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    17 November 1999
    Secretary-General Calls for Global Attainment of Children’s Rights


    NEW YORK, 16 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Universal Children’s Day, celebrated on 20 November:

     Since its adoption 10 years ago, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights instrument of the twentieth century.  Its almost universal ratification is a major victory, not only for the world's children but for all humankind.  Children's rights are so inseparably linked and so closely associated with peace and development that their implementation can improve the living conditions of all human beings, whatever their age.

     This being said, there remain enormous obstacles preventing the universal attainment of children's rights, a goal that is so simple to state yet so difficult to meet.   The first of these obstacles -- poverty -- is also the most pernicious, endangering a child's most fundamental rights.  Malnourished children; children not attending school, put to work in unsafe factories or left to the streets; children subject to sexual exploitation:  before any of these problems can wreak their particular havoc, poverty is there first.  While there can be no hierarchy of children's rights, it is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of the right to development.

     Other obstacles -- and therefore other fronts on which the struggle must be waged -- include armed conflicts, the AIDS epidemic, sexual exploitation and drug trafficking.  All of us have a role to play.  The United Nations, for its part, for more than half a century has focused its efforts on helping to improve the living standards of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged or marginalized people in our world.  On this Universal Children's Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to work in the spirit of the United Nations Charter, which proclaims the dignity and worth of all persons without distinction, and to promote and protect the fundamental rights that the Convention recognizes for all children, wherever and whoever they may be.

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