9 August 2001


75 Heads of State Confirmed for Special Session of General Assembly

NEW YORK, 8 August (UN Headquarters) -- A record number of world leaders will attend a landmark Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on children next month in New York, United Nations officials announced today.

To date, 75 heads of State or Government have confirmed their participation in the Special Session on 19-21 September -- the highest number to attend a conference on children, and one of the largest gatherings of world leaders ever.

More leaders are expected to confirm their attendance in the coming weeks, signalling the strong emphasis the world places on the rights and welfare of children. In addition, the Security Council will hold a special meeting in conjunction with the Session to address the pressing issue of children and armed conflict.

"This extraordinary gathering of heads of State is very promising and also very appropriate," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the lead United Nations agency for the Special Session. "Children should be at the top of the international agenda. World leaders are demonstrating that by coming together to commit to a better future for children. And that translates into a better future for us all."

The September meeting will be the first time the United Nations General Assembly has met to specifically address issues relating to children. It will cap an unprecedented 12-month period in which world leaders gathered under the auspices of the United Nations to focus on issues such as the plight of the world’s poorest countries, HIV/AIDS, urban settlement, small arms and racism.

The Special Session will review progress made since the historic 1990 World Summit for Children, where governments committed to specific and time-bound goals on child survival, protection and development. It will explore the long-standing obstacles to children’s well-being and emerging challenges to child health and universal access to quality basic education.

"While there has been substantial progress in the last 10 years, many impediments remain to the realization of the goals set by our leaders in 1990," said Patricia Durrant, the Jamaican Ambassador to the United Nations who is chairing the preparatory process for the Session. "The Special Session will give them an opportunity to deal with the unfinished agenda of the 1990 Summit; address new issues which affect the lives of children; and to take steps, at the national level, to place the interests of children at the forefront of their national development policies."

At the Special Session, world leaders will be asked to identify strategic solutions to the problems facing children and to commit the critical human and economic resources needed to turn those solutions into reality. They will assess the progress made to date and commit to completing unfinished business and tackling emerging challenges. To that end, the Special Session will focus on ensuring three essential outcomes:

-- The best possible start in life for all children.

-- A good-quality basic education for all children.

-- Opportunities for all children, especially adolescents, for meaningful participation in their communities.

What is a Special Session?

A General Assembly Special Session is a formal meeting of delegates from every United Nations member country dedicated to a specific topic of such importance that it requires concerted international attention and action. The most recent one was the Special Session on HIV/AIDS held in June. On average, the United Nations General Assembly calls for a special session once every two years; this will be the twenty-seventh such session.

Because of the importance of the topics addressed by special sessions of the General Assembly, and the fact that countries often commit themselves to a series of concrete actions and goals, States are often represented by the head of State or Government or another senior government official.

For the Special Session on Children, 33 heads of State or Government from Africa have confirmed their attendance, 17 from Europe, 11 from Asia, 12 from Central and South America and the Caribbean and two from North America.

For more information, please contact: Patsy Robertson, Special Session Media, New York (212) 326-7270; Laufey Löve, UN Department of Public Information, New York (212) 963-3507; Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Chief, New York (212) 326-7593; Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7261; Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva (41-22) 909-5509.

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