Press Releases

    3 May 2002

    Has World Lived Up to Its Promises to Children?

    UN Member States Meet to Review Past Promises and to Set New Goals for Children

    New York, 2 May (UN Headquarters) -- An estimated 150 million of the world's children are mal- nourished. Nearly 11 million die before their fifth birthday. Over 120 million are still out of school. Has the world lived up to its promises to children made at the 1990 World Summit for Children?

    This will be the question facing over 70 heads of State and government and other high-level government delegates when they meet at the United Nations special session on children, 8-10 May 2002. The world leaders will review what has been achieved in meeting the 27 specific goals set by the 1990 World Summit for Children and establish new priorities addressing issues of children's health, education, protection and HIV/AIDS.

    A new commitment by the international community on protection issues -- including sexual exploitation, the impact of armed conflict, child labour, and all forms of abuse -- is expected to be part of the outcome of the special session. This commitment will send a powerful message that demonstrates the need to develop effective national polices and programmes to address these issues.

    "We have learned from previous meetings that setting goals is a crucial step. With goals, we have something to strive for. Without them, we have no way of measuring our success and failures", said Ambassador M. Patricia Durrant (Jamaica), Chair of the Preparatory Committee.

    The review of the goals set in 1990 is based on a series of national follow-up procedures and progress reports, including We the Children, a global report by the United Nations Secretary-General. These reports reveal mixed results, with substantial progress in some areas but serious shortfalls in others.

    "The world has fallen short of achieving most of the goals of the World Summit for Children", according to the Secretary-General's report, "not because they were too ambitious or were technically beyond reach. It has fallen short largely because of insufficient investment."

    "Today, despite a $30 trillion global economy", the Secretary-General's report continues, "some 40 per cent of children in developing countries -- about 600 million -- must attempt to survive on less than a $1 a day. Even in the world's richest countries, one in every six children lives below the national poverty line."

    The special session on children, held two months after the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, will attempt to extend discussion on global investment policies to address how investment in children can play a key role in building global peace and security.

    "When nations have committed themselves to real investment in children, and made those investments in ways that promote the rights of children, real progress in human development has been achieved", said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

    Joining government leaders at the special session will be business, religious and civil society leaders who are expected to announce initiatives born from public-private partnerships and to pledge their commitments to better the lives of the world's young children.

    Children will also play a unique role. Approximately 300 children will be active participants in the special session either as members of government or non-governmental organization (NGO) delegations. The children will take part in round-table discussions with heads of State and government and other participants in the special session. They will also have an opportunity to discuss matters of concern to them and to ask questions of world leaders at specially arranged sessions. In addition, delegates from the Children's Forum, which takes place from 5 to7 May, will speak to the General Assembly to tell them what was agreed upon by the Forum.

    Over 2,000 NGO representatives from all over the world are expected to take part in the special session, providing governments with a grass-roots view of the needs of the world's children. Hundreds of NGOs have already contributed to the special session's two main documents, the Secretary-General's report, We the Children, and the draft outcome document, A World Fit for Children, which will be considered by government delegates during the three-day session.

    The special session, originally scheduled to take place in New York, 19-21 September 2001, was postponed due to the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. The rescheduled session is set to conclude with official agreement on the draft outcome document and its 21 goals, placing children back at the top of the world's agenda and addressing the central role that investment in children must play in creating a more peaceful, stable world -- a world that is truly fit for children.

    For further information, please contact: Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the special session on children, tel.: (212) 963-6855; Patsy Robertson, Special Session Media, tel.: (212) 326-7270; Laufey Love, Department of Public Information, tel.: (212) 963-3507; Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Chief, tel.: (212) 326-7593; or Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, tel.: (212) 326-7261.

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