Press Releases

Note to Correspondents

Note No 187
3 May 2002


United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children will
Review from 8 to 10 May success and failure of the last decade

"Healthy and educated children do not merely result from economic development, they are a critical force driving it. If we are to invest in development, that means, first and foremost, we have to invest in them", said UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy. The Chief of the UN children’s organisation also observes that "Governments are recognizing that the vulnerability of their children directly impacts the vulnerability of their countries". This statement reflects the motto of the United Nations Special Session on Children that will take place from the 8-10 May in New York, postponed from September 2001 due to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C.

For these three days more than 70 Heads of State and Government and representatives of 3,000 non-governmental organizations, more than at any other UN conference, will attend the Special Session on Children. Among delegates are 300 children; never before young people have actively participated in deliberations at a major UN conference in such a large number.

In 1990 UNICEF coordinated and supported the World Summit for Children which produced a declaration and plan of action that are among the most rigorously monitored and implemented international commitments of the last decade. The upcoming Special Session will review the successes and failures of the last decade. It will present world leaders with a detailed review of what has been achieved for children and what has not been achieved. Annual national and periodic international reviews of the 1990 goals have produced the most extensive set of data ever compiled on the status of children. This information is contained in the recently updated UN report "We the Children: Meeting the Promises of the World Summit for Children".

The results are decidedly mixed, with substantial progress in some areas matched with stagnation and even deterioration in other areas. One area of notable improvement is child health. But the overall picture shows how much work remains unfinished. Worldwide nearly 11 million children die each year, often from readily preventable causes. An estimated 150 million children are malnourished. Over 120 million are still out of school. Tens of millions work, often in abusive conditions. Millions more are exposed to conflict and other forms of violence.

The goals of the General Assembly Special Session are rooted in the knowledge gained since the 1990 World Summit for Children. The key issues from 1990 remain central but new targets have been added, for example in the areas of HIV/AIDS and child protection. The central topic of the Session is the global progress for children and the key role that investment in children’s education, health and protection plays in building global peace and security.

The draft outcome document "A world fit for Children" of the Special Session on Children shows four main targets that are drawn up in several details:

  • Promoting Healthy Lives
  • Providing Quality Education
  • Protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence
  • Combating HIV/AIDS

Two important issues affecting children -- drugs and the trafficking of children -- will be among the many issues discussed at the Special Session. The Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) is conducting a workshop on "Countering child trafficking" and will be promoting its new public service announcement on trafficking. ODCCP has been particularly active in the areas of preventive drug abuse education; the fight against trafficking in persons, especially in women and children; and juvenile justice. One of the priorities of the Office, the work in promoting healthy lives for children and young people and to protect them from drug abuse will also be highlighted during the Special Session.

These topics can also be found in the country reports that up to now 157 UN member states have prepared for the General Assembly Special Session to review the goals from 1990. They contain a detailed description of the children´s situation in these countries.

For further information:

* *** *