AT UN SPECIAL SESSION, HIGH COMMISSIONER CALLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH TO ENSURE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN

9 May 2002
GA/10020

AT UN SPECIAL SESSION, HIGH COMMISSIONER CALLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH TO ENSURE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN

09/05/2002
Press Release
GA/10020


General Assembly

Twenty-seventh Special Session

4th Meeting (PM)


AT UN SPECIAL SESSION, HIGH COMMISSIONER CALLS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH


TO ENSURE WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN


Israeli Justice Minister Denounces Use of Children in Terrorist Attacks


The denial of the basic human rights of children, manifested in global scourges such as child labour, exploitation and recruitment in conflicts, was among the issues discussed this afternoon as the General Assembly continued its special session on children.


United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson urged the international community to take a human rights approach to ensure the well-being of children and reiterated the central role of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in that regard.  Its adoption in 1989 reflected the international consensus on a new vision of children –- no longer as mere objects of protection who had “needs”, but as human beings who enjoyed “rights”. 


The Convention, she added, adhered to now by 191 States, was one of the great success stories of multilateral diplomacy and of the human rights movement.  However, the challenge ahead remained significant and the gaps in implementation painfully obvious. 


The twenty-seventh special session -– devoted to an end-of-decade review of the follow-up to the 1990 World Summit for Children -– brought together government leaders, non-governmental organizations, children’s advocates and children themselves to explore long-standing obstacles to young people’s well-being and development, as well as new challenges to the promotion and protection of their rights.


Norway’s child delegate said that while she was from the “privileged North”, she was also one of the children of the world.  She ate every day and had a bed to sleep in -– basic needs that should be met for all children.  Sadly, that was not the case.  Yet, children were no longer perceived as victims but as citizens with their own rights.


Regarding the use of children in conflicts, Meir Sheetrit, Minister of Justice of Israel, described the use of Palestinian children to carry out suicide attacks.  Recently, more than 18 Palestinian minors had been involved in such


4th Meeting (PM)


attacks.  That cruel and cynical exploitation of children by terrorist organizations was a blatant violation of basic international humanitarian norms and principles of international law.


To Israel’s great dismay, he continued, the Palestinian Authority continued to encourage children to sacrifice themselves in terrorist attacks.  It was a tragedy that they were being indoctrinated with hatred and raised in a violent environment.  The international community must condemn that terrible phenomenon in the strongest terms and do everything possible to prevent terrorists from turning their children into cannon fodder.


Stopping child labour, which involved involving some 246 million children worldwide, started with moral outrage, stated Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).  Eradicating it demanded a strong political commitment and national ownership linking action against child labour to poverty alleviation and to the provision of basic education to children and work and income to parents.  Child labour was about adults using and exploiting children.  Stopping it was the responsibility of adults.  That was the true test of intergenerational solidarity.


Also this afternoon, the President of Mexico addressed the special session as did the Prime Ministers of Slovenia, Chad and Nepal.  The Assembly also heard from the Deputy Prime Ministers of Azerbaijan, Belgium, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Canada. 


The Ministers of Government from Djibouti, San Marino, Latvia, Turkey, Antigua and Barbuda, Estonia, Brunei Darussalam, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Burundi, Australia, Cambodia, Eritrea, Italy, Norway, Brazil and Poland also addressed the Assembly.


Others speaking in the debate were the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Chile, France, Ireland, Grenada and Tajikistan, and the observer for the Holy See. 


The Assembly will continue its special session at 9 a.m. on Friday, 10 May.


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, continued its general debate this afternoon.


Statements


JANEZ DRNOVSEK, Prime Minister of Slovenia, said all too many children lacked the conditions for survival, growth and personal development. The sad fact that such children could be found in every corner of the globe demanded special attention.  He said it was certainly necessary to secure a better life for children in developing countries who were struggling against poverty.  But it was also necessary to improve the situation of those children who, although they lived in developed countries, were nevertheless deprived of their rights or marginalized by their societies.  Those goals could only be achieved in partnership and solidarity, both within countries and between them.


Slovenia was founding its development on the recognition of the importance of social solidarity, embodied in a welfare State, to ensure equal opportunities for children.  Slovenia also recognized the importance of investing in children through various forms of social assistance.  The country was proud of the fact that it provided one year paid maternity and parental leave in order to give children a good start in life.  For a number of years, Slovenia had also been increasing the share of national wealth allocated to children in order to provide them the opportunity to realize their full potential.


Despite systematic efforts to ensure equal opportunities for all children, there were still groups which remained marginalized, he continued.  In that regard, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society partners had been invaluable in identifying such groups and preventing their social exclusion.  He believed that the notion of a “world fit for children” could only be achieved through the involvement and cooperation of all elements of society.  That same spirit of cooperation should inform partnerships within and throughout the international community.  Poor countries would only be able to escape the vicious cycle of poverty through investment in the comprehensive development of children.  Without a doubt, that required developmental aid from the more advanced nations, international agencies and NGOs.  


NAGOUM YAMASSOUM, Prime Minister of Chad, recalled that the situation of children before the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 was one of concern.  To the well-known problems of disease, malnutrition, lack of education and child labour had been added other more unacceptable ones, such as child prostitution, recruitment of children into armed forces and child trafficking.


But were the conditions of children much better today? he asked.  Despite three decades of political upheaval and problems related to structural adjustment, Chad had taken several measures to improve those conditions.  It had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the African Charter on the Rights and Well-being of the Child; the Convention on the worst forms of child labour and their elimination; and the Convention on the minimum employment age.


Chad had just acceded to the optional protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on child prostitution, he said.  Its accession to the former had been accompanied by a declaration that 18 would be the minimum age for recruitment into its armed forces.  In that context he categorically rejected allegations by certain NGOs that the country was recruiting minors into its army.


He said the creation of a children’s parliament and the “Say Yes to Children” vote organized around the struggle against HIV/AIDS, child education, the fight against poverty, the protection of children in wartime and ending exploitation of children expressed the Government’s determination to place priority on the protection of children, upon whom the country’s future rested.  The Government had also implemented a national health strategy to make it possible to combat infant diseases like polio and to reduce the infant mortality rate by increasing immunization coverage to 60 per cent.


SHER BAHADUR DEUBA, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, said that the measures his country had taken had had a palpable impact on the condition of children in Nepal.  School enrolment and immunization had increased and infant mortality had declined.  Nearly 100,000 girls had benefited from the scholarship programme.  However, to sustain and expand those measures was a daunting challenge for Nepal, which was a least-developed country with a per capita income of barely $220.  Thirty-eight per cent of the population lived in absolute poverty and 50 per cent were under 18.  A paucity of public resources and poverty prevented adequate investment in children.  NGOs, most of whom were doing a laudable job, were also faced with constraints. 


To make matters worse, he continued, the Maoist terrorists, seeking to destroy the fledgling democracy and freedoms, had been devastating the country and its children.  They abducted and abused children and forcibly recruited them as combatants.  At a time when the Government was fighting a war on poverty with all its resources and energy, it had been confronted with the war on terror, which put a severe strain on its resources.  It would have to win both wars if Nepal was to ensure durable peace, better opportunities for its children and improved standards of living for its people.  That would not be possible without sustained partnerships with Nepal’s development partners. 


Poverty, he said, was the main obstacle for so many developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, in improving the state of children, promoting peace and securing sustainable development.  While those countries would have to do their best to put their houses in order, the international community must come to their aid. 


VICENTE FOX, President of Mexico, said that there was no question that the best investment that countries could make to advocate truly sustained and sustainable development was to guarantee equal opportunities for girls and boys.  The future of countries depended not only on equality of opportunity, but also on continuously increasing the capacities of boys and girls.  By meeting their basic needs and expanding their spaces for freedom, the conditions for forming responsible adults and better citizens were created. 


Poverty, he said, was unquestionably the main obstacle to overcome, since millions of boys and girls, as well as their families, were trapped in situations of poverty.  Mexico had advanced in its economic, political and demographic transitions.  The challenge was to advance the social transition further, with a view to building a more just, inclusive and equitable society.  To meet the challenges posed by that transition, the Government was working on a comprehensive strategy called “Contigo”, which was based on four areas – capacity-building, expansion of productive options, accumulation of assets and strengthening of social protection networks. 


He urged countries to guarantee universal access to education and to have children remain in schools offering quality educational services.  Health systems needed to be strengthened to face the health challenges affecting children.  He urged those present to protect children from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and to prevent the economic exploitation of girls and boys.  Everyone should contribute to strengthening communication between parents and children and to ensuring that boys and girls grew up in a secure, stable and loving family environment. 


In solving the urgent issues that affected children, he urged the international community not to wait another decade and to assume today the commitment to mobilize the necessary conscience, will and resources to benefit those who represented the future of the world.


ELCHIN EFENDIYEV, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, said the effectiveness of the work done in his country on behalf of children had been directly affected by deep socio-economic transformations.  Military aggression by Armenia and the subsequent occupation of 20 per cent of the territory of Azerbaijan had produced perhaps 1 million refugees -- one quarter of whom were children.  That had caused Azerbaijan immeasurable fiscal harm and had done tremendous moral damage to the overall population.


He said that efforts by the international community to settle the conflict in and around Nagorny-Karabakh and to obtain the liberation of the occupied Ajerbaijani territories through the implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions had remained ineffective.  At present, hundreds of thousands of children suffering physical and psychological abuse were living as refugees or displaced persons in tent cities, railroad cars, dugouts and other temporary shelters.


He called on the international community, donor partners and NGOs to continue rendering humanitarian assistance and aid to disabled children, orphans and all children that had become victims of armed conflict.  Living in a situation of “neither peace, nor war”, Azerbaijan was keenly interested in establishing a comprehensive peace in the region.  Azerbaijan was also committed to following a path that would lead to the creation of a world fit for children.


LOUIS MICHEL, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said many advances had been achieved since the World Summit for Children, but in the last decade, the world had seen children mowed down by bullets, enrolled in monstrous conflicts and falling victim to landmines.  More than 300,000 children were still involved in armed conflict.


Since the World Summit, and the end of the cold war, the world had seen ethnic conflicts and civil wars of an unprecedented intensity in which children had become targets, or what were euphemistically referred to as “collateral victims”.  Since the Summit, the HIV/AIDS pandemic had orphaned millions, its ravages compromising all the gains made against other problems.


In sub-Saharan Africa, he said, the world was faced with the chronic poverty of 3 million people, half of them children.  The industrialized countries were not spared, as witnessed by social violence, drugs and all sorts of exclusion at the level of access to knowledge and threats weighing on the environment.  Only reflection, collective action, volunteerism and commitment would give some sense to humanistic action and political responsibility.


He said that the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 182, and more recently the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child were new normative texts referring to areas where children’s rights were being brutally and deliberately violated.  Belgium, which had just ratified Convention 182, called upon all States to sign, ratify and apply those essential instruments as soon as possible.  At the same time, Belgium was in favour of amending the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the aim of strengthening the Committee on the Rights of the Child.


SOMSAVAT LENGSAVAD, Deputy Prime Minister and Minster for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said world leaders were meeting once again to reaffirm the commitments made 11 years ago and to demonstrate their determination to seize this historic opportunity to jointly complete the unfinished agenda and address new issues in order to build a world that would ensure the legitimate interests of children.


He said the Lao Government, with the support of friendly countries and international organizations, had made considerable efforts in attaining the goals of the World Summit for Children.  At the same time, the Government had improved and enacted several child-related laws that governed the exercise of the rights of the child and protected and cared for them.  Those laws were in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Laos had become a State party in 1991.


Like other least developed countries, Laos was still encountering numerous difficulties, he continued.  At present, the Government had drawn up a socio-economic development plan, which aimed to remove the country from the list of least developed countries by 2020.  Among other things, the plan had defined a series of objectives for nationwide expansion of primary health care for children and improvement of the quality of basic education, as well as the establishment of a juvenile justice system.


Laos stood ready to cooperate with the international community in protecting and caring for children, and would do its utmost to achieve the objectives of the World Summit for Children as well as the present special session.  “In this regard, we appeal to the developed countries and international organizations to continue to render support and assistance to the least developed countries in their efforts to ensure that children around the world live a prosperous life, and have access to education and adequate health care service”, he said.


HAWA AHMED YOUSSOUF, Minister in Charge of Advancement of Women, Family Welfare and Social Affairs of Djibouti, said the holding of the special session, and the participation of Member States at such high levels showed the great interest all countries had in the welfare of their children, who constituted the world’s future.  The objectives of the special session led the international community to give serious consideration to the ways and means to meet today’s challenges relating to children.  Children remained victims of exploitation, abuse and armed conflicts, just to name a few scourges.  Adequate social policies were needed to improve the living standards of children. 


The recognition of the rights of children was a valuable achievement, but the exercise of those rights was complex, she continued.  More than half of the world lived in poverty, and its effects were felt most deeply by children.  Children of the South faced particular challenges caused by such phenomenon as forced movements.  Underdevelopment and poverty must be eradicated or reduced to ensure the development of children and to bequeath to them a better future. 


Regarding to her Government’s policies on children, she noted that it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had incorporated it into its national legislation.  The present Government had envisaged an increase of 20 per cent in the national budget by 2005 for education and health.  In 1998, a national programme had been established for risk-free maternity, and nutritional centres had been established throughout the country.  The Government had also enhanced its protection of children against all forms of violence.  The low rate of school enrolment had led her Ministry to develop a project to enhance girls’ enrolment. 


In conclusion, she noted that countries such as hers could not meet the challenges affecting children without the financial assistance and solidarity of the international community.


PASQUALE VALENTINI, Minister for Education of San Marino, said the Convention on the Rights of the Child, following in the wake of the 1990 Summit, had been a major step forward in the legal framework for the protection of children’s rights.  Based on experience gained in promoting the principles of the Convention, common action should be aimed at achieving three major goals:  to guarantee children a good start in life, to give children the possibility of complete primary education of good quality, and to grant adolescents the opportunity to fully develop their individual capacities in a safe environment.


In that context, he continued, San Marino had allocated considerable resources to adequately safeguard newborns through services targeted to pregnant women and younger children.  Moreover, San Marino had thoroughly upgraded its school system so that now almost 100 per cent of young boys and girls continued their studies through the age of 18.  San Marino was launching an appeal to the international community for the promotion of a common civil and humanitarian conscience, a culture of peace and sound social development strategies so that improvement in the lives of children would be at the heart of all national issues.


Adopting such a consciousness would help overcome the many obstacles that still hindered the full implementation of programmes devoted to children.  San Marino was also of the view that a global approach -– with the family at its centre –- was necessary to ensure the concerns of children were met.  That was particularly true concerning children’s right to education.  The family must also be put at the centre of efforts to eradicate poverty.  In developed countries, families would play an important role in breaking the vicious cycle of aggression, violence and abuse against minors.  He added that San Marino had also undertaken efforts to enhance children’s lives through comprehensive awareness-raising campaigns, and the work of NGOs had been invaluable in that regard.


KARLIS GREISKALNS, Minister of Education and Science of Latvia, said when leaders of the world had convened to adopt a Plan of Action for Children in the final decade of the twentieth century, Latvia was not yet a Member State of the United Nations.  Nevertheless, the country had evaluated its accomplishments in that regard and discovered that much had been done.


In 1991, he continued, immediately after regaining its independence, Latvia joined the Convention of the Rights of the Child.  To fully integrate that important instrument into national legislation, a law on the protection of the Rights of the Child had been adopted in 1998.  That law delineated the competency and responsibility of each State institution as well as provided the basis for the protection of children’s rights.  He added that the Parliamentary Sub-Committee for Children’s Rights had also been productive.  Further, the National Centre for the Protection of the Rights of the Child monitored the implementation of all legislation adopted in the area of child rights.


He went on to say that accessibility and quality of education was an important contribution to the future of children.  In that regard, Latvia had carried out significant reforms to ensure that children and teachers could learn and work in a modern environment.  Latvia had also worked to ensure that children would be provided the opportunities to develop their special talents in sports, music and the arts.  He added that the State paid for such “interest” education.  Latvia was prepared to share its experiences in that regard with other interested nations. 


Finally, aware of the essential role children played in the overall development of any nation, he hoped that Latvian youths that had participated in the Children’s Forum would return home and share their experiences with their parents, community leaders and friends.


HASAN GEMICI, Minister of State of Turkey, outlined some of the achievements of his country with regard to children.  Turkey had ratified International Labour Organization Conventions 138 and 182 concerning child labour, and child labour in the country had decreased by 4 per cent.  Also, post-natal and infant mortality rates had decreased by 50 per cent.  A campaign for the promotion of the rights of the child had been launched with the cooperation of all relevant sectors to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to increase public awareness. 


In addition, his Government had ratified the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights.  Committees at various levels for monitoring and evaluating the exercise on the rights of the child had been established and had begun to operate to provide planning and to ensure coordination between relevant Government sectors.  Further, the period of compulsory education had been increased from five years to eight years. 


Turkey was aiming to provide quality education and health services to all of its children, he said.  Among its key priorities were expanding protective services to children, decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates, eliminating child labour and increasing educational efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS.


GASTON BROWNE, Minister of Planning, Implementation and Public Service Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, said that despite his country’s limited natural, human and financial resources, it had made significant progress in advancing the socio-economic development of its children.  The level of the country’s human development was such that it ranked within the first quarter of the United Nations Human Development Index.


The last decade had witnessed a dramatic increase in willingness to recognize and confront the problem of sexual exploitation of children and of their abuse and neglect, he said.  The magnitude of that phenomenon had not, until recently, been given adequate attention.  The trafficking of children and women for sexual exploitation had reached alarming levels.


Noting that global rates of infant and child mortality had been declining steadily for the past half century, he said it was compulsory in Antigua and Barbuda for all children to be fully immunized by age five to facilitate entry into school.  Immunization coverage for DPT and polio in the period 1995-1998 remained at 100 per cent for infants one year old.  Immunization against measles, mumps and rubella was approximately 100 per cent of the target population in 1997.


He said accidents, violence and suicide were the leading causes of death among adolescents and were frequently related to alcohol and drug abuse.  That often stemmed from alienation, social exclusion, the breakdown of the family and the inadequacy of State protection mechanisms.  The Government of Antigua and Barbuda viewed the protection of children’s rights as a common cause of the international community and called for concerted efforts around the world.


SIIRI OVIIR, Minister of Social Affairs of Estonia, said that similar to people in other transition countries, not everyone in Estonia had been able to keep up with rapid change and benefit from social development and economic growth.  Neither had the tensions accompanying dramatic changes in the society left children untouched.  Difficulties experienced by parents when adjusting to problems had a direct impact on the quality of life of children.  Children growing up in poverty and deprivation often lived with limited choices over their lifetime. 


On the other hand, children whose parents were coping well with their lives were often deprived of something very important, since the success of parents came at its own price.  The children in the so-called “job rich, time poor” families were likely to suffer from emotional loneliness and distress.  Among the new problems emerging among children and adolescents was drug abuse, the spread of HIV and increased use of alcohol and tobacco.  The role of the State in improving the quality of life of children and families could not be limited to granting traditional family benefits. 


Education was one area where the Government needed to increase investment, she said.  Today, in Estonia, children had better opportunities than ever to acquire quality education.  However, the prospects of all children to acquire the desired level of education were not yet equal.  Unfortunately, choices depended far too often on where the child lived and on the quality of his or her pre-school education.  To give all children a “sure start”, from July onwards, every child of pre-school age in Estonia would be entitled to kindergarten services. 


MEIR SHEETRIT, Minister of Justice of Israel, said protecting children and providing them with the best possible opportunities in life was the guiding objective of every parent.  But for far too many children, the basic necessities for a safe, healthy and happy life were simply not provided.  Extending the hope and promise of childhood to the millions of children that continued to suffer, even in an era unprecedented global prosperity, meant reducing poverty, protecting children from war and violence, combating the spread of AIDS and above all, providing health care, clean water and basic education.


He said Israel understood that broad diversity and even cultural differences characterized participation and representation in the special session.  But when it came to children, and ensuring the promotion and protection of their rights, certain basic principles were not up for negotiation.  The international community must speak in one voice in condemnation of such immoral practices as child labour, recruitment of child soldiers, and all other forms of abuse, violence and exploitation.


He went on to say that Israel today found itself in a difficult situation:  Palestinian terrorist organizations were increasingly using children and minors to carry out suicide attacks.  Over the past nine months, there had been more than 18 Palestinian minors involved in such attacks.  That cruel and cynical exploitation of children by terrorist organizations was a blatant violation of basic international humanitarian norms and principles of international law.  To Israel’s great dismay, the Palestinian Authority, in violation not only of international law, but signed agreements reached with Israel as well, continued to encourage children to sacrifice themselves in terrorist attacks.


He next gave several recent examples of the suicide bombings that had taken place in his country, including that of Jamil Hamid a 16-year old recruited by Fatah -- Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s own faction –- who had blown himself up on 31 March near a medical clinic.  Six Israelis had been injured in that incident.  By another example, he recalled an incident in which a 17-year-old Palestinian youth had been sent to carry out a suicide attack against a convoy of vehicles transporting Israeli soldiers.


He went on to say that prior to that youths’ recruitment by Fatah, while there were reports he had been involved in some drug trafficking, he had basically been an innocent teenager, with no education and without the ability to even read or write.  That sad story served to demonstrate once again the cynical use of the young and socially vulnerable by the Palestinian Authority to carry out terrorist atrocities against Israeli civilians.  He asked the Assembly to imagine what the parents of a child recruited for such acts must feel.


Whatever, their behaviour, he continued, the rights of those innocent children living under the Palestinian Authority were enshrined in the basic principles of humanitarian law.  It was a sad tragedy that they were being indoctrinated with hatred and raised in a violent environment.  The international community must condemn that terrible phenomenon in the strongest terms and do everything possible to prevent terrorists from turning their children into cannon fodder.


There was no question who was behind the attacks that had killed and wounded so many Israeli children.  Addressing the wider membership in the Arab Group, he said the man behind those attacks was the leader of the Palestinian people.  He recalled that in 1999, the leader of Palestinian Authority had attended meetings with then United States President Bill Clinton.  As a result of those meetings, that leader, and the entire Middle East region had stood on the brink of peace.  But that had only been for one shining moment, as the Palestinian leader chose to throw that opportunity away and embrace violence and terror.


Despite the continued attacks, he said Israel’s hand was still reaching out for peace.  He called on the international community to learn from the past and work for that peace that had been so nearly achieved.  It was his sincere hope that with the help of the concerned international community, a better world could be build for all children of the Middle East and the world.


PEHIN DATO HAJI AWANG HUSSAIN, Minister for Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei Darussalam, said his country had acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1995 and even prior to that had started drafting laws to enhance the conditions of its children.  It had had passed the Children’s Order 2000 to protect the welfare of abused and neglected children.  In addition, the Islamic Family Law, passed in 1999, provided regulations relating to Muslim families, including matters pertaining to the guardianship or custody of children.


The Government provided free health care to all children, and the infant mortality rate had declined steadily to 5.9 per 1,000 live births in 1999.  That rate included even babies born after 24 weeks of gestation.  Child mortality had also declined significantly, remaining at 0.4 per 1,000 for the 1-4 age group in 1999.  The infant and child mortality rates had improved tremendously over the last 20 years and compared favourably with those in developed countries, he added.


Regarding children with special needs, he said that group had priority, not only in the prevention of disability through pre-natal and post-natal care, but also by providing appropriate rehabilitation and therapies for children with specific learning or physical disability.


He said the education sector had also shown tremendous improvement over the years, and its success compared with that of the health sector.  Free education was available to all citizens and the literacy rate was above 90 per cent.  Among the aims of the national education system was to provide 12 years of education to every child.


NADA KORAC, President of the Commission for Cooperation with UNICEF of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, said that in the past decade, the children of his country grew up in a very different world.  It would not be an overstatement to say that those who were born in 1990 had hardly a single day of normal life before they reached the age of 10.  Their environment, like that of millions of children around the world, had been shaped by war, social and political crises, isolation and poverty. 


The reforms made possible by the democratic changes of 2000 still had a long way to go before the children had a chance to fully benefit from their effects, she noted.  The reforms that concerned children the most, those in the sectors of social affairs, education, health and justice, were already under way.  To make them more directly affect the lives of children, the Government was in the process of discussing and creating an overall children’s policy.  In doing so, better coordination between relevant ministries on child-related issues would be ensured.  At the same time, public awareness of child rights was not widespread and substantial information and education efforts would be needed to increase that. 


She said that to carry out the necessary economic, social and institutional reforms, substantial investment was needed.  In that regard, international support and regional cooperation were of vital importance, as well as the mobilization of resources and the building up of partnerships.  Government and NGO partnerships might prove to be a key element in making the rights of children a reality in her country.


GORETTI NDUWIMANA, Minister for Social Affairs and Advancement of Women of Burundi, said Burundi was a country in crisis, and children were among its first victims.  She hoped that activities and projects to significantly improve the lives of such children would accompany the growing awareness of such situations. 


Her country ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, she said.  It had undertaken specific actions to improve the situation of children deeply affected by the war and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Since 1990, a national action plan had been elaborated.  That was accompanied by campaigns to increase school enrolment and improve the rates of vaccinations.


It was deeply regrettable, she said, that the momentum built by Burundi had been hindered by armed conflict.  War, poverty and HIV/AIDS were the main obstacles to improving the lives of children.  The Government had always reaffirmed its commitment to the armed groups to achieve a permanent ceasefire.  She appealed to the international community for its support in that regard.  She also called for support by Burundi’s partners in keeping their pledges made in Paris in 2000 and in Geneva in 2001. 


She hoped that the recommendations that would emerge from the special session would enable States to make steady progress in the advancement of the well-being of their children.  


LARRY ANTHONY, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs of Australia, said that not enough had been achieved since the 1990 World Summit on Children.  Over the past decade, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had helped raise awareness of children’s rights, and had provided a framework for addressing the needs of children.  


However, many fundamental challenges to the well-being of children still remained.  Millions of children throughout the world continued to live in poverty-stricken conditions and experienced daily the lack of adequate food, shelter and access to health and education facilities.  He said the continued subjection of children to the worst forms of child labour, sexual and other physical abuse and exploitation, and their use and abuse in armed conflict reminded leaders how far they had to go in protecting child rights and giving all children a better future.


“The Australian Government is committed to enhancing children’s health and educational outcomes and supporting all families with children.  We encourage partnerships between governments, business, communities and families to provide innovative children’s services”, he said.  In seeking to implement the goals of the World Summit on Children, Australia continued to face a number of challenges.


His country was encouraged, however, by the willingness of the international community to conclude recent optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Australia had signed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography on 18 December last year, while the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict was under active consideration, he said.  In addition to taking these measures at home, Australia was also supporting, in a practical way, the cause of children globally.


The international community now faced major challenges that were not identified at the World Summit, he said.  One of those was HIV/AIDS, which had had a devastating impact on children.  In addressing that global challenge, it was vital to maintain the momentum generated by last year’s special session on HIV/AIDS.  In October 2001, Australia hosted a regional ministerial meeting on HIV/AIDS and was implementing a six-year $200 million global initiative in that regard.


He further said that developments in communications technology since the World Summit offered new opportunities to improve the lives of children.  The Australian Government was contributing up to $200 million over five years to the Virtual Colombo Plan -– a joint initiative with the World Bank which included use of the Internet to help teachers upgrade their skills and improve the quality of basic education for children in many countries.


HOR NAMHONG, Senior Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia, said that poverty, compounded by the negative effects of globalization in developing countries, led to child labour and lack of education for children.  Globalization also exacerbated child prostitution, child pornography and other forms of child exploitation.


Despite the challenges confronting Cambodia for many years, he said, the Government had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO Convention 138 and the two optional protocols concerning children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.  The Government had established the Cambodian National Council for Children to coordinate and monitor implementation of children’s rights.  It had also adopted a national five-year plan against trafficking and exploitation of children.


He said efforts were being made to provide health care, education, nutrition and safe water supply in the most needy rural areas.  Polio had been eradicated in 1997, and the Five-Year Common Strategy (2001-2005) had been developed to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and behavioural change.  However, Cambodia continued to face many challenges due to the lack of resources and poverty in remote areas.  His country also faced a worldwide network of child traffickers.


ASKALU MENKERIOS, Minister of Labour and Human Welfare of Eritrea, said humanity’s commitment to the welfare and protection of children could not be a matter of debate, as children were the bearers of the world’s collective heritage as well as the prospective fulfilment of their parents' hopes and dream.  Eritrea recognized, however that fulfilling those platitudes could not be achieved easily.  That was especially true for war-torn societies where children, along with other vulnerable groups such as women and the elderly, often bore the heaviest burden.


Therefore, she continued, there was a need to develop special measures, both legal and practical, to mitigate the precarious situation of those vulnerable groups living in the poor countries.  She spoke from Eritrea’s long experience in dealing with the plight of children who for decades had lived in the shadow of a country struggling for independence.  That had been one of the primary reasons Eritrea had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994.  She also highlighted the importance of the “Say Yes for Children” campaign in mobilizing the participation of civil society.  That campaign’s success had resulted in concrete steps being taken in several areas, including health, education and social services.


She went on to say that her country’s commitment to the well-being of children had been sustained even in the most difficult times.  Child care had remained a top national priority, and Eritrea had achieved some progress in various areas related to the overall protection and development of children, particularly those in need of special protection measures.  A national committee and task force of experts had been created to oversee implementation of the Convention.  Several programmes, such as the reunification and adoption of orphans and the strengthening of community-coping mechanisms, through the provision of micro-credit, had also been successful.


JOHN MANLEY, Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, said Canada was often associated with quality health services, safe communities and a clean, healthy environment, which were essential to ensuring that children were ready and had the right tools to learn so they could have the skills, knowledge, motivation and creative freedom they would need to live full and rewarding lives.


He said that while Canada was fortunate in its prosperity and quality of life, too many Canadian families lived in difficult circumstances.  For that reason, the Government, determined to help all families realize their hopes and dreams for their children, provided more than $11 billion a year in services and programmes for Canadian children.


The well-being of aboriginal children was a fundamental Canadian priority, he said.  The Federal Government’s early childhood development programmes and services were being strengthened and expanded in aboriginal communities across Canada, including the successful Aboriginal Head Start Programme, which provided a holistic approach to child development and education, ensuring a healthy early development for aboriginal children and contributing to their readiness for school.


On a global level, he said, the alleviation of poverty and its impact on children remained a common cause.  Broader and better-delivered debt relief should be pursued vigorously through the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative, while taking care that economic development did not degrade the global environment and that good governance prevailed to meet social development priorities.


He said Canada had taken a particular interest in the devastating impact of armed conflicts on children.  Such conflicts had killed 2 million children and deprived millions more of a normal childhood over the last decade.  Anti-personnel landmines continued to kill and maim thousands of children each year.  The Ottawa Treaty on Landmines, the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Winnipeg Conference on War-affected Children were major milestones.


ROBERTO MARONI, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of Italy, said that it was the duty of adults and parents, as well as political and governmental leaders, to provide assistance and safeguard the lives of young people.  Within the framework of the commitments undertaken at the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, Italy had made education a priority for international cooperation programmes.  Its commitment to education was flanked by a strong health care initiative to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and malnutrition.  Italy was the second largest donor to the Global Fund against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and it intended to focus efforts on the social aspects of the fight against HIV/AIDS in children.


Eradicating poverty would reduce the causes of child abandonment by families and help the children join in the life cycles of society, he said.  From 1999-2001, in the framework of a coordinated and multi-sector approach, Italy had allocated major voluntary contributions to international organizations that dealt with children for programmes to be implemented in close coordination with NGOs, religious authorities and United Nations agencies.  Also, the Government had, in recent years, stepped up its capacity to confront and contrast the worst effects of trafficking in human beings, especially children.  This morning, he deposited the instrument of ratification for the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the Secretariat. 


There could be no economic growth in a society when young workers, especially children, were being exploited.  ILO Convention 182 on the prohibition of the worst forms of child labour was a landmark, and Italy was one of the first countries to ratify it.  Italy was at the forefront of the ILO’s global campaign to raise awareness of what strategies countries could adopt to stop child labour.  In addition, it had promoted a number of projects to fight child trafficking and guarantee child protection, assistance and the means for reintegration into society.


HEIDI GRANDE, Child Delegate of Norway, said she was from the “privileged North”, but was also one of the children of the world.  She ate every day and had a bed to sleep in -- those were basic needs that should be met for all children.  Sadly, that was not the case.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child had made a basic change for children.  At the near-universal ratification of that important instrument, children were no longer perceived as victims but as citizens with their own rights.


It was up to international decision makers concerning when they elaborated policies that would affect ways children lived.  Children should be considered the most important partners whenever issues concerning them were discussed.  Indeed, children could even be considered “experts” on being 8, 12, or 17 years old in their respective communities.  Consulting with those experts would make international efforts on their behalf more effective.  She proposed that global actors make children and adolescents a part of their team.  That was most important, as the session entered the final stages of negotiations on the outcome documents. 


HILDE JOHNSON, Minister for International Development of Norway, said children were at the heart of each and every one of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the battle against poverty.  Everything should be done on children’s behalf, as the lofty aims expressed in the Millennium Declaration would eventually come to nothing unless global actors upheld and fulfilled the rights of and promises to the world’s children.


It was time to stand by the commitments made during the last decade, and act on them, she continued.  Children must be at the core of the fight against poverty.  That fight could not be won without additional resources, and both developed and developing countries had to deliver.  Everyone must invest in children.  That notion had been at the heart of the Norwegian Plan of Action for Fighting Poverty in the South towards 2015, which had committed Norway to increase its official development assistance (ODA) to 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2005.  She urged rich countries to meet the United Nations target of 0.7 percent ODA and direct it to efficient poverty eradication.


She said priorities must be set straight in both the North and the South.  More emphasis must be put on basic social services, particularly investing in education and health.  Education might be the single largest exit door from poverty, she added.  Children in distress must be given special attention.  Armed conflict posed extreme risks to millions of children, not only of hunger, but of displacement, bereavement and traumatizing violations of human rights.  She urged the international community to invest more in conflict prevention.


She said the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on children had been devastating.  The world was facing the nightmarish scenario of 40 million starving poor orphans by 2010 -- orphans without education or employment.  Those orphans would make excellent recruits for predatory criminal gangs, armed rebel groups and others out to exploit them.  Things had not yet come to that, but there was no question that orphans needed protection.  Action was needed, for the battle against AIDS was the battle for the world’s children.  While all those challenges might seem daunting, children must never be seen as part of the problem, she continued.  They were part of the solution.  “They are our most important asset”, she said, “they are our partners for the future. They are our future”.


PAULO RENATO SOUZA, Minister of Education of Brazil, said his country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had adopted, in July 1990, the Statute of the Child and the Adolescent, which in some areas went a step beyond the Convention.  Their implementation had not only meant institutional and administrative changes at all levels, but also made way for the establishment of a complex monitoring and evaluation system involving the Government and civil society.


He said approximately 5.5 per cent of the gross domestic product was dedicated to public education, and 97 per cent of children between the ages of 7 and 14 years were now in school.  While 3 million children did not have the opportunity to attend school 10 years ago, that figure had dropped to 810,000 last year.  The public education system was already capable of enrolling all children in the 7-14 age group, as well as absorbing the majority of children in the

15-17 age group.


Brazil was fully committed to the progressive elimination of child labour, he said.  Besides actions taken by the Ministries of Justice and Labour, the Programme for the Eradication of Child Labour, aimed at poor and socially vulnerable families with children in the 7-14 age group and supported by ILO, provided scholarships to maintain children in school.  Last year it had reached 400,000 children and adolescents in both urban and rural areas.


Regarding health-related goals, he said infant and under-5 mortality rates had been significantly reduced, and routine immunization and vaccination campaigns had helped in the decline of preventable infectious diseases.  Polio had been eradicated and deaths due to diarrhoea had decreased.  Iodine deficiency disorders had been virtually eliminated, with more than 95 per cent of Brazilian homes consuming iodized salt.


KRYSTYNA TOKARSKA-BIERNACIK, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Poland, said the extraordinarily high profile given to the special session reflected the gravity of the problem before the delegates.  Poland was among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in 2001 Poland had signed its Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.


Polish initiative had also led in 2000 to the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which had optional protocols regarding the trafficking in women and children and migrant workers.  Poland took special pride in contributing to the adoption and promotion of those international instruments as international standards of major importance, providing a framework for all actions concerning children and adolescents, she said.


As across the world, however, Poland’s record was mixed, she said.  On the positive side, her country had recorded reductions in infant mortality by 50 per cent, under-five mortality by 40 per cent and maternal mortality by 65 per cent.  On the negative side of the ledger were the disparities between developed cities and relatively underdeveloped rural areas of Poland inhabited by about 30 per cent of the population.  The upcoming membership of Poland in the European Union would create unprecedented opportunities for the country for swifter economic growth and social development.


PAK GIL YON (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the special session was of particular significance in reviewing the implementation of the World Summit's goals for the survival, protection and development of children and in exploring practical ways for new goals to be achieved during the current decade.


He said his country would work with other delegations to make the special session an important occasion for laying another milestone in carrying out the common cause of humankind for the well-being of children, he said.  Last year the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and was working on the preparation of its second report concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


His delegation believed that the current session should pay particular attention to the following points:  Appropriate national policy that ensured survival, protection, development and participation of children should be provided, along with a firm legal system.  Strengthening and developing national economic foundations conducive to the full achievement of the decade's goals needed to be ensured. 


He added that an international environment needed to be created to help solve children's issues on a sound basis.  In that regard, it was necessary to remove the negative impact of globalization; lift unilateral economic sanctions and blockades against developing countries and settle conflicts through peaceful dialogue.  Lastly, financial contributions and international collaboration should be enhanced to help solve children’s issues.


His Government would do its best to boost cooperation between “the north and the south” of Korea, with a view to fully implementing the historic North-South joint declaration, which represented the will and aspiration of the Korean people to realize national unification.


LUISA DURAN DE LAGOS (Chile) said the challenge of emerging as a developed and socially integrated nation in the current century required that children and adolescents be given the cultural, emotional and material means to ensure their full development. Chile had embraced that principle by placing emphasis on the potential and contributions of young people rather than on the creation of policies or programmes that merely provided assistance to them.


She said that one of the most significant initiatives elaborated in the wake of the 1990 World Summit for Children had been Chile’s 1992 Plan of Action for Children, which focused on areas of health, living conditions, education and the enactment of laws to protect the rights and integrity of children and adolescents.  Thanks to a policy that had combined economic growth with steady progress towards social equity, the levels of poverty and indigence among children and adolescents had declined from over 50 per cent in 1990 to 29.1 per cent in 2000.


In the area of public health, she said nearly all children under the age of 6 years underwent periodic check-ups, and some 98 per cent of them were now covered by the Comprehensive Immunization Plan.  Thanks to educational reforms, Chile had increased coverage at all levels of education, with the greatest progress being made at the pre-school level.  Nevertheless, she said, inequalities remained, depending upon the children’s location or economic status.  That issue had been compounded by emerging issues such as drug addiction, child prostitution and increased rates of teen pregnancies. 


To address those problems, the Government had developed a national policy for children being implemented through a Comprehensive Action Plan for 2001 to 2010, she said.  The key goals of that policy included the promotion of rights, strengthening the family, full protection for children and participation by children and adolescents.  Another aspect of the policy was a plan for comprehensive reform for the justice system.


MARIE-THERESE HERMANGE (France) said the adoption in 1989 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child had marked the redoubling of efforts on behalf of children the world over.  For that reason, there would be every justification in declaring 20 November an international day for the rights of the child -- the right to education, especially for girls, and the right to health care being the two keys to progress.


Yet the recognition of children’s rights should not result in the premature transformation of children into adults, or in confusing those rights with the absence of rules, she said.  Children needed to be guided, informed and taken in charge by an authority figure in their development towards adulthood.  One of the keys to improving the lot of children lay in strengthening support for adults so that they could better fulfil their role, beginning with the role of being responsible parents.


She said that sexual violence against children, child pornography and the criminal role played by new technologies in those activities were new challenges facing, first and foremost, the so-called developed societies.  In combating child pornography on the Internet and the sexual exploitation of children, concerted action among several countries, acting on a common basis was needed.  In addition, there was need for a change in attitude in combating genital mutilation, the use of child soldiers and every form of violence.


Regarding the environment, she said there should be a duty of inter-generational justice, not only to assure conditions in which children would grow up free from contamination and environment-linked illnesses, but also to bequeath to future generations a protected world and sound ecosystems.  Actions in the national environment should not degrade and compromise biological diversity and ecosystems to the point that in the future children would be unable in turn to profit from them.


RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said that his country had sought to give practical effect to the commitments undertaken in the World Summit on Children, not just because children represented over one third of Ireland’s population but because children mattered, and the Government was committed to its children.  That had been translated into increased investment and important developments in legislation and services for children throughout the 1990s. 


Perhaps it was best demonstrated in the publication in November 2000 of Ireland’s first-ever comprehensive National Children’s Strategy, the vision and goals of which mirrored “A World Fit for Children”.  Listening to and involving children was a key goal of the National Strategy.  A national children’s parliament had been established, and the Government had recently passed legislation to establish an Ombudsman for Children to promote and protect children’s rights and welfare. 


There was a strong commitment to support children by empowering their families and communities, he continued.  The Strategy was, therefore, being implemented through partnership, a partnership of children, families and local communities supported by the State and the voluntary and private sectors, all of which were stakeholders, each with a distinctive part to play.  New national and local structures had been put in place to underpin implementation.  They included a Cabinet Committee for Children, chaired by the Prime Minister, and a dedicated Minister for Children.  The Minister was supported by a new National Children’s Office.  Those new structures would be used to progress the actions set out in “A World Fit for Children”. 


LAMUEL STANISLAUS (Grenada) was pleased to report that, notwithstanding Grenada’s financial difficulties, significant progress had been made in efforts to achieve the goals set at the 1990 Summit.  The country’s under-five mortality rate in 2000 -- 26 deaths per 1000 births -– was substantially lower than the regional average.  The percentage of children immunized with three needed doses of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus had increased form 81 per cent in 1990 to 88 per cent in 1999.


In keeping with the special session and other United Nations initiatives on behalf of children, April had been designated Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month in Grenada.  The Grenada National Coalition on the Rights of the Child had been rallying Government agencies, schools, NGOs and churches in support of the “Say Yes for Children” Campaign.  Grenada’s Prime Minister had offered to participate in a youth forum to answer questions and get suggestions from the young participants about partnerships for the betterment of the country.  He also launched a youth employment project called “Imani”, which had been designed to provide some 500 young people between the ages of 17 and 35 the opportunity to gains job experience and train in the world of work.


RASHID ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said adopting comprehensive and integrated strategies on behalf of children was crucial, given the abiding poverty, protracted conflicts and the persistent spread of HIV/AIDS facing young people today.  There was also no doubt that children were most severely affected by all forms of violence and terrorism.  He said the world still grieved with the United States, which had suffered a horrific tragedy on 11 September.  Sadly, just this morning the international media had reported a terrorist attack in the Russian Federation in which 32 people had been killed, including 12 children.  Countless others had been inured.


He expressed sympathy to the survivors and victims of terrorist activity throughout the world.  Having faced the horrors of terrorism head on during its struggle for independence, Tajikistan was well aware of its horrific consequences.  But despite real social and economic difficulties caused by the lingering effects of war, Tajikistan had made real steps to ensure consistent implementation of a set of measures to protect children throughout the process of post-conflict peace-building. 


He went on to say that in 2001, Tajikistan had held a conference on the protection of the rights of the child that had identified areas and strategies for action.  He had been satisfied with the participation of UNICEF and other United Nations and international agencies in Tajikistan’s efforts to make a real difference in the situation of children.  He said that within the context of the country’s poverty-reduction plan, special provisions had been made to enhance initiatives in the areas of education and reproductive health.


Tajikistan welcomed the long-term goals contained in the draft documents under consideration by the session, particularly those geared towards providing food security and clean water.  Indeed, unless robust action was taken, water could soon be sold like oil, and undoubtedly, children would be dragged into water conflicts.  In that regard, he hoped that at the important international conference on water management to be held in Japan in 2003 –- also the year to be commemorated as the United Nations Year of Fresh Water –- such issues would be comprehensively discussed and resolved.


Cardinal ALFONSO LOPEZ TRUJILLO, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family of the Holy See, said that besides the many forms of violence against children already mentioned, others were proliferating with dramatic consequences.  They included moral pollution of the environment that spiritually impeded them from breathing clean air.


He said that when the atmosphere was artificially charged with eroticism, when human sexuality was trivialized and children were induced into unspeakable lifestyles and behaviour in an atmosphere of alarming permissiveness, the risks of violence multiplied.  Many started to react very late, to change their attitudes and to strengthen legislation when the victims were already too numerous.


The true measure of a society’s greatness was the extent to which it recognized and protected human dignity and human rights and truly ensured the well-being of its members, especially the children, he said.  It was measured by the extent to which all its individuals recognized the family as the basic unit of society and the principal educator of the child.


It was only when the family failed that the society and the State must provide what the child needed, he said.  All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, had an equal right to social protection with a view to their personal development.  Legislation was necessary to protect children from such forms of abuse and exploitation as incest, paedophilia, child labour, prostitution, pornography, kidnapping, use as guerrillas or soldiers, armed conflict and international sanctions imposed on certain countries.  All those scourges were an affront to humanity and must not go unpunished.


JUAN SOMAVIA, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that some 246 million children went to work today.  The ILO had now compiled the most comprehensive report ever on child labour, and it showed that the international community had gone beyond denial to acknowledgement and awareness. 


It was necessary to first attack the root causes, he noted.  Child labour was not a personal preference but a situation brought about by the economic conditions of families.  Economic policies were needed that could deliver decent work for parents and good education for children.  Secondly, getting rid of child labour would require not just individual projects and programmes but demanded personal commitment and societal engagement.  Thirdly, it was necessary to make a world free of child labour a priority of all international organizations.  Fourthly, such commitments must be founded on integrated family-centred strategies that provided escape routes out of poverty and safety nets to deal with crises. 


The world would be able to move forward by progressively establishing child-labour-free zones, enterprises, communities, cities, regions and countries.  Doing so demanded a strong political commitment and national ownership linking action against child labour to poverty alleviation, to the provision of basic education to children and work and income to parents.  Child labour was about adults using and exploiting children.  It was adults tolerating the abuse of children.  Stopping it was the responsibility of adults.  That was the true test of intergenerational solidarity.


MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the adoption of the Convention in 1989 reflected the international consensus on a new vision of children –- no longer as mere objects of protection who had “needs”, but as human beings who enjoyed “rights”.  The core idea of the Convention –- that children’s rights were human rights -– was central to the matters being considered at the special session.  The Convention, adhered to now by 191 States, was one of the great success stories of multilateral diplomacy and of the human rights movement.  However, the challenge ahead remained significant and the gaps in implementation painfully obvious. 


A human rights approach to the well-being of children required States to make every effort to eliminate all forms of discrimination against children.  Yet, discrimination against children, especially girls, was still prevalent around the world and affected their enjoyment of every right.  A rights-based approach to action for children required children, parents and local communities to be empowered to participate in the defence of their own rights.  Human rights education must, therefore, become a comprehensive, lifelong process and start with

the reflection of human rights values in the daily life and experiences of children, including in school curriculums. 


Respect for human rights, she said, was inextricably linked to reducing the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS on children.  A rights-based approach, including increased access to medication, was central to mitigating the economic and social impact of the pandemic.  The empowerment of adolescent girls, and their knowledge of reproductive rights, was an essential element in responding effectively to HIV/AIDS.


She urged countries to keep in mind the human rights framework that already existed for the protection of the rights of children.  That included the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Special Rapporteurs on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the right to education.  The growing community of independent national human rights institutions, and the emergence of new coalitions of civil society organizations, including children’s NGOs and networks, offered fresh possibilities for taking forward the struggle for children’s rights.


* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.