Seventy-one heads of state pose for a group photo during the World Summit for Children at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
SSeventy-one heads of state pose for a group photo during the World Summit for Children at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 30, 1990 in New York, United States. UN Photo/John Isaac

World Summit for Children, 29-30 September 1990, New York, United States


A landmark event for the UN, UNICEF, and the world's children

From 29-30 September 1990, the largest gathering of world leaders ever assembled at United Nations Headquarters in New York to attend the World Summit for Children. Led by 71 heads of state and government and 88 other senior officials, mostly at the ministerial level, the World Summit adopted a Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and a Plan of Action for implementing the Declaration in the 1990s.

The World Summit for Children was a landmark event for the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and most importantly, for the world’s children. It was the first time in history when a Summit-level meeting was held exclusively to address children's issues. Specific actions for child survival, protection and development were suggested by the World Declaration and Plan of Action, in the areas of:

  • Child health

  • Food and nutrition

  • Role of women, maternal health and family planning

  • Role of the family

  • Basic education and literacy

  • Children in especially difficult circumstances

  • Protection of children during armed conflicts

  • Children and the environment

  • Alleviation of poverty and revitalization of economic growth

Additionally, the Action Plan set specific goals for the decade that was to follow the Summit (the 1990s). The goals had been formulated before the Summit began, in consultation with Governents, UN agencies, including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNESCO, UNDP and the IBRD, and many NGOs.

The goals set were in the areas of child survival, development and protection, supporting sectoral goals such as women’s health and education, nutrition, child health, water and sanitation, basic education, and children in difficult circumstances (the goal of which was to ‘provide improved protection of children in especially difficult circumstances and tackle the root causes leading to such situations’).

Six years after the Summit, in 1996, Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali told the General Assembly that considerable and widespread progress had been made to improve the health, nutrition, education and protection of the world's children, the major goals set at the 1990 World Summit for Children. As the General Assembly began its mid-decade review of Summit implementation, the Secretary-General said the achievements of those six years since the Summit had taken place had demonstrated the increased importance of children on the international agenda.