11 December 2007


11 December 2007
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-second General Assembly


66th, 67th & 68th Meetings (AM, PM & Night)

governments must renew political will to offset gaps in child well-being, says

General Assembly president as he opens high–level commemorative session

United Nations, National Officials Underscore Importance

Of Fulfilling Collective Promise to Create ‘World Fit for Children’

Despite the great strides made in meeting targets to boost child survival rates and improve education and health care, United Nations officials said today that if Governments were serious about creating a better world for girls and boys, they must renew their political determination to offset gaps in child nutrition, maternal mortality and sanitation, especially given the fast-approaching 2015 deadline for realizing the Millennium Development Goals.

“Unless the investment in children is made, humanity’s most fundamental long-term problems will remain unresolved,” General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim said as he opened the world body’s landmark two-day conference to review progress towards “A World Fit for Children, the Plan of Action to improve the lives of young people approved by Governments at the Assembly’s 2002 twenty-seventh special session.  The session’s outcome supported the Millennium Goals and urged action in four target areas:  promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting against abuse and exploitation; and combating HIV and AIDS.

“If we are serious about our collective promises, then we have a great responsibility to deliver on them for our children,” the Assembly President said, urging delegations to set an example to “stand up for what we believe in -– to ensure that we pass on to them a better world –- a safer, cleaner and more equal world”.  Climate change drew those strands together, and if the global community did not address that growing threat, instability would increase and the environment would deteriorate.  Further, the world’s poor would be left struggling to build a better life for themselves and their children.

“Together we can and must do better by our children by making the world a better place not only today but in future,” he declared, adding that the task was a unique and continuous commitment that meant “thinking ahead and, at the same time, acting now”.  Over the next two days, Member States had an opportunity to celebrate the important progress made since 2002, but they also had a responsibility to “achieve the goals we set for ourselves”.  There was reason to be optimistic about the plenary session’s chances to further States’ commitment to making the world a better place for all children.

Longeni Masti, a child representative from Namibia, read out a statement on behalf of the Youth Forum sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) -- which has been meeting in New York since Saturday -– saying that 37 boys and 56 girls, aged 11 to 18 and representing 51 countries, had gathered at United Nations Headquarters this week.  “We are united for one cause -- to create a world fit for children.”  The Youth Forum was expected to deliver an outcome document to the plenary at the session’s close.

He went on to recall that, five years ago, children had addressed the world, and had since taken actions to make it fit for them.  Indeed, children had raised their voices on issues directly affecting them, becoming increasingly involved in such organizations as children’s parliaments.  They had fought for equality in all aspects of gender, age, ability, race and religion, and believed their rights were universal.  They also had undertaken projects in their own countries to address child trafficking, HIV and AIDS, as well as malnutrition.  They had denounced all forms of exploitation and abuse against children.  Promises had been made and children were eager to hear what had been achieved.  “This meeting is a time for honesty.  It is time to come together, and listen not only with your ears, but also with your hearts.”

Picking up that thread, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted that the plenary session coincided with the release of the agency’s five-year progress report on the goals set by the 2002 special session.  Progress was being made, with deaths of children under the age of five remaining below 10 million last year, for instance.  Data also indicated that HIV prevalence was declining in sub-Saharan African countries.  Yet, millions of vulnerable children around the world still had to be reached.

Despite the improved numbers in 2006, it was unacceptable that 9.7 million children died before their fifth birthday every year, especially since they died mostly from preventable diseases, she said.  Further, more than 1 million boys and girls were caught up in the sex trade, and many children suffered violence at home.  Each year, thousands of children were injured or killed by landmines.  Children continued to serve as soldiers, and rape was still a weapon of war.

In the coming months and years, efforts to address challenges and create healthy and safe environments for children must be intensified, she said.  It had been said that young people were not the sources of the problems, but resources to help resolve them.  As the 2015 deadline drew near, there should be a collective sense of urgency.  As the late UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn had once said:  “There is no deficit in human resources, only a deficit in human will.”

Delivering his opening remarks by videoconference, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was in Bali, Indonesia, attending the thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, where political leaders were addressing the needs of succeeding generations.

The 2002 special session, devoted exclusively to children, had been attended by children and Heads of State alike and had culminated in a landmark document written for the world’s children, he said.  That document included 21 goals for promoting healthy lives, providing quality education and protecting children from abuse, violence and HIV.  This year, he had presented a new document:  “Children and the Millennium Development Goals”, his first comprehensive report on the Goals as they related to children.  Some of the children and young people who had joined the Assembly today had been involved five years ago, while others –- a new generation –- were here ensuring that the world lived up to promises made.  “May they inspire you,” he said, calling on States, in Bali and New York, to work together to make a lasting difference for succeeding generations.

Throughout the day, delegations highlighted their national efforts to realize the goals laid out in the “World Fit for Children” outcome document, notably through legal reforms to harmonize domestic laws with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and through national policies aimed at improving children’s welfare, quality of life, and awareness of such issues as HIV and AIDS, child trafficking and sexual abuse.

Governments alone, however, could not make the world fit for children, speakers said.  On a macro level, partnership and collaborative efforts with other Governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and international organizations were imperative for improving children’s well-being.  Some speakers also called for a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade negotiations and a stepped-up focus on addressing income inequalities.

Also addressing the Assembly was the President of the Economic and Social Council.

The Presidents of San Marino and Mali led delegations in making national statements.

Others participating in the commemorative meeting were the Ministers and senior Government officials from Albania, Netherlands, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Swaziland, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Ghana, Bahamas, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, El Salvador, Egypt, Botswana, Namibia, Sweden, Guyana, Slovakia, Philippines, Morocco, Italy, Angola, Lesotho, Belgium, Oman, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Mauritania, Armenia, Guinea, Dominican Republic, Andorra, United Republic of Tanzania, Mozambique, Paraguay, Nigeria, Cambodia, Suriname, Sierra Leone, Mexico, Algeria, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Thailand, Chile, Finland, United Arab Emirates, Norway, Viet Nam, Venezuela, Madagascar, Slovenia, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Zimbabwe and Trinidad and Tobago.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow to continue its commemorative high-level plenary devoted to the follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-seventh special session on children.


The General Assembly today began its high-level plenary on the follow-up to the outcome of the 2002 special session on children.

The Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the follow-up to the special session of the General Assembly on children (document A/62/259), a mid-decade progress update in the follow-up to the General Assembly’s special session on children, held from 8 to 10 March 2002, which committed Governments to time-bound goals for children and young people.  It underscores that failure to achieve the goals of the session will significantly undermine efforts to realize the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

The report is divided into three main sections, assessing progress in the follow-up to the special session on children, and in the four major areas of its outcome document:  “A world fit for children”.  The report’s final section outlines ways forward.

In terms of progress in the follow-up to the special session on children, the report discusses planning for children, noting that by the end of 2006, some 50 countries had prepared national plans of action, most of which made reference to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  A subsection on investment in children notes that progress in planning for children has not generally been matched by the required investment.  Developing countries are a long way from fulfilling the “20/20” commitment, which calls for allocating an average 20 per cent of their budgets and official development assistance to basic social services.

The subsection on legislating children’s rights notes that, while children’s rights mechanisms have been included in national legislation, a gap between legislation and enforcement exists.  A subsection on the participation of children shows that children have increasingly been making their voices heard, and one on building partnerships to fulfil children’s rights highlights successful initiatives in that area.  The final subsection on monitoring discusses measures introduced since 1995 to collect data on the situation of children and women.

In terms of progress in the four major areas of “A world fit for children”, the report examines promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence; and combating HIV.  It underscores that, although the goals of the special session emphasized improving child protection, they are not part of the Millennium Development Goals.  Thus, progress assessment was undertaken in the context of the relationship between the two mutually reinforcing sets of goals.

In terms of ways forward, the report states that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Millennium Declaration, and the outcome of the special session spell out the imperative of the best possible start in life for all children.  The years from 2010 to 2015 will be demanding, if the goals of the special session and the Millennium Development Goals are to be met.  Achieving objectives will require unprecedented efforts to overcome obstacles such as humanitarian crises, HIV, inequality, migration and climate change.  Present trends call for a scaled up response from Governments, increased commitments from the global community, and more focused partnerships.

Statement by General Assembly President

General Assembly President SRGJAN KERIM, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, opened the high-level meeting, noting that he had been a delegate at the 2002 special session on children.  When he returned this year as President of the Assembly, the session had begun with a video message from children in his country, as there was nothing more important than the future of young people.

It gave him great confidence in the United Nations when States tackled issues that “cut to the core” of what the Organization stood for, he said.  “We have a responsibility to set an example, to stand up for what we believe in –- to ensure that we pass on to them a better world, a safer, cleaner and more equal world”, he said, adding that climate change drew those strands together.  Should that threat go unaddressed, the world’s poor would be left struggling.  Overcoming climate change required a “unique and continuous” commitment, and an international resolve that captured the essence of the United Nations global mission.

States were already committed to those goals, he continued, noting that, at the 1990 Summit for Children, world leaders had endorsed the principle that States should always act in “the best interests of the child”, and that they should have a “first call” on resources.  In 2002, States committed to achieving targets for children’s education and health as part of the Millennium Development Goals, and the General Assembly’s special session on children in May of that year saw Governments promise to create a world fit for children.

Against that backdrop, he said 2007 marked a milestone for the world’s children, and a “rite of passage” for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its eighteenth birthday.  States had the responsibility to achieve the goals set, and the Secretary-General’s report offered a mixture of hope and concern about the situation of children.  It assessed the situation of children in each country, and future commitments to overcome remaining challenges.  He commended the many regional bodies, civil society and private sector organizations that had implemented initiatives to make the world fit for children.

Unless the long-term investment in children was made, humanity’s most fundamental, long-term problems would remain unresolved.  And, as parents understood, “the worst crime is to mislead your child”, he said, as empty promises lead to empty souls.  He was optimistic that the plenary session would further States’ commitment to make the world a better place for all children.

Statement by United Nations Secretary-General

United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, delivering an opening message by videoconference, apologized that he could not attend today’s meeting.  He was in Bali, Indonesia, attending the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, where States were addressing the needs of succeeding generations.

He said the special session had been devoted exclusively to children, was attended by children and Heads of State alike, and had culminated in a landmark document, which was written for the world’s children.  That document included 21 goals for promoting healthy lives, providing quality education and protecting children from abuse, violence and HIV.

This year, he had presented a new document:  “Children and the Millennium Development Goals”, which was his first, comprehensive report on the Goals as they related to children.  He was delighted that children and young people had joined the Assembly today.  Some had been involved five years ago, while others –- a new generation –- were here ensuring the world lived up to promises made.  “May they inspire you,” he said.  He called on States, together in Bali and New York, to work together to make a lasting difference for succeeding generations.

DALIUS ČEKUOLIS, President of the Economic and Social Council, said that one of the main lessons of the last five years was the importance of partnerships.  Neither Governments nor international organizations could fulfil the needs of children while working in isolation.  The Economic and Social Council had considered, and was continuing to consider, issues that were very much related to the future.  This year, the Council had reflected on the theme of strengthening efforts to eradicate poverty and hunger, including through the global partnership for development.  Indeed, there had been remarkable partnerships and collaborative efforts to accelerate action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for the benefit of children, in the promulgation of new and better laws, formulation and execution of more focused public policy, and in realizing development outcomes for children.  The adoption of strategic policy instruments on cost-effective essential services for children was also on the increase worldwide.

Turning to the collaboration among international players in the past five years, he expressed appreciation for the work of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization; the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition; the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health; the Roll Back Malaria Partnership; and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative.  He also expressed appreciation for the work of over 3,000 non-governmental organizations that were accredited to the Economic and Social Council, many of them building the welfare of children.  Yet, there were gaps in achievement.  It was necessary to be firm on eliminating violence against children, fighting against HIV/AIDS, and promoting education accessible for all.  To some extent, the problems faced by the world’s children were rooted in inequality and injustice –- a failure to extend the rights and protections enjoyed by some to all children.  Running through all of those patterns of injustice was the persistent reality of gender discrimination, as well as violence and the devastating impact of conflicts on children.

Overall, official aid for children-related activities was dropping, and local economies had failed to provide full employment for their young people, he said.  The need for children to benefit directly from the development of new vaccines and advanced treatment for many childhood illnesses was obvious.  Another major hazard for the years ahead was climate change.  Globalization could sometimes go in unforeseen and dangerous directions, but it still held the promise of new forms of progress and protection.  Globalization was also associated with rapid technological change.  For children, the potential benefits lay in information and communications technologies that were unlocking vast stores of previously inaccessible knowledge.  Collective efforts and renewed commitment were required to address the challenges for the future.  The Economic and Social Council was committed to continuing to provide a forum not only to discuss the problems, but for sharing best practices in that respect.

ANN M. VENEMAN, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that in 2002, the Assembly had adopted a plan for action towards “A world fit for children”, with time-bound goals on promoting healthy lives, quality education, combating violence and exploitation, and combating HIV/AIDS.  The report presented this morning provided information on progress made and challenges remaining.  Progress was being made, she emphasized, with deaths of children under the age of five being under 10 million last year, for instance.  Data also indicated that HIV prevalence was declining in sub-Saharan countries. 

She said that good data helped to drive results.  That was the foundation of UNICEF’s approach.  Good data informed investment decisions regarding programmes.  When data were collected and analysed, targets were set and successful programmes were scaled up.  Since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a global culture had developed that embraced children’s right as central.  Children must be protected against abuse and exploitation.  The Convention provided the framework, thereto, and the Millennium Development Goals set benchmarks.

Millions of vulnerable children all around the world still had to be reached, she said.  It was unacceptable that 9.7 million children died before their fifth birthday every year, especially since they mostly died from preventable diseases.  Further, over 1 million boys and girls were caught in the sex trade, and many children suffered from violence at home.  Each year, thousands of children were injured or killed by landmines.  Children continued to serve as soldiers, and rape was still a weapon of war.

In the coming months and years, efforts must be intensified to address challenges and create healthy and safe environments for children, she said.  It had been said that young people were not the sources of the problems, but resources to help resolve them.  As the 2015 deadline drew near, there should be a collective sense of urgency.  As UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn once said, “There is no deficit in human resources, only a deficit in human will”.

Statement from Child Delegate

LONGENI MASTI, the child representative of Namibia, said he had been working on a radio programme for children, made by children, which gave advice to children dealing with challenging decisions.  Reading a prepared text from all children, he said that 37 boys and 56 girls aged 11 to 18, and representing 51 countries, were united for one cause -- to create a world fit for children.

Five years ago, children had addressed the world, and had since taken actions to make the world fit for them, he said.  Indeed, children had raised their voices on issues that directly affected them, becoming increasingly involved in organizations such as children’s parliaments.  They had fought for equality in all aspects of gender, age, ability, race and religion, and believed their rights were universal.  They also had undertaken projects in their own countries to address child trafficking, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition.  They denounced all forms of exploitation and abuse against children.  Promises had been made, and children were eager to hear about what had been achieved.  “This meeting is a time for honesty,” he said.  It was time to come together, and “listen not only with your ears, but also with your hearts”.


MIRCO TOMASSONI, of the Captains Regent of San Marino, said that, while progress had been made, much still remained to be done to alleviate the difficulties encountered by children.  Indeed, despite the fundamental principles stipulated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its following Optional Protocols, there was still an urgent need to promptly provide adequate responses, most of all to affirm the right of human beings to a dignified life, family, education, and healthy and harmonious development in a safe environment, without the threats that still jeopardized the lives of children and the integrity of their personalities in many parts of the world.  Children were still suffering the devastating effects of conflicts, were used as child soldiers, and suffered the most abhorrent forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.

It was essential to spare no efforts to overcome that intolerable situation, first within national borders, while also increasing support for international cooperation and the development goals established in the Millennium Declaration, he continued.  In San Marino, volunteers played a particularly important role in raising public awareness and involving the population in solidarity and development projects.  Children constituted about 19 per cent of the country’s population and effectively enjoyed the rights provided for in the Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which had been integrated into San Marino’s constitutional order and translated into a wide range of health, education, legal and cultural safeguards, from birth to 18 years of age.  Nevertheless, the comfort level achieved by many societies must not divert attention from the fact that young people, left alone without straightforward education guidelines, ideals and spiritual values, were easy prey for many destructive phenomena, and it was important to join efforts in the fight against them.

Respect for children’s identity went hand in hand with respect for cultural values and traditions, a sine qua non condition to build peace, he said.  That inspired the current International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World.   San Marino was trying to constantly renew its contribution to international activities in favour of children and young people by participating in joint projects, responding to requests for intervention in specific situations, and acceding to international legal instruments.  At the regional level, the country was participating in the Council of Europe campaigns, including “Building a Europe for and with Children”.  Last October, the country had acceded to the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.  During San Marino’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, an important Joint Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples had been signed between UNICEF and the Council of Europe to establish a partnership in support of children.  He believed that today’s special meeting would provide a renewed momentum to Member States’ determination, and would strengthen solidarity and cooperation for the protection of the rights of children and young people.

AMADOU TOUMANI TOURE, President of Mali, described his special relationship with children in Mali, who preferred to call him by his initials and gave him their friendship.  Their friendship was important to him because of the vision he had for a world fit for children, and he hoped to pursue synergistic action.

Five years after a document entitled “Africa Fit for children” had been adopted in Cairo, Egypt, and after African Ministers responsible for children had appealed for accelerated action to enhance children’s participation in the 2007-2012 period, he said lessons had been learned.  There and been a substantial increase in school attendance rates and increased access to drinking water.  On HIV/AIDS, he said progress had been made through increased awareness, and provision of free antiretroviral medicines in countries, including his own.  Further, more attention was now being given to protecting children from forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.  Protecting them against social vulnerability was being carried out through strengthened laws.

Despite progress in Africa to date, he said children were still vulnerable and increasingly affected by political, economic and social situations.  Obstacles that impeded their survival included poverty, conflict, disasters, HIV/AIDS and exploitation.  States must meet those challenges to give children a better chance at life, and renew their commitments to promote African children.  “Children are our present and our future,” he said.  Involving them in decisions that affected their lives was essential for forming the men and women of the future.  He expected the declaration adopted at the end of the high-level meeting to live up to the commitments made in 2002, in a spirit of solidarity.

JOSEFINA TOPALLI COBA, Speaker of the Parliament of Albania, said human rights and human development issues had become key aspects of international relations.  Attention to those two related issues could change the lives of a country’s most vulnerable citizens.  In Albania, one third of the population was under 18 years old, and the protection of the rights of children had been one of the most important policy developments since 1992.  The National Plan of Action for Children of June 2005 represented a commitment towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, six of which related directly to children.

She said parliamentarians and members of legislatures were key to the implementation of the present Plan of Action.  Within that framework, she presented some significant achievements of the last years.  In education, for instance, funds had increased from 3.1 per cent to 4 per cent of gross domestic product, and 92 per cent of primary age school children were attending school.  The majority of women over the age of 15 were literate.  Albania also had an obligatory vaccine scheme against major childhood diseases.  All types of contraceptives were distributed free of charge in every public health institution, and special attention was being paid to children with limited abilities.

ANDRE ROUVOET, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Youth and Families of the Netherlands, said that, according to a UNICEF report, Dutch children were the happiest of 21 wealthy Western nations.  Indeed, 85 per cent of the children in the Netherlands were doing well, but 10 per cent of the children were at risk, and 5 per cent had problems. 

He said it was time that the family was fully recognized as the basic unit of society and, as such, was strengthened by the Government.  A safe and healthy family life was of crucial importance for the well-being of children and society as a whole.  In other words, “when the family flourishes, society will flourish”.  He, therefore, wanted to set up easily accessible youth and family centres in every Dutch town.  Of course, the Government ought to be reluctant to interfere in parenting matters.  But when the physical, psychosocial or cognitive development of the child was endangered, the Government had not only the right, but the duty to intervene.

In international forums as well, children’s right were a Dutch priority, he said.  His Government would continue to lobby for such rights, especially the right to a proper education and the right to grow up in a safe environment, free from violence.  The Netherlands would organize an international conference on combating violence against children, particularly girls, in 2009, in order to promote international action to stop violence against girls.  There would be a special focus on harmful traditional practices, such as genital mutilation, child marriages and honour crimes.

SOMSAVAT LENGSAVAD, Standing Deputy Prime Minister, of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, President of the Lao National Commission for Mothers and Children, said that although some considerable achievements had been registered over the past five years, slow progress and challenges continued to persist.  One of the main challenges faced by least developed countries was the lack of financing, in practical terms.  Even though more aid pledges had been made by developed countries, the actual release of funds remained limited and far from satisfying of the needs, especially for public health and education.  Those two sectors were of great importance for developing countries, as they were directly linked to the protection and development of children.

His country had been vigorously implementing the Action Plan, and had gained gradual achievements in every area, he continued.  The Government’s various measures and programmes included mothers’ and children’s health care activities and introduction of immunization, supplementation and de-worming programmes, as well as efforts to eliminate measles by 2012.  The latter campaign had been held on 9 November with the participation of the Head of State and other high-ranking officials.  The Government had also set regulations on water quality control.  In 2005, 67 per cent of households had had access to clean water.  The country was also promoting reproductive health, breast-feeding, antenatal care and mobilization of male participation in reproductive health activities.  The National Assembly had adopted a law on the protection of the rights and interests of children and amended the law on education.  The implementation of the education strategy by 2020 and the National Plan of Action for Education for All were being vigorously pursued.

Efforts were also being made to protect children from abuse, prosecution, use of force, labour and sexual exploitation, he said.  The country had become party to relevant international instruments and was formulating a national action plan on combating child trafficking and child sexual exploitation.  His Government and people wanted to express their profound gratitude to friendly countries and international organizations for the assistance rendered to the country in the implementation of the “A world fit for children” plan.  That plan was an important tool for realizing the Millennium Development Goals, and the international community would not be able to achieve these goals by 2015 without implementation of the Action Plan.  Like other developing countries, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic had achieved significant progress in implementing the Plan, but poverty and lack of funds remained a challenge.  He called on the international community to exert more effort in fulfilling their obligations through the allocation of 0.7 per cent of their gross national product as official development assistance.

CONSTANCE S. SIMELANE, Deputy Prime Minister of Swaziland, said her country was a lower-middle income country, with 60 per cent living below the poverty line.  The HIV prevalence rate for people between 15 and 49 years was 26 per cent, among the highest in the world.  There were high income inequalities, and drought had increased risk for already vulnerable communities.  The impact of HIV/AIDS, poverty and drought greatly affected women and children.  In 2002, priority had been given to the preparation of the project on social protection of vulnerable children, including orphans, and the past five years had seen strides in legal reform, policy formulation, programmes and projects for children.  Those efforts were necessary to promote physical, psychological, spiritual, social, emotional, cognitive and cultural development of children to create a “ Swaziland fit for children” and progressively strive to attain the Millennium Development Goals.

She then went on to describe her Government’s efforts in legal reforms -- in order to harmonize domestic laws with the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- and national policies aimed at improving the welfare and quality of the life of children.  The National Plan of Action for Orphaned and Vulnerable Children 2006-2010 included all relevant stakeholders in the development process, and the planned interventions focused on children’s right to protection, participation, food, basic services and education.  The plan sought to ensure that children had access to shelter, education, water and food, and were protected from abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, trafficking and loss of inheritance.

She added that her Government had worked hand in hand with development partners in implementing the Convention.  A key had been Government-UNICEF programmes of action for 2001-2010.  The UNICEF country office had undertaken various programmes, including support for HIV/AIDS awareness, life skills education, increasing orphans and vulnerable children in decision making, and combating child sexual abuse.  Assistance had also been received from the European Union; the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the Japanese Government; and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

NATALYA PETKEVICH, Deputy Head of the Administration of the President of Belarus, said all children of the world cried in the same language.  The way children were treated defined the moral health of the State.  Belarus was the first country in the post-Soviet space to adopt in 1993 a law on the rights of the child, and recommendations in the “A world fit for children” document had been enshrined in the national strategy for improving children’s status.

Nationally, she said the President’s “Children of Belarus” programme had been implemented since 1998, noting also that the State provided care for all categories of children.  The birth rate in Belarus had been increasing steadily since 2004, and the infant mortality rate over the last 10 years, having decreased by half, was currently at the lowest level in the Commonwealth of Independent States:  5.6 per cent.  All children received free secondary schooling, with 82 per cent in pre-primary education.  A special category of children -– children of Chernobyl –- were afforded medical observation, annual clinical exams, free meals at schools and free treatment in health centres.

To help children with peculiarities in psychophysical development, Belarus had changed the approach to educating them, she said.  The State did everything to promote adoption.  On combating human trafficking, she said Belarus had organized various international forums on that subject, and had reiterated that the problem should be taken up by the General Assembly in the framework of its thematic debates.  To address trafficking in children and child pornography, she called for closer international cooperation and self-sufficient national legislation.  As Belarus had proclaimed 2007 as the “Year of the Child”, she called on States to improve children’s situations in all countries.  Such efforts, and implementation of the Declaration and Plan of Action adopted in 2002, would undoubtedly be helped both by consolidating existing partnerships, and by creating new ones at the global, regional and national levels.  She welcomed that UNICEF based its child protection strategy on the premise of the trinity of partners:  Member States, international organizations and civil society.  She urged the inter-agency coordination group on fighting human trafficking to play a lead role in helping to end trafficking in children and their involvement in military conflicts.

SVETLANA INAMOVA, Vice-Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, said protecting mothers and children and fostering the conditions necessary for well-rounded, balanced child development and child-rearing were an intrinsic part of Uzbekistan’s policy agenda.  Her country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, and cooperated with all United Nations bodies and agencies involved in protection of children’s rights.  In cooperation with UNICEF, a system for monitoring achievement of child welfare targets had been developed and implemented.  All programmes and laws adopted by the Government relating to children were geared towards implementation of the document “A world fit for children”.

Among the efforts Uzbekistan had undertaken to ensure children’s well-being were the establishment of a solid legislative system for the protection of the rights of children.  The 2007 law on guarantees of children’s rights had been prepared with the active participation of UNICEF experts.  There was also a package of measures aimed at nurturing healthy children, and all medical services for children were provided free of charge.  Targeted efforts to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS were being intensified.  Also, 2007 had been declared the “Year of Social Protection” in Uzbekistan, with a State programme that provided, among other things, for specific measures to improve the situation of children and their rights and interests.

ALIMA MAHAMA, Minister for Women’s and Children’s Affairs of Ghana, speaking on behalf of the African Union, presented to the Assembly the Call for Accelerated Action on the Implementation of the Plan of Action towards Africa Fit for Children, 2008-2012, which had been elaborated at a recent review meeting in Cairo, Egypt, by the African Union Commission.  The meeting had noted a number of significant achievements and progress made in African countries in the promotion of child survival, protection, development and participation.  For instance, accelerated programmes of child survival and the adoption of social security measures for vulnerable groups had helped to reduce infant mortality and enhanced the life chances of children in several countries.  Awareness of HIV was high, and preventive measures had been intensified, especially among adolescents.  Mother-to-child transmission had been reduced by 25 per cent in several countries, and school enrolment in Africa had reached 70 per cent.  Several countries had, in fact, reached or nearly reached the goal of universal primary education, well ahead of the 2015 target date.

Among the challenges that hindered Africa’s ability to meet the targets set in the Plans of Action, she mentioned gaps between policy and practice, high levels of absolute poverty, neonatal morbidity and mortality, persistent malnutrition among children, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, high school drop-out rates, child abuse, trafficking and exploitation, and involvement of children in armed conflict.  The Ministers taking part in the meeting had called for time-bound accelerated action in priority areas by the African countries, in collaboration with partners in civil society and the international community.  The participants had committed themselves to priority actions from 2008 to 2012 in the following areas:  legislative, policy and institutional development; mobilization and leveraging of resources for children; enhancing children’s life chances; overcoming HIV and AIDS; realizing the right to education; child participation; monitoring and evaluation of the status of children; and responsibilities of all stakeholders.

Turning to Ghana’s national experience, she said that the country’s achievements in the area of early childhood development, child health, and progress towards universal enrolment were success stories.  Early child development and HIV/AIDS, as well as orphans and vulnerable children, policies had been developed, and community-based organizations working on HIV and AIDS had been trained and equipped with skills to respond to the special needs of infected and affected children.  She also described the Government’s policy to attach two-year preschool or kindergarten facilities to all basic schools in the country.  Between the 2001-2002 and 2006-2007 academic years, preschool enrolment had doubled, and primary school enrolment had increased by 35 per cent.  Annual national campaigns on integrated child and maternal health, comprising immunization, distribution of free insecticide-treated bed nets and Vitamin A supplementation, had been institutionalized.  No child in Ghana had died from measles in the last four years, and the country had been certified as polio-free.   Ghana’s other efforts included abolition of school fees, school feeding programmes and free health insurance coverage.

In conclusion, she said that Africa reaffirmed its commitment to achieving the targets of the world fit for children plan and reiterated its commitment to the survival, development, protection and active participation of children in issues that affected their well-being.   Africa further committed itself to the outcome of the current special session.  Acknowledging the kind support of the international community, UNICEF and development partners, African countries invited others to join them to effectively respond to the Call for Accelerated Action.   Africa’s children could not wait.

CLAIRE HEPBURN, Senator, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs of the Bahamas, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), extended her delegation’s support for ongoing United Nations efforts to protect and promote the rights of children.  She noted the proposed appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, and her delegation pledged support to that appointment and its mandate.

While there had been positive developments in realizing children’s rights, she said “the ledger would be balanced” when no child, in any country, had a broken spirit.  Among positive developments, she said the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child had had an “enormous impact”, and had catapulted children’s issues to the forefront of every agenda and major debate of the Assembly.  The 2000 Millennium Summit saw the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, which sought a more equitable world for the less fortunate, including children.  CARICOM applauded achievements in the years since the 1990 World Summit for Children and the twenty-seventh special session in 2002.

Regarding the Caribbean, she said the region was on track to achieve four of the Goals in the areas of poverty reduction, universal primary education (with an average 94 per cent primary school net enrolment), increased gender parity in primary education, and reduction in child and maternal mortality.  On HIV/AIDS, progress had been made in preventing mother-to-child transmission.  She commended the work of UNICEF and its Regional Office for the approval last June of the four-year multi-country programme for the Eastern Caribbean, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, as that would support public policies and investments that reflected children’s priorities.  In assessing progress in implementing the Declaration and Plan of Action, she asked whether States had done enough to protect children, adding that some regions were progressing too slowly to meet collective goals.  If that situation continued, by 2015, some 4.6 million children would not survive to the age of five.

On a macro level, she said it was important to address income inequities and a trade regime that had negatively impacted many societies, including those in the Caribbean.  Not enough had been done since 2002.  The time had come to strengthen national resources and developing country capacity to help them provide basic social services, in line with the “20/20” initiative.  CARICOM called on States to work towards allocating 0.7 per cent of gross national product for official development assistance, and reiterated that donors should issue timelines for scaling up aid.  She underscored the critical need to successfully conclude the Doha Round of trade negotiations.

ANTONIO MILOSOSKI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said his country had made enormous efforts to improve the situation of children nationally, and had joined hands with regional partners, States and regional organizations to make Europe fit for children.  Regional events had reaffirmed the commitments of States and recognized the importance of systematically measuring the extent to which the rights of the child were effectively implemented.  They had also contributed towards establishment of comprehensive self-monitoring structures.  In June 2005, a conference had been organized by the Government and UNICEF which had brought together Government officials, mayors, experts, civil society members, academics and youth representative to discuss children's issues.

He said among his country’s major achievements were the elaboration of the National Action Plan on children, improved reporting on the Convention, and ratification of the Optional Protocols.  Infant and maternal mortality had decreased, and child-friendly hospitals had been established.  A number of laws had been adopted, including one against domestic violence.  The process of drafting and adopting the National Action Plan had increased attention on children’s needs and focused the activities of political decision makers.  However, insufficiently developed budget planning had complicated the implementation of the National Action Plan, and there was also a need for improved data collection and analysis.  The identified shortcomings would serve as a basis to upgrade the policy on protection and promotion of the rights of the child.

ANA LIGIA MIXCO SOL DE SACA, First Lady and National Secretary for the Family of El Salvador, said that her country had undertaken to overcome the challenges of building a world fit for boys, girls and teenagers.  Poverty was one of the main obstacles for the effective promotion of the rights of the child and children’s well-being.  Thus, one of her Government’s main goals was the implementation of poverty eradication programmes.  She was proud to share with the Assembly the fact that her country had achieved the goal related to reducing the percentage of inhabitants with an income lower than $1 a day and the effect of extreme poverty.  With challenges remaining, however, the Government had initiated programmes to provide for 200,000 families living in the poorest rural municipalities, and to promote health and education within the country.  Due to the high priority of health issues on the Government’s agenda, infant mortality rates in El Salvador had been reduced to 24 per 1,000 live births.  All the country’s children were entitled to universal and free access to immunizations against such diseases as tuberculosis, tetanus, polio and measles.

She went on to say that efforts were being made to ensure an efficient and reliable supply of medications in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and 100 per cent of pregnant mothers were entitled to take a free HIV test, upon request.  The nationwide strategy had resulted in an 85 per cent reduction in the number of children born with HIV.  The country was seeking to reach universal primary education and eliminate disparities between genders in education.  Among the programmes implemented in El Salvador, she mentioned the “Healthy School Programme” and the “Care Programme” that had been launched in May 2006, as a strategy that integrated the inter-agency and intersectoral efforts of the Government, with the support of the United Nations system.

“Our goal is to contribute to human security and enhance the living conditions of the Salvadoran families, but particularly those of children”, she said, describing the country’s care, protection and rights advocacy framework.  El Salvador had adopted legislation in accordance with the standards set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol, and had put into practice the national policy for the comprehensive development of the child and adolescent.  The Government had also taken action to strengthen the family and promote unity, respect and peaceful living together.  She reaffirmed the commitment of her Government and President to make the greatest effort in reaching the universal well-being of the country’s children.

MOUSHIRA KHATTAB, Secretary-General of the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood of Egypt, said the “A world fit for children” document and the Convention on the Rights of the Child could not be isolated from the study “Violence against Children”.  On the national level in her country, so many initiatives had been taken that the rights-based approach was now a fact of life.  Egypt had withdrawn its reservations on articles 20 and 21 of the Convention, and would continue to promote the whole Convention and its Optional Protocols.  Mortality rates among children and mothers had declined.  The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood had launched an initiative to educate girls, to international acclaim.

The most serious breakthrough had been achieved with First Lady Suzanne Mubarak’s campaign against female genital mutilation, she said.  That practice was now illegal.  The permissible marriage age for girls had been raised to 18 years.  The age of responsibility for a criminal act had been raised from 7 to 12 years.  Corporal punishment, trafficking in children and sexual exploitation had been criminalized.

She said Egypt had hosted the African Conference on the future of childhood in May 2001, as well as the Arab High-Level Conference in July of the same year, which had helped to reshape the Arab and African perspectives regarding the world fit for children.  This year, Egypt had hosted the Second African Conference dedicated to the five year review of the “A world fit for children” document.  She understood that the road was still long, but what had so far been achieved was an indicator that “we are walking on the right path”, and efforts were not hindered by a lack of awareness or will.

MARGARET N. NASHA, Minister of Local Government of Botswana, said her country had made a time-bound commitment based on the eight goals for children and young people, saying that all activities under the world fit for childrendeclaration had been incorporated into national development plans, and the National Programme of Action for Children 2006-2016.   Botswana had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in 1995 and 2001, respectively, she continued, adding that the country was committed to upholding the principle of the best interests of the child.

To harmonize domestic laws with the Convention, the Children’s Act had been reviewed and other legislation amended, including the Marriage Act, she said.  Registration of births and deaths had been compulsory, and the country was trying, through the Children’s Act amendment bill, to make it mandatory for all children to have their fathers’ names on their birth certificates, as every child had the right to identity.  On HIV/AIDS, she said attention had focused on preventing the spread of the disease, and the fact that more young people today underwent voluntary testing offered “a glimmer of hope” for the survival of future generations.

On care for orphans and vulnerable children, she said Botswana had a plan of action, and civil society had increasingly played a role in the orphan care programme.  On the right to education, only 17 per cent of preschool-aged children had access to early childhood education.  To realize the right to child protection, Botswana had taken steps through legislation and public education to guard against early marriages and all forms of violence against children.  To realize the right to child participation, she envisaged the establishment of the National Children’s Council, and Botswana was determined to use the Children’s Consultative Forum to consult children on all decisions that affected them.

MARLENE MUNGUNDA, Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, said quality education directly contributed to human development and productivity.  Namibia was on the right track to achieve the global Millennium Development Goal target of universal primary education.  Enrolment rates had been growing steadily, and the Government was trying to ensure that orphans would attend school.  All primary and secondary schools implemented HIV/AIDS skills programmes that provided young people with facts about sexual health and reproduction.

She said that, despite improvements in access to education, HIV/AIDS had the potential to slow down or even reverse recent gains.  School drop-out as a result of HIV/AIDS was widespread.  By 2021, Namibia would have over 250,000 orphans -- one third of the population of children under the age of 15.  Three quarters of those children would be orphaned by AIDS.  The Government had formulated a strategy and programmes that focused on prevention, care and support.  Those programmes needed additional resources to enable them to make a greater impact on society.  Mitigating the socio-economic impact of the pandemic was also an area that needed investment.

GÖRAN HÄGGLUND, Minister for Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, said that children these days lived in both the real and virtual world.  “It is our responsibility to make sure that this enriches and brightens their childhood and that it does not instead shorten, complicate, or threaten their safety or very lives,” he said.  Many children of the world also faced poverty and the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  His country saw the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a minimum level -- a baseline.  In many areas, more could be achieved.

The main goal of Sweden’s welfare policy was to guarantee all girls and boys a good start in life, he continued.  The main responsibility for children’s care and upbringing lay with their parents or guardians.  The society had to support the parents to guarantee good and secure conditions for children to grow up in.  It was important that both decision makers and other adults listened to children, took them seriously, and made sure that they were included, as far as possible, in decisions that affected them.  Children’s ombudsmen had a very important role to play in enabling the international community to fulfil its joint undertaking from 2002.  The Millennium Declaration, the Millennium Development Goals, the Action Plan “A world fit for children”, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child were cornerstones of Sweden’s international development cooperation, which was based on a rights perspective and the perspectives of poor people on their own development.  Development would not be sustainable, unless children’s best interests and capabilities were taken into account.

Greater focus should be placed on child protection and on girls’ and boys’ participation, he said.  It had been against the law for almost 30 years in Sweden for parents to hit their children.  It was necessary to work for a shared vision of zero tolerance, with no child subjected to violence.  International organizations should help their member countries abolish all forms of violence against children in all contexts, including the family.  Politicians, teachers, religious leaders, the mass media and opinion-makers should all contribute to abolishing the violence that affected children.   Sweden welcomed the decision to appoint a Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the work to combat violence against children.  The work of UNICEF was also making a difference.  He expressed appreciation for the contributions of the Innocenti Research Centre and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and others who focused on promoting gender equality and combating all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.   Sweden would continue to be a trustworthy partner in the continued work to build a world fit for children.

PRIYA MANICKCHAND, Minister of Human Services and Social Security of Guyana, associating herself with the statement on behalf of CARICOM, said the care, protection and development of all children, in whom rested the future of humanity, were objectives that demanded pride of place in national and global agendas.  Since the 2002 special session on children, the Government had taken several initiatives to enhance children’s well-being.  As a result, child mortality had been reduced, and the immunization rate stood currently at 92 per cent.  Success had also been achieved in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS.  There were ongoing efforts to provide quality education to children.  Universal primary education had been achieved.  The principle of “the best interests of the child” guided Guyana’s jurisprudence.

She said challenges included constraints in financing and infrastructure.  Children across the world were at risk on account of the global increase in food and fuel prices.  Another challenge was posed by migration.  Children bore the brunt of the impact on societies depleted by the loss of trained personnel, whether in the fields of education or health, by absent parents, or lack of access to basic services in changed circumstances.  There was a need for a more structured global discourse on international migration and development.

Preserving the natural environment for posterity was an important dimension of creating a world fit for children, she said.  Global warming and climate change must be addressed.  The post-Kyoto Protocol framework should make provisions for standing rainforests, with mechanisms for rewarding countries for conserving them.  “From this forum we appeal to world leaders, and indeed all adults, to do everything they can to avoid the road to self-destruction and move our planet onto a path of recovery through massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.  “Little sense it will make if we manage to eradicate violence against children on one day, if they were to drown in a mighty flood or starve in a drought or famine on the next.”

VIERA TOMANOVÁ, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of Slovakia, recalling that both the United Nations World Summit for Children and the special session had set principles for creating suitable conditions for children, said States must ask if progress had been achieved.  Her country was aware of the importance of protecting children’s rights, and had applied the principles of the twenty-seventh General Assembly special session on children.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child had introduced the term the “child’s best interest”, underlining what would be preferred in any activity vis-à-vis children.

She went on to describe various initiatives that Slovakia had undertaken in the 2002-2007 period, highlighting the adoption of a National Plan of Action for Children, which was updated every two years.  The goal was to contribute to the building of a protection system for children.  Her country had also adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was putting measures in place through which the State would guarantee support to families, especially in cases where parents were not able or willing to care for children.  Children’s rights were regulated by the Family Act, among others.

She said creating a safe environment for children must be a common undertaking for all States.  In closing, she emphasized Slovakia’s commitment to creating a world in which human development took into account the best interests of children, based on the principles of democracy, equality and non-discrimination, among other factors.  Her country associated itself with the concluding declaration of the current meeting, and was prepared to implement it.  Crimes against children were among the most brutal and inhumane, and there should be zero tolerance for such violations.

ESPERANZA I. CABRAL, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development of the Philippines, said the message of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was clear:  children needed special care and protection to achieve their full potential.  The outcome document of the United Nations special session on children complemented the Millennium Declaration, and the ultimate goal was to create a “child-friendly” world.  For the Philippines, the Millennium Development Goals and the agenda of “A world fit for children” were top priorities.  She described various efforts, highlighting the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004-2010 and the National Plan of Action for Children (2005-2010).

She said the Philippines had witnessed the value of concerted efforts to improve the situation of children; in primary and secondary education, achievement rates generally favoured girls.  Clear gains had been made in the last 15 years to reduce infant mortality, which had dropped from 57 to 24 deaths per 1,000 live births.  The prevalence of HIV and AIDS had been kept well below the national target of less than 1 per cent of the population.  The country had also made progress in poverty reduction, nutrition and gender equality, among other areas.

Nevertheless, challenges remained, as key survival, development and protection goals had not been met in critical areas, she said.  Her country would work harder, particularly in the area of access to reproductive health services.  Children had an important role in developing and implementing the world fit for children agenda, and she highlighted her national framework for children’s participation in that regard.  As goals could only be achieved in partnership, within and among countries, she called on Governments, non-governmental organizations, parents, and civil society to play their part in protecting the rights of children.  The Philippines attached great importance to implementing the principles of the world fit for children agenda, and urged child delegates to continue to lead the way to a brighter future.

NOUZHA SKALLI, Minister of Social Development, Family and Solidarity of Morocco, said under the directives of King Mohamed VI, her country had entered the new millennium with the aim of strengthening laws while addressing children’s issues, in the broad context of human rights.  Legal reforms had been undertaken, with the involvement of non-governmental organizations and civil society, to harmonize Moroccan legislation with international conventions.  In that context, she highlighted reforms to the penal, civil and labour codes, and promulgation of a law on compulsory education until age 15.

Such reforms had led to the adoption of a new family code, which laid the foundation for a modern, democratic society, and introduced the principle of shared parental responsibility to protect the family.  Those reforms had also led to the adoption of a new national code, which allowed women to transfer their nationality to their children in the event of marriage to a foreigner.  She also noted the election of 35 women to Parliament for the first time in 2002.

The development of Morocco’s National Plan of Action for Children (2006-2015) had mobilized State departments, non-governmental organizations, experts and children themselves, she said.  The plan, presented to the public at the eleventh National Congress on Children’s Rights in July, was based on ensuring a healthy life, providing quality education, combating violence and sexual exploitation, and addressing HIV and AIDS.  She also outlined several social protection initiatives.   Morocco was committed to ensuring that children’s issues were integrated into the 2005 National Initiative for Human Development, and she underlined the need to develop coordination mechanisms for sharing experiences on children’s rights.  In closing, she reiterated Morocco’s strong political will to undertake efforts to promote children’s protection.

ROSY BINDI, Minister for Family Policies of Italy, highlighted the promise of the final declaration of 2002’s special session on children –- that “a world fit for children is a world fit for everyone”.  Her country supported that session’s objectives by backing various international organizations, particularly UNICEF, for which Italy was a top donor.  Yet, that agency’s recent report indicated that despite progress, much remained to be done to achieve the 2002 objectives.  Italy had long fought for an international ban on every form of corporal punishment and hoped that goal could be clearly expressed in next year’s resolution on children’s rights.  Among other things, her country’s National Action Plan reaffirmed the centrality of a child’s or adolescent’s relationship with his or her family.  The Government was also taking steps to draft effective new measures against child labour exploitation.

Underlining the primary responsibility of the family in the protection, care, growth and development of girls and boys, she said that concept should be included in the current session’s final declaration.  To that end, Italy had invested more than €4 billion to develop a system that would provide quality social and education services for children, prevent violence and abuse, eradicate poverty, and support parenthood, as well as improve the standard of living and integration process for foreign children.  While it had not yet accomplished all its goals, Italy planned to promote and enhance all forms of direct participation of boys and girls in civic life.  It would make an education pact to foster the growth and autonomy of children, and it would reduce child poverty.  It would also address the needs of foreign children, and was considering reforming its judicial system to protect boys, girls and families.  Finally, her country would strengthen the network of high-quality social, health and education services.  In all of those efforts, children and youth should be seen as both protagonists of and participants in the choices that related to them.

JOÃO BAPTISTA KUSSUMUA, Minister of Assistance and Social Integration and President of the National Children’s Council of Angola, said 60 per cent of the population in his country was less than 18 years old.  Ensuring the well-being of that young segment and protecting their fundamental rights was an imperative and a strategic goal of the Government.  Article 30 of the Constitution stipulated that “children are an absolute priority, for which reason they should enjoy the special protection of the family, State and society with a view to their full development”.  In April, the Government had approved the establishment of the National Children’s Council as an instrument to “evaluate, follow up and monitor the execution of the National Child Protection and Development Policy, as well as the action of local organs responsible for its execution”.

He said one of the Government’s priorities was to strengthen national capacities to ensure access to essential basic services for women and children, including programmes to reduce maternal and infant mortality, as well as to promote healthy living.  Access to potable water and hygienic conditions were prerequisites for improving public health. 

Education would be an agent of future national development, he said.  Related reforms aimed at, among other things, guaranteeing quality universal basic education for all children from 6 to 18 years of age.  A department to address violence against women and children had been created at the National Criminal Investigation Directorate.  A strategy to promote the well-being of the child also recognized the need for a policy to fight poverty.  One of the development policy priorities in Angola was therefore to ensure the well-being of the population by reducing poverty.

MATHABISO LEPONO, Minister of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation of Lesotho, said her country aspired to create a conducive environment for the mental, physical, and socio-economic development of children, and had therefore adopted a plan of action, as well as agreed to measure progress.   Lesotho was committed to the goals adopted five years ago, and “Vision 2020” was a plan that incorporated the Millennium Development Goals and the Plan of Action into national policies.

Children were the most vulnerable members of society, she continued.  To combat their exploitation, her Government had enacted the Sexual Offences Act of 2003, which clearly defined acts not previously considered sexual offences and increased penalties for common law offences.   Lesotho had introduced a free primary education programme in 2002, and in 2006, reached the goal of State-sponsored primary education.  Maintaining progress was a challenge, and she appealed to development partners to support sustainable economic growth that would lead to economic independence.  In closing, and against the backdrop of the recent European Union-Africa Summit, she urged all States to create a world fit for children through the Plan of Action.

CATHERINE FONCK, Minister of Health, Childhood and Youth Assistance of the French Community of Belgium, said the time had come to assess achievements.  In five years, the situation of children remained critical in the face of challenges such as poverty, HIV and AIDS, armed conflict, and environmental degradation linked to climate change.  Belgium had adopted a National Plan of Action for Children and had recently established a Commission for Children’s Rights.  That Commission reflected United Nations criteria and was broadly inclusive, particularly vis-à-vis civil society participation.

Given that children had to be key actors in their own development, Belgium had increased their participation by setting up local and regional consultative commissions for children and youth.  Non-governmental youth organizations were represented at all social levels, a policy that reflected the European Union’s priorities for youth.  Combating violence against children was also a priority, and Belgium’s judicial and medical systems had tried to mobilize the necessary measures to prevent child abuse.  Regional platforms for cooperation existed.  Her country was committed to family well-being, and had established various programmes to provide related support.

Promoting children’s rights internationally could be done only through constructive cooperation among nations, she said, and the Hague Convention constituted a remarkable effort in that regard.   Belgium had reformed its adoption policy, a decision which had come up against public opinion, with many people wondering why adoption procedures had become so lengthy.  Such procedures, however, were in children’s best interests.  She urged States which had not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child to do so.  When asking what kind of world would be left to children, States also needed to ask what kind of children they wished to leave to the world.

SHARIFA BINT KHALFAN BIN NASSER AL-YAHYAI, Minister of Social Development of Oman, said the first victims of social problems were often children.  Commitments and efforts to improve their rights were led by Islamic law, under which human rights were promoted for all people in all age groups.  The national Omani committee had cooperated with UNICEF to follow up all the measures to review progress since her country signed the Convention.

The Government had published “ Oman fit for children”, a document outlining the country’s goals, and had made every effort to devise a national strategy on children.  Her country’s aim was the same as the principles of “A world fit for children”.  She pointed to sectors, including health, where Oman had made efforts to provide care to all citizens, and to place major emphasis on prevention.  On 1 December, her country had launched an awareness campaign on HIV and AIDS.  It had also established informal task forces to study the exclusion and neglect of children.  Turning to education, she said school enrolment ages had been reduced to 5 years of age in public and private schools, and from 2003-2004 enrolment had surpassed 90 per cent, an increase of 62 per cent over previous years.

ASKAR SHAKIROV, Commissioner of Human Rights of Kazakhstan, said realizing the goals in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the outcome document of the World Summit on Children was a priority for his country.  Describing national efforts, he said Kazakhstan adhered to a multisectoral approach to children’s rights, and had built a national legal framework for children’s protection in the last five years.  The budget for children’s development was doubled each year, and a committee on child protection had been established in the Ministry of Education and Science.  The Government Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking in the 2006-2008 period was being implemented, and 38 crisis centres for women and children victims had been established.  To ensure development of the social service system, his country annually allocated $160 million in assistance to families with children.

Despite such measures, children who were disabled or who had been abandoned and neglected continued to be a serious problem, he said.  Child mortality was of great concern, and HIV and AIDS was an emerging challenge.  The Government tackled those problems in close cooperation with international organizations and United Nations agencies, including UNICEF and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  In closing, he reiterated his delegation’s strong commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the Convention.

HIJRAN HUSEYNOVA, Chairperson of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of Azerbaijan, highlighted her country’s progress in addressing children’s rights.  With children comprising over one quarter of Azerbaijan’s population of 8.6 million, the Government was doing its best to ensure a safe and peaceful future for them, including ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Azerbaijan had also established the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs in 2006, and subsequently a coordination council on children’s issues.  In 2007, the Government submitted the National Action Plan on Children to the Cabinet of Ministers, and with the help of UNICEF, her country was currently establishing a child parliament, which would include 85 representatives from around the nation.  The Government had also conducted awareness-raising campaigns to address the problem of children infected with HIV and AIDS, and had adopted a plan of action to tackle the problem of homeless boys and girls.  But despite strong will, it was proving harder to attain progress because of Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijani territories, which had turned 1 million people into refugees or displaced persons, including 200,000 children, she said.

To intensify Azerbaijan’s efforts and achieve tangible results in child protection, in 2008 the Government would allocate financial resources to support non-governmental organizations, she said.  Two hundred and two of them who specialized in children had already registered with the Ministry of Justice.  The Heydar Aliyev Foundation, for example, headed by the First Lady of Azerbaijan, had launched successful projects for diabetic children and built more than 300 schools, while State programmes and plans of action to improve schools were under way.  In other areas, legislative reforms included measures and provisions against child trafficking and exploitation, as well as the prohibition of child pornography.

She said laws on domestic violence had been submitted to Parliament for adoption, and the Government intended to regulate the problem of early marriage and raise the legal age to 18 for men and women.  But challenges remained, namely a lack of trained social workers.  She hoped to continue Azerbaijan’s cooperation with international organizations, United Nations agencies, and governmental as well as non-governmental organizations to create a world fit for children.  By sharing experiences and conducting large-scale campaigns on combating HIV and AIDS, the world could take action on a global scale, which was critical for meeting all of the Millennium Development Goals.

FATIMETOU MINT KHATTRI, Minister for Promotion of Women, Children and Family Affairs of Mauritania, said her country was actively promoting rights and sustainable development that would benefit all parts of society.  Human trafficking, part of the history of her country, had become a recent focus.  A recent donor conference had generated $1 billion, which would be used to alleviate poverty and address related issues.

Mauritania was working to strengthen the capacity of various sectors to ameliorate the rights and conditions of children.  A series of laws had been established, for example, on the protection of children and against slavery and slavery-like practices.  Deep reforms in the judicial system had been made to protect children against trafficking and pornography.  Integrating a children’s dimension into all programmes, including revisions of family policies, was among the Government’s strategies.  She said the country’s education plan was being implemented, which was making it possible to narrow the gender gap, and was reflected in current enrolment rates of 92.7 per cent for boys and 92.4 for girls.

Health was being addressed by widening access to medical care, given the high rates of maternal mortality.  Alleviating the domestic burden of women had also been addressed, as had gender balance.  Women were better represented in the Government, and a children’s parliament was being considered.  Resources were needed, however, to support projects and programmes of her country to create a promising atmosphere.

AGHVAN VARDANIAN, Minister for Labour and Social Issues of Armenia, said his country’s social policy included a special chapter on the rights of children, and one aim was to reduce infant mortality.  That policy reflected the significance attached by his country to children, and its determination to protect them from violence and exploitation.  The Government’s commitment to children was corroborated by its budget, which devoted significant allocations to children’s issues.  It also intended to make investments in the social sphere through increased budgetary expenditures in the area of education and through increased family allowances.  The Government was working closely with relevant organizations in its effort to improve services for children.  It also participated actively in regional programmes in support of children.

He noted that many social problems affecting children had been resolved, but added that the Government still intended to double its investment in that sphere by 2012.  The country had both the will and the desire to resolve those problems completely.

HADJA FATOUMATA TETE NABE DIALLO, Minister of Social Affairs, Advancement of Women and Childhood of Guinea, said in the five years since the adoption of the resolution on a world fit for children, progress had been made, obstacles had been identified and goals had been put in place for the benefit of boys and girls.  Today’s meeting attested to the international community’s renewed engagement to provide a better future for all children.  But further progress required both the collective and individual actions of a number of players in the international community to reinforce judicial issues, partnerships, and resources, as well as educational, social, cultural and economic programmes for children. 

He said Guinea had participated in the 2002 special session on children and had made strides to implement decisions made at the World Summit.  The Government’s efforts had, through national and international partnerships, started to produce positive results.  Those included a plan of action that focused on promoting better conditions for children, quality education, and protection from abuse, exploitation and violence, as well as repercussions from armed conflicts.  The plan also encompassed combating child labour, and the elimination of trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.

To date, 114 deputies had been elected to the children’s parliament, while a committee for a national birth registry had been launched.  In 2005, Guinea had signed a protocol with Mali to combat child trafficking, and had adopted a national children’s code.  His country had also launched an education for all programme, among other initiatives that considered the rights of children.  With the help of partnerships, Guinea had established programmes to combat trafficking and violence against children and to provide protection for returning child soldiers.  Despite those gains, however, challenges remained, and collective efforts were needed to ensure peace and promote development.

KIRSY FERNANDEZ DE VALENZUELA, Secretary of State and Executive President of the National Council for Children and Adolescents of the Dominican Republic, said her country was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Millennium Development Goals, and the 10 principles in the declaration before the Assembly today.  It had also amended its national laws in accordance with the Convention, and had left behind the old teaching models.  The country was one of the seven pilot countries participating in the United Nations Millennium Project, and was the first Latin American country to complete an assessment of the requirements and costs to implement the Millennium targets.  As part of that project, her country was working to reduce infant mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV and AIDS, and protect the environment.  Those four measures received funding from 15 projects listed in the national income budget and public spending law.  Her Government had progressively increased public spending on education and health, from 2.7 per cent of gross domestic product in 2004 to 4.4 per cent in 2007, as well as stepped up spending to eradicate poverty and foster social cohesion and development.

While the Government was committed to achieving the Millennium targets, social marginalization and income inequality persisted and thwarted efforts to guarantee the rights of children in accordance with the 2005 National Human Development Index.  The Government had improved social investment in order to ensure sustainable development.  The National Council for Children and Adolescents would next year focus on design and installation of an information and monitoring system for children.  A major challenge was to adopt economic policies that positively impacted children and contributed to their development.  The Government’s priorities were to redouble efforts to improve child survival and development through better care for newborns; better education; integral infant care; better basic social services, particularly for vulnerable groups and people affected by HIV and AIDS; and programmes to end child abuse and child labour.  The Dominican Republic was cooperating with UNICEF to reach the goals of a world appropriate for boys and girls.

MONTSERRAT GIL TORNE, Minister of Health, Welfare, Family and Housing of Andorra, said the rights of children were a priority in her country’s development of public policy.  Six years ago, it participated in the “Say Yes for Children” campaign, and it was represented by a high-level delegation at the May 2002 session on children.  Her Government had recently submitted a report on development in Andorra during the first five years of the “A world fit for children” strategy, which outlined important milestones vis-à-vis implementation of that strategy.  The Child Law was in the process of being drawn up, as was an action plan that had been drafted with assistance from UNICEF.  Other milestones concerned the four cross-cutting objectives set forth in “A world fit for children.”

Promoting a healthy lifestyle and physical exercise was also a priority, she said.  In 2004 and 2005, several surveys on children’s health and food habits were conducted.  During the current year, her Ministry and the Ministry of Education had launched a strategy to promote healthy eating habits and exercise among children.  The Ministries disseminated informational materials to schools, libraries, and children’s institutions on the subject.  Combating drug addiction, particularly among young people, was also a major challenge.  In 2004, her Government had launched a national plan to combat drug addiction.  Last year, there was a significant increase in the number of activities and seminars concerning children’s issues.  Andorra was also committed to combating the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and last year had set up an anonymous registry on existing cases.  HIV prevention was crucial, particularly among young people.  She said her Ministry, the Andorran National Committee for UNICEF, and local youth departments had launched public AIDS prevention campaigns.  This year, Andorra had stepped up that campaign in the hope that people who worked with youth, such as professors and sports trainers, would develop the necessary capacity to answer young people’s questions about HIV and AIDS, as well as eliminate the taboos and myths surrounding the pandemic.  A web page had been set up to inform young people about HIV, as had an anonymous help line.

Andorra also promoted quality education and guaranteed schooling for children up to the age of 16, she said.  The entire child population between 3 and 16 years of age was attending school.  In 2004, her country had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and set 18 as the minimum age when a person could be tried in a court of law as an adult.  Further, it had criminalized child prostitution and pornography, as well as set up an intervention system involving educational and medical professionals to assist children at risk.

SOPHIA SIMBA, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, said her country attached great importance to children’s participation and consulted them on the various issues affecting them.  To underscore that commitment, the country’s delegation to the present event included children.  The Government had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.  It was in the process of enacting a comprehensive Children’s Act that would ensure its international commitments to children were reflected in national legislation.  The enactment of improved legislation, such as the Employment and Labour Relations Act of 2004, which, among others issues, incorporated International Labour Organization (ILO) standards to abolish the worst forms of child labour, had further improved the well-being and rights of children.

Poverty was still the underlying factor in many of the unfavourable situations facing Tanzanian children and underpinning their vulnerability, she said.  Breaking that cycle was a critical factor and a major challenge that had to be overcome in the country’s quest to make a world fit for children.  Her country had incorporated the goals and targets of its commitments to the world fit for children into mainland Tanzania’s National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty and the Zanzibar Strategy for Reduction of Poverty, which were the overarching programmes for national development planning.  That would ensure that children’s issues were monitored and evaluated, and that resources were provided for them.

She stated that in the United Republic of Tanzania, there was high political commitment on the part of the leadership to implement and achieve the goals and objectives of a world fit for children.  Governments alone could, however, not make such a world.  Partnership and collaborative efforts, at all levels, with other governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, as well as the international organizations, were imperative in the endeavour to improve the well-being of children.

VIRGILIA DOS SANTOS MATABELE, Minister for Women and Coordination of Social Affairs of Mozambique, said she was committed to the ideals of the United Nations and the rights of children.  Mozambique had intensified initiatives to ensure that children enjoyed those rights.  The new Constitution of 2005 unequivocally protected children’s rights.  Draft laws were approved to protect the custody of boys and girls, as well as to protect children against trafficking.  The country had a free birth registry, and had expanded the national school network and school enrolment, particularly among girls.  It had also eliminated tuition for primary school education.  Further, it had improved healthcare services, enhanced programmes for mothers and their children, and stepped up services to end child labour and assist working mothers.

Combating HIV and AIDS was a priority, she said, pointing to Mozambique’s important advocacy efforts to end the social stigma of HIV and AIDS, as well as discrimination against people suffering from the disease.  In 2005, the Government launched a global campaign against HIV and AIDS.  It recently approved a second report on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  She was encouraged by the progress made since the United Nations special session on children was held, and she stressed the need to redouble efforts to achieve concrete targets vis-à-vis children’s rights.  Children must feel like an integral part of their communities and feel they had ownership of their future.  She also called on non-governmental organizations to step up efforts to ensure children’s rights, as well as their participation in issues concerning them.

VICTORINA ESPINOLA DE RUIZ DIAZ, Minister of Children and Adolescents of Paraguay, said her country had established a 2003-2008 national childhood and adolescent development strategy to eradicate poverty and income inequality, as well as to promote social mobility among children.  That strategy aimed to prevent and end child labour and sexual exploitation.  Paraguay had ratified ILO Convention 182 against child labour, and it annually celebrated, on 31 May, the National Day against the Ill-Treatment, Sexual Abuse and Labour of Children.  A 2006 law criminalized child pornography, and another law, as well as amendments to the 1987 Civil State Registry Law, allowed for universal, free citizenship documentation for children to eliminate existing barriers to boys and girls to their right to an identity, family, nationality and national pride.

Article 54 of Paraguay’s Constitution incorporated the principles set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, namely that the family, society and the State must guarantee a child’s right to harmonious, integral development, she said.  Investment in children had increased substantially since 2004, and investment in education accounted for 79 per cent of all financial investment in children in 2006.  The Ministry of Public Health and Social Well-Being had implemented a programme to prevent, treat and end childhood diseases, which had helped reduce maternal and infant mortality.  The national immunization plan would also enable the country to immunize 95 per cent of its children.

Paraguay was also working to achieve universal access to primary education, through a national school enrolment programme that aimed to increase school retention rates; reduce the number of children repeating grades at the primary school level; reduce student dropout rates in primary and secondary schools; and improve the quality, efficiency and coverage of education at all levels.  The national network to assist abused children had been strengthened to prevent children from returning to abusive situations and relationships.  Paraguay also had a web page listing missing children, and several Government offices coordinated their efforts with Save the Children, UNICEF and other organizations involved in work on missing children.

HAJIA SAUDATU USMAN BUNGUDU, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, said the deliberations today were germane to her as a mother, and that humanity’s future depended on how effectively Governments could implement programmes and policies to safeguard, nurture, educate and protect children, from the cradle to the adolescent stage.  That was why Nigeria had adopted the outcome of the 1990 Children’s World Summit and had reaffirmed a commitment to the shaping of a world fit for children.  Nigeria was also a signatory to the African Union Charter on the child, and it espoused the African common position of an “ Africa fit for children”.

Further, she said the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been incorporated into national legislation through the 2003 Child Rights Act, and that 17 of her country’s 36 states had adopted it.  The Millennium Development Goals had been incorporated into the medium-term development plan to create an improved environment for children that was also sustainable.  The 2005 global “Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS” campaign that Nigeria had launched continued its programme of advocacy and fund-raising.  Legislation had also been enacted and partnerships formed for the protection of children against trafficking and violence.  All states had replicated the 2000 National Children’s Parliament to involve children in matters concerning them.  Serious challenges, however, remained in all of those areas, as well as in such areas as mortality, poverty and infrastructure for delivery of services.  The international community could assist by fostering partnerships to monitor progress and enable a scaled up response to challenges.

ITH SAMHENG, Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation of Cambodia, said his country had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992, and had incorporated four fundamental child’s rights into the Government’s platform.  Under a 2000-2005 campaign to promote healthy lives, for example, the infant mortality rate dropped from 95 per 1,000 to 66, and the under-five rate from 124 to 83.  Access to safe water rose from 60 to 76 per cent of households in urban areas, and from 24 to 42 per cent in rural settings.  Access to improved sanitation rose from 49 to 55 per cent in rural areas, and from 32 to 44 per cent in urban locales.  In terms of malnutrition, the stunting rate dropped from 45 to 37 per cent, while the wasting rate dropped from 15 to 7 per cent.

Continuing, he said that under a 2001-2005 campaign to provide quality education, improvements were made in literacy, admission rates, primary survival rates and primary net enrolment rates.  Gender disparities in education had also shown improvement.  Under a 1997-2006 campaign to combat HIV and AIDS, the infection rate had dropped from 3 to less than 1 per cent, due to advocacy for safety and to the expansion of service sites from 35 to 106.  The number of centres offering services for prevention of mother-to-child transmission had also increased from 2 to 52.

Other campaigns had focused on the protection of children against abuse, exploitation and violence, as well as landmine awareness, he concluded.  The main challenges were in the areas of food security, poverty reduction, education survival rates and gender mainstreaming.  Partnerships with international and local partners were being strengthened to accelerate the rate of addressing responses.

HENDRIK SETROWIDJOJO, Minister for Social Affairs and Housing of Suriname, said that in recognition of the fact that children were the future of humanity, his Government had dedicated the past five years to revising, formulating and implementing policies and programmes for children.  That process had been conducted in close cooperation with non-governmental organizations and international donors working for and with children, as well as with UNICEF and other United Nations agencies.  Specific policy interventions had been formulated in the areas of health, education, people with disabilities, HIV/AIDS, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of diseases, early childhood development, and sexual and reproductive health.

He said his country’s achievements included immunization coverage, which had improved from 70 per cent in 2000 to 85 per cent in 2004.  In addition, a new immunization scheme, including Hib and hepatitis B vaccines, had been introduced in 2005.  Infant mortality had remained stable during the period of 2000 to 2004, at around 20 per 1,000 live births.  In addition, enrolment in pre-primary and primary schools had increased, along with primary school completion rates.  Significant challenges remained, however, due to a decrease in the percentage of children completing secondary education.

Suriname had also registered gains in the fight against malaria, resulting in a decrease in the number of cases, he said.  In addition, there had been legislative reforms, particularly in relation to children’s right to develop parental relations with both parents in cases of divorce.  Legislation was also pending with regard to the right of children to be consulted in matters of importance to them.  Children and young people were exercising their right to participation, and a youth parliament had been instituted to provide a forum for young people to discuss issues of concern to them.  There was also a national advisory board in which two CARICOM Youth Ambassadors were represented.

HAJA MUSU KANDEH, Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Social Affairs of Sierra Leone, called for consensus in adopting the Declaration at the end of the current meeting.  He said children’s concerns had been mainstreamed into his country’s national development policies, programmes and plans.  A Ministry of Children’s Affairs had been formed and a plan of action had been developed to address challenges in the areas of health, education, protection and combating HIV and AIDS.  A Roll-Back Malaria Programme had been instituted and measures had been taken to address vulnerabilities in specific areas.  Those included the establishment of a National Commission for War Affected Children; a declaration declaring 18 as the minimum age for army recruitment; the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the enactment of an Employment Law prohibiting women and children from working in mines, as well as a Child Rights Bill for implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the establishment of a Child Protection Committee; the 2005 enactment of a Trafficking in Persons Act; the setting up of a Family Support Unit in the Police Force; and the establishment of a National Orphans and Vulnerable Children Task Force.

Yet, even with all that, he said Sierra Leone’s children remained vulnerable.  Boys and girls orphaned by AIDS needed special care.  The number of street children was increasing, while those in remote communities received inadequate health care and education.  Infrastructure needed improvement and personnel tackling the problems involved in trafficking needed training.  International support was needed to bolster national efforts, he said.

CECILIA LANDERRECHE GOMEZ, Director, National System for the Integral Development of the Family of Mexico, said her country was a mosaic with a number of languages and indigenous groups.  That situation required a unique design and vision in its Government policies, including its national plan, “A Mexico fit for children”.  As a result, Mexico had created programmes reflecting its situation by, among other things, distributing school books in a number of languages.  It also served breakfast to schoolchildren, so as to aid them and their families.

Indeed, the basis of addressing children’s needs started with the family, she said.  As a result, Mexico had streamlined its adoption processes to guarantee that adoption served the needs of the children.  Recognizing the need to improve the conditions of working mothers, the country had opened thousands of childcare centres.  In the area of health, it had created a programme directed to families without social services.

Mexico had also set up a national council for children and adolescents, she said.  In implementing the National Action Plan for Children, it had successfully cut the number of child workers by more than 20 per cent and substantially reduced the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in adolescents.  Yet, in the health and education areas, malnutrition rates had not been sufficiently reduced, and many children did not complete primary school.  Mexico was generally on the right track, yet there were a number of “stoplights” that allowed it to measure the impact of its policies on children and continue to improve them.

Introducing the speaker from Algeria, the Assembly Vice-President expressed the world body’s sincere condolences following the terrorist attack in Algiers earlier today.

NOUARA SAADIA DJAAFAR, Minister for Family and the Female Condition of Algeria, thanked the Assembly and all those who had expressed condolences and solidarity.

She went on to say that the Action Plan adopted in 2002 was a safeguard for ensuring that all States lived up to their obligations to create a better world for girls and boys.  Algeria had made great strides in ensuring equality for all its citizens.  It had enacted development programmes to fight unemployment, bolster needy families, boost rural development, and ensure greater availability of resources for sustainable development.  Each and every one of those programmes contained specific goals for the betterment of children, especially in the education sector.

The Government had also drawn on the expertise of the mass media and the private sector in its efforts to foster a positive environment for children, she said.  Those efforts had been carried out in conjunction with poverty eradication initiatives and programmes to end violence against women, improve maternal health care, and strengthen the education sector.  A National Action Plan for Children had been adopted through 2015.  Algeria urged the international community to renew its commitment to children, especially those in the developing world.

SHAHIDA JAMIL ( Pakistan) said much progress had been made in strengthening the international commitment to children since the 1990 World Summit for Children and the 2002 special session, but challenges remained vis-à-vis inequality, poverty and discrimination.  Displaced children and those affected by natural disasters or living under foreign occupation were deprived of childhood and were particularly vulnerable to violence, sexual exploitation, HIV infection, forced labour and slavery.  The violations of children’s rights had serious and lifelong repercussions.

Her country had developed a National Programme of Action for Children in the 1990s that had been reviewed by the General Assembly at the 2002 special session, she said.  Now, a national child policy and plan of action were being developed for the next decade with the cooperation of UNICEF.  The right to education was a priority; prevention of violence against children was another, while health was still another.  And finally, as the Convention on the Rights of the Child had established, both parents and the entire family were responsibility for a child’s welfare.  While millions of children around the world were growing up without one or even both parents due to poverty, disability, disease, natural disaster or family breakdown, Pakistan accorded a special place in its policies and Constitution to the welfare of children and the institution of family.

WANG SHUXIAN, Executive Deputy Director, National Working Committee on Children and Women of China, said that over the past five years, her country had adhered to the principles of “putting children first” and “acting for the best interests of the child”.  China abided strictly by the aims and sprit of the special session, earnestly honoured its commitments, and had taken concrete actions to implement its own national plan for the development of children.  The Government had put in place a complete set of basic laws for protecting children’s rights and interests, and last year it had revised laws on the protection of minors.

She said that in 2006, the central Government and local authorities had, for the first time, incorporated children’s development into their overall plans for economic and social development, in order to achieve coordinated overall development.  China had also conducted regular monitoring and evaluation, and improved sex-disaggregated statistics that allowed it to conduct a midterm evaluation of the National Action Plan.  Through those steps, the country had made progress in many areas of children’s development, including health care, education, the protection of their rights and interests, and gender equality.

The health and nutrition situation continued to improve, and enrolment and participation in basic education was increasing, she said.  Yet, challenges remained, particularly in light of regional disparities, new emerging issues caused by population migration, the rising rate of birth defects, and the task of preventing and controlling HIV/AIDS.  China would, therefore, carry out a people-centred scientific outlook on development and speed up social development.  It would also continue to strengthen social security for vulnerable children and promote coordinated development.

CARMEN SILVEIRA DE OLIVEIRA, Deputy Minister for the Promotion of the Rights of Children and Adolescents of Brazil, said that during the opening last week of her country’s Seventh National Conference on the Rights of Childhood and Youth, President Inacio Lula da Silva had reaffirmed his commitment to establishing conditions that would allow the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.  He had also recognized that the highest interest of boys, girls and adolescents was based on the assurance of social justice and non-discrimination, especially in a country where 43 per cent of the youngest children were from poor families.  Brazil had made great strides in education and nutrition over the past five years, respectively approving a 10-fold increase in the basic education budget, and halving malnutrition rates, while reducing child mortality by some 25 per cent.

She said her country was also committed to working with its regional neighbours, through the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), to address key challenges, such as sexual exploitation, juvenile justice and child labour.  Internationally, Brazil planned to host the 2008 Third World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, in cooperation with UNICEF and civil society organizations.  It was very important for children and youth to participate actively in decision making processes.  Indeed, 25 per cent of the delegates at the Seventh National Conference had been young people, who had enjoyed the right to vote in the same capacity as adults.

POLDEJ PINPRATEEP, Deputy Minister of Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to all the conventions and international instruments on children that it had signed or acceded to.  Following the 2002 special session on children, Thailand had assigned his ministry to coordinate and craft national policy, as well as plans on children issues.  Under the framework of “A World Fit for Children”, 12,000 children had their views included in the policy-making process along with the views of representatives of governmental and non-governmental agencies.  Of the 11 elements of Thailand’s National Policy and Strategic Plan for Children Development, four were from “A World Fit for Children”.

He said 35 organizations were implementing 308 programmes and activities at the national level, while others in Thailand’s 76 provinces had adopted local action plans.  In January 2007, his Government had announced a “National Agenda for Children and Youth” to support the national plan of action.  Child and Youth Councils had been established in 76 provinces and at the national level to encourage child and youth participation.  Also, the National Assembly had approved the Protection of Victims of Violence in the Family Act in September.  A month later, it had approved an act promoting child and youth development at all levels.  Finally, last week, the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act had been approved.  This Act included protection for legal and illegal migrant children and women and imposed heavier penalties on the perpetrators.  In closing, he underscored that his country was committed to the well-being of children and their families, and believed this could be best achieved through a bottom-up approach.

GONZALO ARENAS, Deputy Minister of Planning of Chile, said his country had made great efforts to protect children and mothers.  Since 1990, it had halved poverty among children from 50.7 per cent that year to 21 per cent in 2006.  Infant mortality had dropped from 8.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2000 to 7.9 deaths per 1,000 births in 2005.  Reform of the public health system was expected to further lower the infant mortality rate.  Since taking office two years ago, the administration of President Michelle Bachelet had significantly increased pre-school enrolment, guaranteed universal access to kindergarten for all four-year-olds and reformed the Constitution to increase mandatory schooling from 12 years to 14 years for all children.  Several legislative reforms aimed to improve living conditions and better protect children, including laws to prevent domestic violence; create family courts; guarantee family subsidies for women during pregnancy and until their children turned 18; and guarantee parents of adopted children the right to post-natal subsidies regardless of the age of their adopted children.

There was great income inequality in Chile caused by various socio-economic factors that affected children, as well as great disparities in education among children of different socio-economic classes, he said.  To rectify that situation, the Government had launched the National System to Protect Children, Chile Grows with You, a programme to assist children until they reached age four regardless of socio-economic status or ethnicity.  The System had amended legislation to better protect parents, set up a psycho-social development programme in the public health system for children from the time of birth until they reached age four, and guaranteed family subsidies for children from poor households until they reached age 18, including free quality child care for children whose mothers worked, were seeking employment or who were students.

Chile had also made significant progress in promoting and improving the technical capacity of institutions assisting child victims of sexual violence and exploitation and through its “An Appropriate World for Boys and Girls” programme.  It also had educational and psycho-social programmes to help marginalized children living in difficult situations.  His country had also formed a permanent partnership with UNICEF, the ILO and the International Organization of Migration (IOM).  On 26 September, it launched the Global Executive Plan for Millennium Development Goal Numbers 4 and 5, and in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the “Deliver Now for Women and Children” plan.

ILKKA OKSALA, State Secretary, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, said the children and youth of today were the adults of tomorrow.  Their living conditions and resources, therefore, would be crucially defined by today’s decision-making.  Finland’s young people were concerned about the unequal distribution of welfare.  Thus, at a global level Finland had committed itself to eradicating poverty in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals.  Looked at from inside Finnish society, economic development had appeared strong for more than a decade.  Yet, Finland was not satisfied with social development as the proportion of children in the lowest income brackets had been increasing, despite favourable economic development trends.

This favourable economic development, he said, had required active participation by all in the labour market with mothers and fathers working in equal numbers.  Yet, it was questionable if the demands of the working life had increased too much from the point of view of the child.  Indeed, one could say that children had to compete with work for the right to spend time with their parents -– a situation in which a family’s welfare did not always guarantee the actual well-being of that family’s children.  Noting that his country had created an ombudsman for children as it had prepared its own national plan of action, “A Finland Fit for children”, he joined Sweden in encouraging other countries to consider establishing similar institutions.  Finland had also developed specific models to assess the impact of development decisions on children and hoped other countries would join in this work, as development should not take place only on adult terms.

HUSSAIN SAID AL SHEIKH, Under-Secretary for Social Care, Ministry of Social Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, reiterated his country’s commitment to the Plan of Action, saying development could not be achieved without ensuring the protection of the fundamental rights of children and providing favourable conditions for their survival, growth and protection.  The United Arab Emirates had signed a number of conventions, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, International Convention 138 on the Minimum Age of Employment, and International Convention 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.  It had also enacted a number of national laws.

As a result of those efforts and programmes, many indicators associated with children had shown improvement, especially in the areas of health, education and protection, he said.  As a result of sound health policies, the indicators for child and infant mortality had shown improvement, with neonatal and infant mortality rates dropping, respectively, to 6.87 and 7.7 per 1,000 live births.  The mortality rates of newborns and children under five had also declined, to 5.7 and 9.87 per 1,000 live births, respectively.

The country had also passed legislation toughening the penalties for crimes against children, he said.  Those laws ensured the proper conduct of the legal guardians responsible for managing a child’s life and protecting his or her funds and properties, in addition to regulating the right of custody and alimony for the child, in case the parents separated.  There were also laws prescribing special treatment for children who violated the law.  In the middle of this year, a national institution for protecting women and children from exploitation, violence and abuse had been launched in Dubai to provide protection and shelter for abused women and children, until the need for protection ceased to exist.

RITA SKJAERVIK, State Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister of Norway, recalled that the Convention on the Rights of the Child provided the common basis for actions to create a world fit for children.  Children’s issues should be more visibly and systematically integrated into general programmes, policies, budget and cross-cutting themes.  Governments should incorporate the Convention’s provisions into national legislation on child protection, as Norway had done shortly after the 2002 special session.  Norway had also channelled considerable support for education through UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and bilateral assistance.  Next year, the country would host a high-level international conference on education focusing on measures to include the many children without access to quality education.

She said her Government had intensified its campaign to end all forms of violence against children.  A so-called “Children’s House” would carry out legal investigations, treatment and therapy under one roof.  The proposal in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) to establish a Special Representative for children was welcome, and the 10-year strategic review of the Machel study on the impact of armed conflict on children provided a special opportunity to deal more effectively with the issue.  Child participation was the least implemented of children’s rights worldwide, she said.  Norway’s ombudsman was a key advocate for child participation and child-friendly protection and response mechanisms.  At the country’s first parliamentary hearing with children earlier this year, ministers, including the Prime Minister, had exchanged views with adolescents.  A youth representative would now take the floor.

CAMILLA VAN PAASCHEN, Youth Representative and Member of the Youth Council of the Ombudsman for Children of Norway, said she had been born in the year of the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was a member of the first generation to have grown up with the treaty.  After two days of exchanging views with other young people from all over the world, it seemed that their challenges were very different, but they all shared the need for protection from violence and for being heard in matters of concern to them.  Children were the only true experts on being children, and adults must consult them before making decisions that affected them.

Times were changing, she said, adding that the challenges facing today’s young people were not the same as the ones adults had faced as children.  Adults needed the competence of youth and the participation of young people for the benefit today’s society and for the common future.  Hopefully, the current exchange would lead to an actual and genuine culture of always consulting children on matters concerning them so that young people of the world could “insist on being both seen and heard, not only observed”.  Adults needed youth’s experience, passion and honesty.

HUYNH THI NHAN, First Deputy Minister for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam, said in the last five years his country had committed to implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its optional protocols and the special session outcome document.  She discussed domestic efforts, saying that the second national action plan for children had been developed, and its goals incorporated into development plans from central to local levels.  Her Government had worked diligently to realize the Millennium Development Goals and implement 32 national targets based on them.  Moreover, her country was working to create a “child-friendly environment” in schools, families and society.  The mortality rate for children under five had decreased from 32.9 per cent per 1,000 in 2002 to 27.5 per cent in 2005, and primary school attendance had reached 97.5 per cent.  Forums such as “We speak about HILV and AIDS” allowed thousands of children to express their views.

She said, to monitor implementation of the Convention and other instruments, Viet Nam had developed indicators on the rights of the child, child protection and women and children of ethnic minorities.  Challenges remained, and included high child and maternal malnutrition rates.  Child trafficking had yet to decline, and child drug abuse and HIV and AIDS infections were still of concern.  Children in remote areas still lived in difficult conditions, while health services for children were limited.  Furthermore, the network of social workers did not meet requirements, and many lacked experience.  Viet Nam understood it must perfect the State apparatus for children’s protection, and attached great importance to international cooperation, notably through the exchange of experience.

YADIRA HIDALGO, Deputy Minister for Social Protection of Venezuela, introduced the boy and girl youth delegates who represented gender equality and who would read their country’s statement.

CARLA, welcoming the other youth representatives taking part in the debate, said that between 2000 and 2002, Venezuela had implemented policies aimed at guaranteeing the social rights of children in a universal and equitable fashion and to encourage children’s social participation.  It also had ratified most of the conventions protecting children.  In addition, it had a number of laws to protect children in their leisure activities, including in their online pursuits and while playing video games; to protect them from HIV and AIDS; and to protect responsible parenthood and their social equality by using the birth registry.

With respect to the promotion of a healthy life, she said malnutrition was decreasing among young children due to widespread meal and nutritional programmes, including the food provided by school cafeterias.  There was also 92 per cent access to sanitation and drinking water services in urban areas and over 60 per cent in rural areas.  In the area of health care, immunizations were being provided on a widespread basis, and medication was distributed through a system of medical and dental clinics.  Notably, a cardiology centre was treating children from Venezuela and a number of other South American countries.  In the realm of education, enrolment in primary education had increased and the number of school dropouts had decreased.

ORLANDO said the Government had increased its education budget and was striving to guarantee gender equality.  Those efforts had resulted in Venezuela now being an “illiteracy-free” country.  Venezuela was also using its birth registry to ensure social equality, particularly of its indigenous populations.  The protection of children in armed conflict was enshrined in Venezuela’s Constitution, and the country was also a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.

He said his country had only ratified the Convention against the trafficking of children, but it was also implementing a national action plan against sexual abuse of children and their trafficking.  To that end, Venezuela had developed a number of guidelines to shape the lives of its children and protect their rights.  It had further established a national commission for the participation of children and adolescents in forums that would allow their voices to be heard.  The President had launched a music programme that, hopefully, would raise the number of child musicians to a million.  In closing, he expressed solidarity with the children of Algeria.

PAUL RICHARD RALAINIRINA, Deputy Minister for Health, Family Planning and Social Welfare of Madagascar, said his Government had a five-year road map by which it intended to take the appropriate actions to ensure achievement of the Millennium Goals.  Among other things, Madagascar had made significant progress in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, improving access to drinking water and family planning.  Still, greater efforts were needed to ensure access to contraception for all women, including those in rural areas.  That would ultimately lead to a reduction in both infant and maternal mortality.

He noted that the national action plan contained education targets aimed not only at boosting education for all children, but also at ensuring broader enrolment of girls and young women.  Social networks established to protect children from exploitation and violence were about to be expanded.  The Government was also taking steps to improve quality care for people living with HIV and AIDS.  Madagascar was sparing no effort to create a protective environment for children and was confident that its efforts, and others to come, would create an atmosphere in which children could thrive.

MARKO STROVS, State Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia, said his country had committed itself to the full implementation of the special session’s outcome.  It also supported the activities of the United Nations to promote and protect the rights of children in such areas as eradicating violence against children, in all its aspects.  Slovenia was committed to preventing violence in the family and banning corporal punishment of children.  To those ends, it had begun preparing a new Act on the Prevention of Violence against Children.

He went on to say that his country was committed to integrating young people into all segments of society, an objective that the Government considered a priority for children’s well-being and development.  Indeed, ensuring their active participation in society was the best way to prevent violence against them, ensure their continued education and boost their employment opportunities.  All children had the right to a healthy and secure childhood.  Only global consensus and partnership among Governments, international organizations and civil society, with the active participation of children at all levels, could ensure effective implementation of all proposed solutions.

GYULA TARCSI, Deputy Minister for Social Affairs of Hungary, said that, since 2000, Parliament and the Government had adopted both short-term and long-term strategies, as well as programmes and action plans based on them, for the protection of children and youth.  The Government had filed reports to Parliament every year since 1995 on its action relating to the living conditions of children and youth.  It had also provided reports every year since 2000 on the reduction of the drug problem.

In 2003, Parliament had adopted a national strategy on social crime prevention and two-year action plans had been prepared ever since, he said, adding that three of the main priorities of the national strategy related specifically to children.  The Government was committed to supporting the international community’s efforts to ensure a world fit for children.  Hungary intended to sign an agreement with UNICEF tomorrow, committing itself to provide financial support for the Fund.

The results of complex programmes tended to become visible at a later stage, he said, noting that new challenges had to be faced in the meantime.  However, those difficulties could be overcome if the objectives were put in the forefront, and children were not considered simply as little ones without protection who caused problems.  They should be considered instead as investments and opportunities for the future.  The international community must take further steps to ensure the rights of children and that their involvement in decisions affecting them was done in a more efficient and effective way.

ANDRIY MUSIYENKO ( Ukraine) said the protection of children was a priority for his country, where the lack of supervision for children and their abandonment were a serious concern.  The system of caring for orphans and children in distressed households was being reformed and mechanisms to reinforce institutions dealing with family matters were being strengthened.  The aim of all those governmental and legislative changes was to create an environment that would allow children to live a healthier lifestyle.

He said the problem of HIV and AIDS was being addressed through a comprehensive programme aimed at preventing transmission, but the disease was still a serious concern.  Full secondary education was free of charge and primary schoolchildren received free meals.  Even so, the number of children living without adequate supervision or a secure home life demanded special measures.  One aspect of the Government’s strategy for improving the situation was to introduce structures for increasing the number of violence-free families.  One example was a special police department trained to deal with domestic violence.

Another focus for the Government was providing unsupervised and abandoned children with a social safety net for involvement with adults and society, he said.  Some approaches focused on building networks through schools and centres, while others focused on sponsorships and foster care.  The aim was to create a juridical basis for protecting children deprived of parental involvement.  Poverty was a serious concern, but progress had been made through the establishment of a programme whereby increased funds had been made available for single mothers, abandoned children and households relying on welfare.

JANA MARECKOVA, Deputy Minister for Human Rights and National Minorities of the Czech Republic, said that, at the international level, her country had expressed its commitment to protect the rights of children by ratifying new international instruments, including the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The Czech Republic was preparing to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.

At the national level, the country had adopted laws to strengthen the social and legal protection of children and the protection of victims of domestic violence, she said.  The Czech Republic had also adopted a comprehensive “Policy on Children and Young People for 2007-2013”, which included cross-cutting themes from “A World Fit for Children”.  The policy’s main objectives were to establish appropriate conditions, particularly for the fulfilment of family functions, the personal development of children, their education towards active citizenship, and their participation in social and political life.  The policy would also support their health and lifestyle and protect them against negative phenomena.  It would be implemented by the relevant ministries, and evaluations would be carried out each two-year period.  The comprehensive policy, together with other national measures, would contribute to the improvement of the well-being of Czech children.

GIVA ROSELYN DETE, Under-Secretary, Department of Child Welfare, Ministry of Health and Child Welfare of Zimbabwe, said her country was dealing with huge numbers of people living with HIV and AIDS.  It had taken the regional lead in combating the virus, but was still home to an estimated 1.1 million infected adults, some 60 per cent of whom were women.  Further, an estimated 133,000 children were infected with the virus.  More than one in seven Zimbabweans was infected, but only about 40 per cent of the children had access to anti-retroviral drugs.  At the same time, tremendous gains had been made in expanding the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, with more than 5,000 sites providing comprehensive treatment in 2007.  Another major challenge was that an estimated 1.3 million children had been orphaned, largely by AIDS.

The Government had responded by developing an innovative programme of support to implement the national plan for orphans and vulnerable children, she said.  Under that plan, funds provided by diverse stakeholders were pooled and used to finance civil society interventions aimed at supporting the most vulnerable children.  Those and other efforts required the continued support of the international community.  Moreover, the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe and the country’s isolation had hurt children the hardest, especially in the areas of nutrition, medical care and poverty eradication in general.  All those who loved children should support Zimbabwe’s efforts to build a better world for its children.

ANTONIA POPPLEWELL, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Social Development of Trinidad and Tobago, said her country had developed it own Vision 2020 plan that would further the goals of the outcome document “A World Fit for Children” and by which it intended to achieve developed-nation status by that year.  That vision was built around five developmental pillars, of which the most pertinent was “nurturing a caring society”.  Its action areas -– HIV and AIDS and health and social services -- impacted the lives of children.

In addition, Trinidad and Tobago had completed its second National Action Plan for Children in 2006, and it would serve as a framework to implement the four action areas of the 2002 outcome document.  It would use its revised national sport and youth policies, as well as the Caribbean Youth Dialogue, to attain those goals.  The country was also adopting plans to restructure and decentralize its education system and strengthen the school support services system, among other things.  In the area of health, the Government routinely provided comprehensive antenatal services free of charge and conducted vision and hearing screenings.

A review of the package of children legislation had recently been completed to bring it more into line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she said.  Family support programmes were also being increased and other material support for children was being increased and improved.  Greater budgetary allocations to social sector ministries had increased spending on social programmes and initiatives.  Yet, challenges remained in the areas of human resources, relevant training, facilities and service provision.  Trinidad and Tobago would address those constraints by increasing human material resources and promoting special education in teacher-training programmes.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.