Speakers Call For Political Will, Strong Partnerships, Smart Investment To Build Better World For Children, As General Assembly’s High-level Session Continues
Sixty-second General Assembly
69th, 70th & 71st Meetings (AM, PM & Night)
Also Stress That, despite Progress in Target Areas of 2002 Action Plan,
Millions of Children Remain Victims of Hunger, Violence, HIV/AIDS, Exploitation
Acknowledging that the road to 2010 and to 2015, the years on which most targets for children converge, would be strewn with obstacles -– from grinding poverty and humanitarian crises, to the effects of HIV/AIDS and global warming — General Assembly delegations today called for steadfast political determination, strong partnerships, smart investment to help build a better world for children.Political will, global cooperation and targeted funding, particularly for education and health care, were desperately needed to ensure that today’s children were prepared to shoulder the challenges of the future, speakers stressed, as the Assembly opened day two of its landmark conference reviewing progress towards “A World Fit for Children”, the Plan of Action to improve the lives of young people, adopted at the Assembly’s 2002 twenty-seventh special session. That plan supported the Millennium Goals and urged action in four target areas: promoting healthy lives; providing quality education; protecting against abuse; and combating HIV and AIDS.
The meeting opened on a sombre note with a message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said he felt compelled to urgently address the Assembly in the wake of yesterday’s terrorist bombing against the United Nations premises in Algiers. Calling the incident “an attack on us all and our highest ideals”, he vowed not to let the tragedy deter the world body from carrying out its mission to help those most in need.
“This was a despicable strike against individuals serving humanity’s highest ideals under the UN banner,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly via satellite from Bali, Indonesia, where it was close to midnight, and where he was attending a United Nations Climate Change Conference. He said the attack was one more ugly reminder that terrorism remained the scourge of our times, and all must be resolute in pursuing those that preyed on the innocent. He called on the Assembly to stand united. It was important to work together to bring perpetrators to justice.
When speakers took the floor to highlight national strategies to promote children’s rights, Rita Sobral, a youth delegate from Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, set the tone. She said she was aware that a lot had been done so far, but the truth was that millions of children were still victims of hunger, violence, discrimination, HIV/AIDS and all kinds of exploitation. Further, girls were suffering immensely, only because they were born girls. That was hard to believe “and impossible to accept”. Calling on Governments to act decisively, she said she hoped and believed that a better future for all children was possible.
Victoriana Nchama Nsue Okomo, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, said that children were not only the future, but also the present, so long-term goals must be based on their current situation. Education had been identified as one of the main pillars for ensuring the future of her country. Without it, there was no way of creating understanding of such important issues as prevention and the fight against HIV/AIDS, the rights of the child, democracy, tolerance, and climate change, she said.
“If we cannot ensure the integral training of children in the present, to speak about future plans is pure utopia,” she said, stressing that poverty eradication, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality, the fight against the spread of disease, and ensuring a sustainable environment must be dealt with in an integrated fashion. By 2015, those who were children today would be young people and many of the people here in the Assembly would be elderly. “Have we ensured that we have prepared [them] to shoulder the challenges of the future?” she asked, appealing to the international community for swift action to implement agreed objectives.
Bangladesh’s representative said his country had intensified national efforts to implement all the agreed-upon commitments, with a few failures, many difficulties and some notable successes. Bangladesh had increased collaboration with development partners, and the Government’s relationship with non-governmental organizations and civil society was stronger than ever. As a result, there had been significant improvements in social and health indicators for children, including reductions in under-five mortality rates, infant, as well as maternal mortality ratios and school dropout figures, in addition to notable improvements in immunization, sanitation and access to safe drinking water.
Despite those gains, however, major challenges persisted, with poverty and recurring natural disasters being stumbling blocks. He said that just last month a cyclone had devastated the lives of millions and wiped out considerable progress made in poverty eradication in affected areas. International assistance was less than had been assured, and still less when compared to the commitment shown by the Government and the progress it had achieved.
Unless significant new inflows of resources were injected into the system, it would be difficult to sustain progress and arrive at agreed targets for children and the Millennium Development Goals, he said. That situation was not unique to Bangladesh, but reflected a global culture where commitments and pledges by the international community were often not fully honoured. The commemorative meeting should be seized to renew political commitment, at national and international levels, to invest more in children and to provide a better future for posterity.
Picking up that thread, Liechtenstein’s representative was among the many speakers who underscored the mixed progress in achieving a world fit for children. He was concerned by the “stark discrepancy” between international norms and standards on children’s rights, and their weak implementation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child had the highest number of State parties of any international treaty in history, yet States had failed to protect children’s most basic rights, he said.
Beyond that, he said children’s rights were actively being violated as they suffered physical and psychological cruelty at home, were being dragged into armed conflict, and trafficked or sexually abused. Full respect for children’s physical and psychological integrity must be a universally applied rule of civilization, he added, welcoming regional initiatives aimed at promoting universal standards. At the same time, he noted that, despite progress made under the leadership of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, more must be done to bridge the large implementation gap in that field.
Liechtenstein attached great importance to children’s well-being locally, nationally and internationally, he continued. Priorities for the long-term welfare for children and young people focused on support for families, including through financial measures, recreation, and quality of life, among other areas. To fully implement the 2002 Declaration and the Plan of Action, States must scale up their response to the remaining challenges, and Liechtenstein was committed to increasing partnerships in that regard. It also planned to reach an official development assistance percentage of 0.6 per cent next year.
When the Assembly began its work in the afternoon, Esperanza Cabral, Minister of Social Welfare and Development of the Philippines, presented the conclusions of a round table held yesterday on “promoting healthy lives and combating HIV and AIDS”. Cecilia Landerreche Gomez Morin, Minister, Head of the National System for Integral Family Development of Mexico, summed up a second round-table discussion, held earlier in the day on “providing universal quality education as a key to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the first line of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence against children”.
Others participating in the commemorative meeting were the Ministers and senior Government officials from Guatemala, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union), Republic of Korea, Croatia, Canada, India, Zambia, Ecuador, United Kingdom, Israel, Spain, Colombia, Germany, Indonesia, Tajikistan, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Syria, Nepal, Bahrain, Serbia and Malawi.
Also addressing the plenary were the representatives of Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Peru, Cuba, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, United States, Japan, Turkey, Monaco, Qatar, Australia, Russian Federation, Kuwait, New Zealand, Sudan, Senegal, Benin, Lebanon, Ireland, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Moldova, Bhutan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Myanmar.
The Observer for the Council of Europe also spoke, as did the Observer for the League of Arab States.
Also participating in today’s event were youth delegates from the United Kingdom, Israel, Colombia, Uruguay, New Zealand and Yemen.
The General Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, Thursday, 13 December, at 10 a.m. to conclude its commemorative high-level plenary devoted to the follow-up to the outcome of the twenty-seventh special session on children.
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