless serious issues such as poverty, war and terror were confronted.  He called on the international community to say “yes” to children and “no” to war and violence.  All should be aware that millions of innocent people, particularly women and children, died because of hatred, racism, exploitation and greed –- all scourges that could be overcome if world leaders were seriously committed to making things better.

If wars and violence sparked by greed and hatred continued, one might think that world leaders were children’s true enemies, he said.  Indeed, war had killed many more people than disease.  International actors must commit to replace the greed in their hearts with a love for humanity.  That would be the most effective way to make a better world for children.

LAMINE SIDIMÉ, Prime Minister of Guinea, endorsing the statement of the First Lady of Egypt and the joint African position, asked what future the world expected to give its children.  What responsibility should leaders shoulder

vis-à-vis the children?

He said children and women in sub-Saharan Africa were still vulnerable to the effects of poverty, economic crisis, external debt, armed conflict, increasing violence and the persistence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other infectious diseases.  Those factors weighed heavily on government programmes, particularly those for children.  Finding concrete solutions required an ongoing commitment by the international community.

Guinea had adopted a national plan for children establishing public structures that had significantly contributed to revitalizing health and education programmes, particularly for girls, and the strengthening of community participation, he said.  However, insecurity in neighbouring countries had had a considerable impact on what the Government was doing for children, who were the main victims of that instability.

ANEROOD JUGNAUTH, Prime Minister of Mauritius, noted that innocent children in different parts of the globe, especially in the Middle East and Africa, were falling victim to atrocities, not because of a lack of mechanisms to protect them, but owing to a lack of political will to translate into action the relevant international and regional conventions on the protection of children.  Diseases such as HIV/AIDS were causing despair among the younger generation, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.  Prompt action was required to address those trends.

He said government institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations and parents had participated in his country’s successful launch of the “Say Yes to Children” campaign.  More than 230,000 people, including children and adolescents, or 22 per cent of the population of Mauritius, had participated in the vote to determine the priorities.  The vote had identified three top priorities:  educate every child; care for every child; and stop harming and exploiting children.

The Government had created a special portfolio in the Ministry of Women’s Rights and Family Welfare to address child development, he said.  Children enjoyed free access to all levels of education.  Since 1995, primary education was compulsory.  Public health-care services were free and easily accessible through an extensive network of hospitals, health-care centres and community health centres, which provided comprehensive health care, including prenatal and early child development.

He said the Government had taken effective steps to contain the negative side effects of rapid socio-economic development on children without jeopardizing its strategy for economic progress.  To encourage increased accessibility to information and communication technology, it had launched a major school information technology project.  Conscious of the negative impact of the Internet culture on children and youth, Mauritius was taking bold steps to shield its children form harmful exposure.

OSMUNAKUN IBRAIMOV, Vice-President of Kyrgyzstan, said that when his country had become a Member of the United Nations, it had assumed responsibility for improving the lives of its children, as was natural for newly emerged States.  It had realized that the future of the country depended on how it educated its children.  Kyrgyzstan had significantly reduced infant and maternal mortality rates, and immunization levels had increased.  In 1994, it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was the starting point for creating legislation for the protection of children.  His Government had ratified six basic international treaties on human rights and had submitted appropriate country reports in compliance with them. 

In 2000, the Government had set up a committee to draft a national programme, entitled “The New Generation”, he said.  It had also participated in national events in the context of the global movement for children and the Say Yes Campaign.  The Government was also elaborating measures to combat drug abuse and trafficking.  From 7 to 10 May, children from five countries in his region were gathering in his capital for parallel events in conjunction with the special session.  With the assistance of UNICEF, Kyrgyzstan was building a children’s rehabilitation centre and had set up several children’s villages. 

In the areas of legislation, a number of laws had been adopted, including ones on education, foundations for State youth policy, guardianship and disabilities.  In 1997, a national strategy had been elaborated for sustainable human development.  The special session was extremely timely and provided an opportunity to consolidate efforts and chart the best path to create the better future for the world’s children.  Despite its economic difficulties, his country was committed to improving the status of children and further their rights. 

LUIS HIERRO LOPEZ, Vice-President of Uruguay, said through various plans and programmes implemented over the past decade, Uruguay had successfully achieved many of the goals set by the 1990 Children’s Summit, namely, in the areas of health and nutrition, school enrolment, the fight against poverty, and the integration of children into the social life of the nation.  Uruguay was the highest-ranking Latin American country on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) “Human Development Index” and, in that respect, conditions for its children generally reflected the living conditions of the adult population.

Still, he said, it should be noted that such progress had been achieved against a backdrop of economic downturn.  Uruguay’s success only underscored the Government’s commitment to social progress.  In that regard, some 75 per cent of the national budget was allocated to social spending in areas related to housing, education, health and social welfare.  The National Children’s Institute, the official body dedicated to promoting the education of children and young people without families, had a budget that was larger than even Uruguay’s Parliament.

Other advances in education included virtual universal school enrolment -– some 99 per cent of pupils between the ages of four and 12 were covered by the system.  Indeed, the wide-scale enrolment of four- and five-year olds might be the first such achievement in the world.  He went on to highlight Uruguay’s success in the areas of health and nutrition and poverty.  He noted that Uruguay had very high rates of immunization and vaccination coverage.  Overall mortality rates related to HIV/AIDS had also declined over the past four years.

He went on to say that the fact that 95 per cent of the population had access to adequate sanitation systems and 98 per cent had access to potable water significantly contributed to the country’s overall state of health.  Still, Uruguay had not been able to eradicate all the problems that affected children.  In the coming years, it would, among other things, work to further reduce child mortality rates, achieve greater success in the fight against poverty, combat the growing phenomenon of teenage pregnancy and intensify programmes aimed at addressing the problem of street children.

ALI MOHAMED SHEIN, Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said that in order for his country to realize a world fit for children, it had to break the cycle of poverty in which over 50 per cent of households were unable to meet their basic needs.  Work in that regard was constrained by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which had proved to be one of the greatest threats to the fulfilment of children’s rights.  Compounding the situation, the predominance of conflicts in many countries had not spared children.  In some cases, children had been drafted as child soldiers, while in others they had been forced into strange lands with their childhoods interrupted and their human rights violated.  A world fit for those children had yet to be created.

He said that since peace was synonymous with development which enabled children to develop, it was the responsibility of leaders to protect children from the horrors of armed conflict.  In many developing countries, the servicing of the external debt overshadowed the provision of basic social services.  “Undoubtedly, in poor countries children are hardest hit”, he said, adding that was why his country had always advocated for sustainable debt financing as an important element of mobilizing resources.  In that regard, he appreciated efforts by the international community to resolve the problem of sustainable debt in the framework of enhanced Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

He said the African child needed peace, education, good health and love.  It was ironic that, at a time when the world had accumulated huge resources, today’s children were crying for basic services.  “We owe it to our children to marshal the necessary political will to provide for their basic needs -- we ought not fail them”, he concluded.

ALEJANDRO TOLEDO MANRIQUE, President of Peru, reaffirmed his commitment to reprioritize public expenditure in the areas of education, health and nutrition.  There was no better investment than investing in the minds of peoples, especially children.  It was necessary to increase investments in children.  His Government had decided to reduce its military expenditure and redirect those funds towards investment in children.  Addressing businessmen, he said, “don’t give them fish, but teach them how to fish”.  “Don’t give them food, but open your markets because with markets, we can generate employment and income.”  He suggested that the technology and knowledge of private enterprise be used to generate more social projects, particularly directed towards children.

MURLI MANOHAR JOSHI, Minister for Human Resource Development of India, said that poverty was indeed the greatest enemy of children, and poverty alleviation must begin with children.  The optimal development of human resources was the single most critical determinant for eliminating poverty.  Investment in children’s health, nutrition and education accelerated economic growth.  Poverty reduction with children at the centre was the target of all of his Government’s programmes.  India’s achievements vis-à-vis all indicators for children for the past decade had been positive.  Though there was still a long way to go, India remained undeterred by the challenge. 

In November 2001, India launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, a national programme that aimed to universalize elementary education by 2010, with special emphasis on the education of the girl child, he said.  A constitutional amendment to include the right to free and compulsory education for all children from six to 14 as a fundamental right was in progress.  The National Commission for Children would be a statutory body to protect and monitor children’s rights, and review implementation of laws and programmes for children. 

India, he said, was home to 380 million children, the largest child population in the world.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to ensuring the rights, protection and complete development of every child in the country.

PETER MAGVASI, Minister for Labour, Social Affairs and Family of  Slovakia, aligning himself with the European Union, said that his country’s Constitution protected marriage, parenthood and the family.  Special protection for children and juveniles was guaranteed, and those born out of wedlock enjoyed equal rights.  The restriction of parental rights and separation of infants from their children against the will of the parents were subject to court rulings.

He said that parents who took care of their children were entitled to State assistance.  The act on social assistance adopted in 1998 had been amended to provide the right to basic living conditions, social prevention, social counselling, legal protection, social services, social assistance benefits, compensation cash allowances and cash allowances for nursing.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child had presented findings and conclusions on specific problems in the area of compliance with children’s rights and proposed measures to solve them, he said.  It had also submitted proposals on prevention programmes and policies dealing with the status of children in society.  Special attention was focused on protecting children from physical and emotional abuse, drug dependency and other socio-pathological phenomena, as well as on children in institutional care, children in substitute family care and children in various threatening situations.

He said Slovakia had been ready last September to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol to the Convention concerning the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  However, owing to the postponement of the special session following the terrorist attacks, it had signed the Optional Protocols in November and was preparing to ratify them.

ANDREAS MOUSHOUTTAS, Minister for Labour and Social Insurance of Cyprus, said the special session should focus on the importance of investing in children and cultivate a new vision of them -– one that considered them not as mere “objects of protection” or “passive recipients of services”, but as persons with their own rights and capacities to participate in decision-making matters that concerned them.

Cyprus, he said, had ratified all international instruments for the protection of children and had subsequently developed a comprehensive legislative framework, as well as social policies and structures to meet their needs and support families in their upbringing.  The desire to create a better world for all vulnerable groups in society, especially children, was reflected in State expenditures of nearly 37 per cent of total public expenditures towards the implementation of social programmes.  Those programmes had been developed in partnership with NGOs and community organizations.

At the same time, he stressed, Cyprus was not claiming that there was no room for improvement.  Based on results of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and studying international trends, Cyprus would focus on coordinating children’s programmes at the governmental, non-governmental and private levels.  It would also aim to raise public awareness of children’s participatory rights.

It was regrettable, however, that the Government was prevented from implementing its plan of action for the benefit of all the children of Cyprus.  Due to the continuing occupation of nearly 37 per cent of the country by a neighbouring State, children and families living in those areas could not be reached.  In the case of Cyprus, creating a “world fit for children” necessitated a political settlement that would allow all Cypriot children –- whether of Greek, Turkish, Armenian, Maronite or Latin origin –- to have equal access to services, to live in peace and to enjoy basic human rights, including the right to associate freely with one another.

PAULA BLOOMFIELD, Interim Minister of Education and Interim Minister Responsible for Youth, Sports and Culture of Tonga, said that his was a country with a young population.  As such, the Government placed paramount importance on its young population in order to enrich them as integral members of society, essential development partners and as future leaders of the nation.  Tonga had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995.  Reflecting further its political will to improve the welfare of children, Tonga had established in 1997 a National Coordinating Committee for Children, comprising both government and non-governmental organizations, with an overall mandate to provide policy advice to the Government.

The blend of women, government and NGOs was crucial to achieving the goals of the Global Movement for Children and particularly the “Say Yes for Children Campaign”, he said.  Women were crucial because they played an extremely important role in conceiving and bringing up a child during the fundamental formative years of his or her life.  Likewise, NGOs were increasingly becoming essential development partners.  In his country, NGOs had continued to bridge the gap between the “mother as a first teacher” and “formal primary education” through early childhood-care facilities, and similarly between secondary education and the workplace, through technical and vocational education and training opportunities.

Evidence suggested that child prostitution was emerging in the country, he said.  That was a manifestation of the increasing exposure to Western cultures and emigration.  The increasing problem of unemployment left many people vulnerable and frustrated at the lack of employment opportunities.  Consequently, entry into the sex industry was appealing to a number of young girls because of the monetary rewards.  The Queen of Tonga had established a refuge, where girls could go for protection.  Similarly, the Centre for Women and Children had also responded to the needs of girls formerly employed by Tonga’s only brothel with emergency relief assistance.

RASHID ABDULLAH AL-NOAIMI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said that despite all the positive achievements on the national, regional and international levels, millions of children in underdeveloped countries were still living in dire social and economic conditions.  They suffered from poverty, malnutrition, epidemics, illiteracy, unemployment and environmental deterioration.

He said those conditions were aggravated by debt crises and a recession in development assistance from governments, non-governmental, as well as international financial donors.  The suffering was further aggravated by regional conflicts, occupation and human rights violations.  He called upon developed countries, as well as international financial development agencies, to implement their commitments and pledges to provide multi-purpose assistance to developing countries.

Pointing out that Israeli forces were killing Palestinian children every day, he asked why the international community, particularly the Security Council, was ignoring international calls to protect those children.  He stressed the urgent need for immediate international protection to ensure the safety and well-being of Palestinian children like all others in the world, in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, international law and the Geneva Convention.  In the same context, he called for relief from the inhumane suffering imposed on the children of Iraq, who faced daily tragedies as a consequence of the sanctions against their country.

He said the Emirates Government had enacted laws providing free care for children and mothers, as well as the disabled who were incapable of looking after themselves.  Those laws also stipulated compulsory elementary education, as well as free education at all levels.  On the international level, the United Arab Emirates also provided humanitarian relief and development assistance to alleviate the suffering of people in developing countries, especially the children.

SHAIKHA SABIKA BINT EBRAHIM AL-KHALIFA, President of the Supreme Council for Women of Bahrain, said the importance her country attributed to childhood was manifested in its Constitution, as well as in various forms of legislation that governed all aspects of child protection, care and welfare.  In practice, that commitment translated into real action taken in social, economic, cultural health and education fields.

She said that in 1999 a National Committee for Children had been established.  The legal system governing the rights of children was based, in part, on principles of Islamic law and was in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It provided a comprehensive perspective on children’s rights within Bahrain and aimed to ensure physical and moral security, legal protection and social welfare.  At the same time, current laws were being reviewed in order to enhance their effectiveness in the field of child protection.

With regard to the protection of children in armed conflict, she stressed the importance of identifying practical measures that could be taken against those who violated children’s rights in such circumstances.  At the very least, that would require the enactment of laws -– elaborated in coordination with international judicial bodies –- that broadly ensured child protection.  It was incumbent upon the session to recall the plight of the Palestinian children suffering under the harsh conditions of the Israeli occupation.

She called on the international community to condemn all offences perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces, which had caused the death of hundreds of Palestinian children.  By doing that, global actors would take a moral and humanitarian stand that could put an end to the aggression against the Palestinian people.  What was taking place in the Palestinian occupied territories was not only a violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention; it was also a breach of human values that threatened international peace and security.

VALENYNA DOVZHENKO, Head of the State Committee for Family and Youth Affairs of Ukraine, said that a number of comprehensive national programmes aimed at ensuring legal and social protection of children and at creating conditions for their all-round development were being implemented in her country.  Despite the considerable progress made in the implementation of these programmes, however, Ukraine continued to face difficulties connected to the challenging and long-term process of social transformation.

She said that Ukraine was particularly concerned about children’s health in the context of the Chernobyl tragedy which had affected 1.2 million children, or every tenth child.  “We continue to feel its consequences”, she said.  “Sixty per cent of thyroid cancer cases among children were diagnosed on the territories affected by the accident.  General morbidity among children has increased threefold.”

Ukraine could not solve all the problems brought about by the disaster on its own, she said.  United international efforts were needed to overcome the long-term consequences of the Chernobyl accident and to ensure the survival and development of new generations.  Ukraine, for its part, had demonstrated resolve to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies in the future by voluntarily renouncing its nuclear military arsenal and by fully decommissioning the Chernobyl plant.

She said that was why the provision in the draft Final Document which underlined the need for protecting children from man-made disasters was very important to her country.  At the same time, it needed further assistance to implement a special programme of medical and social rehabilitation for children who suffered from the consequences of that disaster.

That was why her country fully shared the view expressed at the last meeting of the Security Council as to the need for inclusion into the mandates of peacekeeping operations of provisions for the protection of children, with particular attention paid to the special needs of girls.  No less alarming, she added, was the situation arising when children suffered as a result of strict economic sanctions introduced by the United Nations.  In that connection, she called for the creation of appropriate conditions for rendering immediate humanitarian assistance to the civilian population, with children being considered first.

CHRISTINE BERGMANN, Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, associating herself with the European Union, said that, at a very early stage, her country had initiated intensive education and prevention campaigns against HIV/AIDS, which threatened entire generations of children and young people.  Combating the pandemic worldwide was already an area of emphasis in Germany’s development cooperation activities.  It would contribute 10 million euros towards a global health fund to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria set up at the G-8 Summit in Genoa.

She said it was unacceptable that 100 million children worldwide had no opportunity to attend school.  Similarly, Germany could not stand by when

250 million children between the ages of five and 14 years were forced to work and, in some cases, were subjected to ruthless exploitation and even enslavement.  Germany had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 138 and 182 and provided considerable financial support to the International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour.

Noting the number of children worldwide who were subjected to violence, she said Germany had given legal status to the right of children to a violence-free education and was promoting models of violence-free upbringing.  The commercial sexual exploitation of children was an especially abominable form of violence.

She said that the Second World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, held in December 2001, had revealed that despite increasing awareness of the problem, the number of victims, especially those exploited in connection with child trafficking and child prostitution, was growing worldwide.  Since 1997, Germany had been working successfully with NGOs on a national programme of action to protect children from sexual abuse.

AURELIO VARELA AMARILLA, Minister for Social Action of Paraguay, said his country was committed to the protection and promotion of the rights of children.  Even in times of political or economic instability, progress had been made in several areas of action identified at the 1990 Children’s Summit.  At the same time, Paraguay’s youth still faced deficiencies in the areas of health and education.

He emphasized that even with increased availability of resources for social programmes, progress was still needed in many areas of social reform.  To that end, Paraguay had elaborated a National Poverty Reduction Strategy, with specific emphasis on the needs of vulnerable groups, especially women and children.  With the help of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), more progress was expected in the future.  Education, he continued, had been one of the areas that had benefited from increased spending.  The availability of resources had allowed the Government to institute a wide-ranging reform of the school system.

Judicial reform was under way and, most importantly, a Children’s Code had been recently developed, he said. That Code enshrined new approaches to children’s issues, particularly in areas related to child protection, child and adolescent labour, and child abuse.  Implementation of the Code had been overseen with the assistance of the recently created Secretariat for Social Action.  That agency aimed to ensure that children’s issues were integrated at all levels.  He added that the Code and the Secretariat placed great importance on the participation of NGOs, civil society and the private sector in identifying policies and programmes for children.

Many challenges remained, he said.  Foremost among them was fighting poverty.  Paraguay had taken steps to formulate policies to protect vulnerable groups through the provision of social funds.  Progress was also needed to establish medium- and long-term agreements on the protection and promotion of

the rights of children in either stable or unstable political environments.  Strengthening State policies and institutions in the social sector was also a challenge.  To that end, there was currently a proposal to establish a Ministry of Social Development that would oversee social policy to protect vulnerable groups. Technical and financial assistance at the local level should also be increased.

KAREL BŘEZINA, Minister and Head of the Government Office of the Czech Republic, said that the impact and conclusions of the World Summit had been reflected in many aspects of his country’s policies concerning children.  He welcomed the coming into force of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  His Government had ratified the Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2001, and the Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was now in the process of being ratified.

Since the World Summit, he said, a number of measures had been taken in terms of new legislation, government and ministerial decisions related to children and families.  In 1998, the Government had established its Human Rights Council, which had become a consulting and coordinating body for issues connected with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.  One of the eight sections of that Council dealt with issues related to the rights of the child.

In 1999, he continued, the Government had approved the Guidelines of the Government Policy towards the Young Generation until the year 2002.  It had thereby accepted responsibility for the development of the younger generation and for creating conditions for its broad participation in the social, political and economic life of the country.  In that context, the Government had also created a temporary body, the National Committee for the Family, Children and Youth, involving representatives of governmental, as well as non-governmental institutions.  The Committee’s objective was to assist the Government in drafting its pro-family policy and creating a system of measures supportive of families and children in difficult situations.

WILLEMIJN AERDTS, Youth Representative of the Netherlands, said the fact that she was standing at the podium meant that youth participation was taken seriously, but the fact that she was only one of the few youth representatives standing here meant that it was not taken seriously enough.  “We are experts in our own field.  We must not only be consulted, but we must be involved in the whole decision-making process”, she stressed.

Now was the time for governments to open their eyes, she said.  Governments could not deny that young people were having sex.  They had committed themselves in Cairo to make reproductive and sexual health services accessible for all children and young people without discrimination.  They must provide honest information, health services and contraceptives.  The subject of sexuality must be discussed in the open, without prejudice.  Services and information were a right, not a favour.

Continuing, EVELINE HERFKENS, Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, said that it was necessary to live up to the commitments made.  Children were told that a deal was a deal.  However, as far as living up to commitments was concerned, the process of the special session was of concern to her.  Why were agreements of recent years being renegotiated? she asked.  Was the United Nations not the place to build international consensus, instead of building a house of cards that could be destroyed as soon as the spotlights of international attention faded?  Why was a deal not a deal here?  Not only were time and resources being wasted, but there was also the risk of wasting trust --  a vital resource that did not come in ample supply. 

Through mutual undertakings, donor countries must be made to live up to the long established 0.7 per cent official development assistance (ODA) target, in accordance with specific time frames agreed to in Monterrey, Mexico.  No low-income country with a credible poverty-reduction strategy should fail because of a lack of external funding.  Developing countries, in turn, must put their own house in order and take responsibility for the quality of their policies and the functioning of their institutions. 

STEVE MAHAREY, Minister for Social Services and Employment of New Zealand, said, recognizing the vulnerability of children, his country was committed to eliminating family violence, and the country’s Family Violence Prevention Strategy had paved the way towards the goal of “families living free from violence”.  New Zealand’s plan of action for a “World Fit for Children” focused on three key areas:  promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; and protecting children.  A World Fit for Children required that action be taken in the interest of the children.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child had to be at the heart of all such efforts, he said.  As the most universally ratified human rights treaty in history, it was the fundamental framework for all actions concerning children, “but we must strive to implement it, with the aid of the platform of action adopted by this special session”, he stressed.  His country appreciated the emphasis in the special session’s action plan on the need to protect children from exploitation and abuse.  In this respect, New Zealand had responded wholeheartedly to the development of additional levels of international law to protect children.

New Zealand had ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and also ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, he said.  His country was also working towards ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the new Protocol on the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime that aimed to prevent and punish people trafficking, especially of women and children.

He said New Zealand had endorsed the emphasis on the health and education of children in the special session’s action plan.  Access to education and basic health services were fundamental ingredients to enable children to live full and meaningful lives.  That should also include access to appropriate reproductive health services and information.

HERBERT HAUPT, Federal Minister for Social Security and Generations of Austria, expressed concern that many countries had been unable to break the intrinsic link between children, family and poverty.  It was well known that economic poverty often provided fertile soil for the manifestation of social poverty.  To break that vicious cycle, society must ensure that it provided an adequate legal and social framework for children and their families.  For a family to fulfil its comprehensive obligations towards children in the best possible way, society at large must also contribute its share.

Austria had accorded the highest priority to fighting against the poverty of families and children, he said.  The Austrian system of family transfer payments, in conjunction with special tax legislation, ensured that the State bore a considerable share of the average cost of raising a child.

He said Austria had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 1 February.  During its chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Austria had initiated policies to benefit children in conflict situations and in the fight against child trafficking.  The protection of children in armed conflict would be a top-priority issue during Austria’s chairmanship of the Human Security Network in 2003.

RAASHIDA YOOSUF, Minister for Women’s Affairs and Social Security of the Maldives, said considerable progress had been made in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  That important instrument had been translated into the Maldives national language and disseminated throughout the country. A National Council for the Protection of the Rights of Children had also been established. Campaigns had been conducted to change attitudes and practices that hampered action towards the protection of child rights.  She added that just yesterday the Parliament had recommended the ratification of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention.

She said the groundwork for establishing a national child protection system had been laid and a prototype was in place.  The Government also recognized that children’s health, education and welfare were central to national development.  The Maldives had been able to eradicate diseases such as malaria and polio.  Infant mortality had been reduced from 120 per thousand in 1977 to 20 per thousand today.  Child immunization coverage had become universal.

In the past two decades, she continued, the Government had emphasized the importance of empowering women as prime actors in the development of the country and in ensuring the best interests of children.  As a result, the situation of girls and women had improved significantly.  Strong measures had been adopted to reduce maternal mortality, to promote safe motherhood and advance women’s health. She added that despite geographic challenges, the Maldives would continue to work to ensure the education of every child and to provide environments that fostered self-confidence and self-esteem.

IRAKLI MENAGARISHVILI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said that conflicts, separatism and ethnic cleansing in many regions of the world, including Abkhazia, had brought tears and hardships to hundreds of thousands of children.  Just as it had been in the previous century, indifference remained the foremost enemy and sin of mankind.  How could the international community accept the fact that the separatist regime in Abkhazia denied the right of the children there to study in their own tongue, to use the books written in Georgian? he asked.  As long as there was even one child refugee left, the international community should feel indebted to the younger generation.

The process of globalization created new opportunities along with new challenges, he said.  That made those countries undergoing the difficult process of democratic transformations and the transition to market economy especially vulnerable.  Children in those countries suffered most from the transition process and needed understanding and support.  When domestic resources and international aid were limited, the private sector had a crucial role to play.  There was a diversity of challenges relating to children.  Health and good basic education were key factors for a child’s development.

He attached great importance to information and communication technology in the education system in his country, he said.  Educated and employed persons represented the driving force of a country’s sustainable development.  The time had come to shift the focus of the international community to a results-oriented, realistic and flexible plan of action, with a real financial basis, in which countries with economies in transition, like Georgia, would take a proper place.

FOURMAKOYE N. AICHATOU, Minister for Social Development and Child Protection of the Niger, said, despite receiving international attention, the situation of children in the majority of developing countries had not improved significantly. Still, the Niger could report some improvements, particularly in the areas of the education of young girls and health.  She added that the Niger had begun to encourage local community leaders to use their wealth of cultural and historical knowledge to promote the welfare of children

Poverty had become a cause for deep concern, as it severely affected the most vulnerable segments of society.  The fact that 34 per cent of the population lived in poverty made it difficult to reach the goals set in 1990.  She said the Niger had just come through a difficult decade of social and economic upheaval, which had negatively affected the stability of the State.  Still, the country had been able to take steps towards enhancing the health of children.  The Niger had been able to identify quantifiable objectives that would yield concrete results.

To that end, she continued, programmes that increased the number of water outlets, built thousands of new classrooms, and elaborated micro-credit schemes for rural women had set the tone for national action on behalf of Niger’s most vulnerable populations.  All those initiatives could have been implemented on an even wider basis had the international community provided adequate resources.  She called on donor partners to maintain and intensify their commitments to provide financial and technical assistance so that the health and well-being of Niger’s children could be ensured.

Princess LALLA MERYEM (Morocco), reading a statement from King Mohammed VI, said that in an effort to contribute to the special session, Morocco had hosted, in coordination with UNICEF, a series of international meetings, including the Arab Civil Society Forum, the African First Ladies Summit, the Arab-African Conference of Finance Ministers, and the Regional Forum on Fighting Sexual Exploitation of Children.  Those meetings had concluded that measures and recommendations could not be translated into tangible reality and have a positive effect without giving globalization a human face. 

That, she continued, could only be achieved through the rational use of available resources and the enhancement of South-South and international cooperation.  That was particularly true following the commitments made in Monterrey, whereby leaders had pledged to devote a substantial part of their resources to financing development by 2006.  She was hopeful that the level of public financing for development would rise up to the expectations of developing countries so that they could achieve the objectives set by the United Nations.  In that connection, in should be borne in mind that the heavy debt burden of countries was a major stumbling block to sustainable development. 

She deplored the suffering of children living in exceptional circumstances due to sanctions and armed conflicts, as in the case of the children of Palestine and Iraq.  The international community must shoulder its responsibility in finding suitable solutions to those situations.

MARY NOTE (Marshall Islands) said that as a small island developing State, Marshall Islands had its share of developmental challenges to provide a better future for its children, who made up 50 per cent of its population of 60,000.  The country’s educational system had undergone many developmental changes to ensure  it was in line with global trends.  The Government was committed to providing universal access to schools of the highest possible quality.

Similarly, she continued, Marshall Islands had taken initial steps to improve its health-care system.  The country had begun to stress the notion that health was a shared responsibility involving communities and grass-roots participation in primary and preventive health-care initiatives.  She also said the Parliament was currently deliberating legislation that would strengthen the rights of children and further give effect to the tenets of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Further, a focal point office for children had been established with a mandate to coordinate and monitor all issues relating to children and to ensure that the Convention was implemented at all levels.

She said the report of the Secretary-General indicated that, although great strides had been made, children remained the most vulnerable members of society. Recognizing that, the Marshall Islands would not be complacent.  Her country was committed to supporting all United Nations initiatives designed to effectively improve the living conditions for children the world over.

VINCI CLODUMAR (Nauru), speaking on behalf of the 15 Pacific Islands Forum countries who were Members of the United Nations, said that the principles and strategies elaborated in the Beijing Declaration on Shaping the Future of Children was the guide for addressing the challenges and tasks for the region over the next decade.  Most Pacific Island Forum countries had ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  However, progress on its implementation was being constrained by lack of resources, political will, commitment of officials and coordination among government departments.  Chronic poverty remained the single biggest obstacle to meeting the needs, and protecting and promoting the rights, of children. 

He said that while education indicators in the region were “very good” compared to other developing countries, domestic violence was prevalent in many parts of the Pacific and this affected children’s welfare.  There was a growing recognition that such violence was unacceptable and could not be justified as customary.  Non-governmental organizations had taken the lead role in providing support services to victims of domestic violence.

While HIV/AIDS was not yet widespread, the region was very vulnerable to it.  He said there was a regional HIV/AIDS strategy and individual countries had responded to the pandemic with their respective strategic plans of action.  “We stand ready to play our part in the implementations of the 21 proposed goals under the plan of action and we will do what is necessary to improve coordination of regional efforts and enhance linkages with the United Nations system, other regional bodies, international organizations and NGOs to attain a world fit for children”, he said.

IRIS FALCAM, the First Lady of the Federated States of Micronesia, said that the measure of success for Micronesia and its people over the next several decades would be determined by the quality of life offered to its children today.  While her country had thankfully not experienced some of the scourges that afflicted the well-being of children in other parts of the world, it was nevertheless very apprehensive about the potential effects of climate change and resultant sea-level rise on the future of its children, she said.  That phenomenon threatened the very existence of children’s homes, culture and history, and might result in the introduction of contagious diseases that had not been present before.  One such disease, malaria, was reported to have spread outside its endemic boundary in the South-west Pacific.  “We urge the United Nations to continue to monitor sea level and its implications, and to facilitate assistance for preventive measures”, she said.

She said that the Internet and related technologies could be a tool of access for children to better health care, education, and to a better understanding of the world outside Micronesia’s borders.  However, she stressed, “We must ensure that the Internet and other new technologies do not provide additional avenues for exploitation.  In this regard, I am pleased to announce that my country recently signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child pertaining to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.”  She added that concrete steps should be taken to ensure that the voices of the children were adequately heard on issues that would determine their future.

SERGEI LING (Belarus) said his country had not escaped the problems faced by children all over the world, including child abuse, juvenile delinquency, parental neglect, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and adolescent drug abuse.  Belarus had adopted the Law on the Rights of the Child as a legislative basis for the establishment

of social and legal mechanisms to protect children’s rights. As many as

27 legislative and normative acts on children had been adopted to improve national legislation in that area.  The National Commission on the Rights of the Child had become a public organ for the coordination of national policy on children.

Belarus had become a party to ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, as well as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, he said.  It had also signed the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  Belarus was also preparing to become a party to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

He said that 16 years after the Chernobyl catastrophe, the consequences of that tragedy continued to affect the health of more than 400,000 children under the age of 16, including nearly 40,000 under the age of 14.  Those children were a matter of special concern for his Government.

EMILE JARJOU’I, observer for Palestine, said that Palestinian children did not enjoy many of the rights guaranteed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Their lives were marked by the systematic denial by Israel of even their most basic rights.  Palestinian children were the only children in the world without a State of their own, living as refugees or under foreign occupation, or both.  In the last 19 months, Israeli military forces, acting on the directives of their Government, had indiscriminately killed hundreds of Palestinian children.  Those children were killed while they lay asleep in their beds, in the arms of their mothers, while playing and going to school.

As a result of the invasions and closures, which had led to complete socio-economic suffocation of the Palestinian people, over 60 per cent of Palestinian children were now living in poverty, he said.  Hundreds of them were still being illegally detained and imprisoned in Israeli prisons and tens of thousands had had their education disrupted.  Also, thousands of children had been rendered homeless.  That was the state in which Palestinian children found themselves today. 

Although Palestinians did not exercise sovereignty over their land, that  had not prevented the Palestinian Authority from endorsing and implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Among other things, a draft Palestinian child’s rights charter had been prepared that incorporated the Convention and was presently before the Palestinian Legislative Council. 

Progress, he said, was not really feasible and sustainable when children lived in situations of war, occupation and poverty.  Among the actions that needed to be taken was to work towards providing Palestinian children with a normal life, free from foreign occupation, destruction and fear, in their own State.  Also, urgent international actions must be taken to protect Palestinian children now and provide immediate and safe access to health and educational services for them.

GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said millions of children born each year to parents who lived on less than $2 a day were at risk of dying before they reached the age of five.  If they survived, those children marched into life like soldiers marching into the killing fields to face the perils of hunger, malnutrition and disease.

With 11 million children dying each year -– many more than had died in a decades’ worth of conflicts around the world -– it was time to break the silence, she said.  “We must confront the complacency”, she stressed.  “Deaths of poor children are not inevitable.”  Those deaths should not be occurring and, indeed, were a blot on the international conscience.  Recalling the great commitments world leaders had made at the 1990 Children’s Summit, she asked what was being delivered.

While child mortality rates had fallen in many countries and the positive impact of aggressive immunization campaigns had been clearly evident, overall progress during the past decade was nowhere near good enough, she said.  The global community was failing its children because it did not transform knowledge into action that could reach them.  More must be done to bring knowledge and services to the people -– they should not be expected to come looking for it.

At the Global Consultation on Child and Adolescent Health and Development, held in Stockholm in March, international actors had laid out a set of strategies needed for a new initiative for child health.  At the Monterrey Financing for Development Conference, those actors had also expressed commitment to support the Millennium Development Goals and to provide additional financial resources to achieve them.  “We now have the tools and pledges”, she said, “and that’s good, but it’s not enough.”

What was needed was more focus on the most vulnerable children -– the newborns.  She said many conditions that resulted in the deaths of newborns could be easily prevented and treated.  What was needed was a combined approach that included the mother and her baby during pregnancy.  A newborn needed a healthy mother.  More focus on the world’s 1.2 billion teenagers was also needed.  There was the utmost need to focus on the realities of their lives, not on the views of how they lived.

She said HIV/AIDS was essentially a disease of children and young people. The majority of those infected were under the age of 24.  Therefore, teenagers needed help.  It was imperative not to shy away from talking about sensitive issues, particularly in working with teenagers on identifying ways to reduce

pregnancy rates, HIV infection rates, and incidents of unsafe sex.  Now was the time to scale up actions on all fronts, she said.  The international community must work harder to reach and empower poor people and their children -– especially their newborns and teenagers.  Only then could it truly be said that global actors were preparing a better world for future generations and laying the foundation for lasting peace.

JAMES T. MORRIS, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP), said there were 300 million children whose lives were scarred by hunger -- more than the entire population of the United States.  There was no single solution to the hunger of a malnourished child in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, southern Sudan or Angola.  “We need long-term investments in agriculture, a stronger global trading system, and even new types of crops”, he said.  “But my concern -- and the WFP’s concern -- is the children who are hungry today.”

“We must use food aid to help hungry children now”, he said.  The international community could not wait for economic development to reach those children and change their lives.  That sounded simple enough, but last year, the WFP had fed only about 42 million children.  There were many, many millions it had not reached.  More must be done.  That was why the WFP was aggressively promoting Global School Feeding with a greater focus on nutrition for pregnant women and their youngest children.  For the modest sum of 19 United States cents, the WFP could provide a meal in a school that both helped end childhood hunger and promoted education.

Basic education was the best investment that could be made to improve the conditions of the poor, he said.  A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) study had showed that in countries with an adult literacy rate of about 40 per cent, gross national product (GNP) per capita averaged just $210 annually; in those with at least an 80 per cent literacy rate, GNP per capita was $1,000.  He drew attention to the WFP’s initiative being undertaken with the NEPAD to help bring 40 million young Africans into primary school.  In-school meals and take-home rations could enable most of those children to benefit from primary education.

He added that feeding programmes for women and young children were among the WFP’s highest priorities.  “We have to reach them at critical points in their lives or the scourge of hunger will pass from one generation to the next”, he said, noting that last year the WFP had provided food in 46 countries to over 1 million pregnant and lactating mothers.

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For information media. Not an official record.