ROAD TO UN SPECIAL SESSION ON CHILDREN
NEW YORK, 24 August (UNICEF) -– Next month's United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children is a culmination of some of the most extensive preparations ever for an international conference, involving hundreds of meetings and tens of thousands of participants worldwide, including thousands of children and young people. Often noteworthy events themselves, these meetings included high-level consultations and protracted debates at national, regional and global levels.
The preparations officially began on 7 December 1999, when the General Assembly passed resolution 54/93 -- the formal decision to hold the landmark Special Session on 19-21 September in New York.
The process is perhaps best viewed as a pyramid. At the base are 165 national reviews, where countries assessed their progress, or lack thereof, on behalf of children. Facilitated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), these national stock-taking exercises fed into a series of mini-summits that determined the Special Session's agenda. Some were held at the regional level, while United Nations Headquarters hosted global preparatory meetings. The capstone will be the Special Session itself, the first one dedicated to children, which promises to draw dozens of heads of State and usher in a new era of international action on behalf of children.
At the same time that the formal preparatory process has unfolded, a public campaign for children has been taking place around the world, the results of which will be presented to leaders during the Special Session in September. Called "Say Yes for Children," the campaign asks people to pledge their support for ten fundamental principles for children. Via the Internet and a paper ballot effort in developing countries, more than 20 million pledges have been collected. The campaign enables more than just the usual suspects to take part in the debate over children’s future –- it allows people from all over the world to consider the issues and register their views and commitment.
The most significant preparatory meetings, which included representatives of governments, of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and of United Nations organizations, were held in two distinct sets. At six regional conferences, delegates discussed local priorities and opportunities for concerted action, which were then delineated in written declarations.
At the same time, the United Nations hosted three planning meetings in New York, called preparatory committees (PrepComs), at which governments established the agenda of the Special Session and debated the text of a draft declaration and plan of action. United Nations agencies, NGOs, and experts on a variety of children’s issues participated and provided input at each of these preparatory meetings.
Regional Conferences and Declarations
At the six regional meetings, governments presented reports on national commitments to their children. These reports outlined the progress these countries have made to date, and the challenges remaining. In addition to helping form the basis for regional debate, the reports were also relayed to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for analysis and inclusion in his end-decade review of progress for children.
In addition to governments, each of the six regional consultations involved NGOs, business representatives, United Nations agencies, and children themselves.
-- The Fifth Ministerial Meeting on Children and Social Policy took place in Kingston, Jamaica, in October 2000 and resulted in the Kingston Consensus. This was followed the next month by the Panama Declaration at the Tenth Ibero-American Summit.
-- The Pan African Forum, held in Cairo in May 2001, produced the African Common Position on Children.
-- Also in May 2001, delegates from 21 countries attended the Fifth East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation in Beijing, and adopted the Beijing Declaration.
-- Delegates from 52 European and Central Asian countries and the Holy See met in Berlin in May 2001 and released the Berlin Commitment.
-- Delegations from seven countries met in Kathmandu in May 2001 for the South Asia High Level Meeting on Investing in Children and issued the Kathmandu Understanding.
-- The Arab Regional Society Forum on Children brought together delegates from 21 countries in Rabat, Morocco. The result was the Rabat Declaration.
These documents, representing the latest government commitments to children at a regional level, can be found on the Web at www.unicef.org/specialsesssion.
Preparatory Committee Meetings (PrepComs)
The Preparatory Committee held meetings with delegates from United Nations Member States to set the official agenda for the General Assembly Special Session and debate the wording of a draft outcome document. The Committee held one organizational and three substantive meetings. These PrepComs were crucial periods for negotiation of the Special Session's final declaration and plan of action.
Each PrepCom consisted of deliberations between government representatives, which took place in plenary meetings, and panels and other side events in which NGOs and others participated. The first was in February 2000 (an organizational meeting); the second in early June 2000 (the first substantive session); the third in January 2001 (also substantive). The fourth and final meeting, which opened in June 2001, has drawn high-level government delegates, including ministers and over 50 personal representatives of heads of State and Government. This session has been in recess and will resume in late August to complete preparation for the Special Session.
The Special Session process is expected to result in two key documents. The first will be a review of progress made for children in the last decade; the second will be a new and specific agenda for children in the coming decade, to which it is hoped leaders will pledge their commitment. These two companion documents are both essential parts of the intended outcome of the Special Session.
The first document has already been made public. Entitled "We the Children," this report of the Secretary-General is an end-of-decade review of what has been achieved since the countries of the world made their first joint commitment to children at 1990's World Summit for Children. A composite of country follow-up reports on the goals set at that Summit, it also makes recommendations for future action. It was released for review by governments and other interested parties at the PrepCom in June 2001.
The Secretary-General's report provides a basis for the proposed outcome document of the Special Session. Entitled "A World Fit for Children," the draft outcome document is a declaration and plan of action by all Member States of the United Nations for the coming decade. The document is expected to be finalized and agreed upon at the Special Session.
Once completed, it will embody the Special Session's main goal of a renewed pledge by world leaders to act on behalf of children. So far, after thoughtful and deliberate negotiations, more than two-thirds of the text has been approved and broad consensus is emerging on what remains. Informal discussions will continue up to the Special Session itself. The document has also benefited from extensive input by NGOs, which have released an alternative version of the draft document.
What is Next?
Over the next four weeks, final preparations are being made for the Special Session. As of 20 August, 78 heads of State and Government had committed to attending, and more are expected. The Session, perhaps the most inclusive United Nations conference ever, will also feature the participation of Nobel laureates, corporate Chief Executive Officers, artists and writers, grass-roots leaders for children, and some two dozen United Nations and UNICEF celebrity ambassadors.
On 27 August informal consultations on the outcome document will resume at United Nations Headquarters in New York. A separate press release on the key issues to be resolved and agreed upon between now and the Special Session will be issued the week of 27 August.
The UNICEF will launch its flagship report, "The State of The World’s Children", on 13 September in New York. The report presents a picture of the global child today, and examines examples of successful, as well as failed leadership for children. The report will be available under embargo for journalists during the week of 27 August. Visit UNICEF’s online press centre at www.unicef.org/media/presshome.htm.
For further information, please contact:
Patsy Robertson (Special Session Media) -- New York (212) 326-7270
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