UNICEF chief says participation of children in special session made history

The participation of young people in the General Assembly’s special session on children marked an historic departure from past conferences and enlivened the event with fresh perspectives, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today as the three-day meeting entered its final stretch.In contrast to the 1990 World Summit for Children, “the extraordinary difference and vitality that was felt in the meeting rooms and the hallways and the discussions by the inclusion of young people as participants, along with adults as official delegates, able to comment and offer their views and opinions, [created] a freshness,” Ms. Bellamy told a news conference in New York, where the meeting has been under way since Wednesday. Prior to the special session, some 400 kids attended a children’s forum, while some 250 youths were included in their countries’ official delegations. “They reminded us that children should not be seen as an expense but rather an investment,” the UNICEF chief noted. “They made it very clear that they thought that there have been plenty of words in the past and plenty of promises but it is now time for action.”In another step forward since 1990, Ms. Bellamy noted, the draft text set for adoption at the conclusion of the meeting dealt with the concerns of all States. “This outcome document clearly has very strong commitment and language on child rights and as such, with its agenda – that ranges from health to education to protection to AIDS – really is a global document,” she said, referring to the draft – A World Fit for Children. “This document applies to all countries, no matter what economic status.”Agreement on the document had not yet been reached, she said, “but there was some significant movement over the last 24 hours, particularly in agreement on strong language dealing with child rights.” “The work goes on to try and deal with the remaining paragraphs,” she added, noting that language on reproductive health was still under discussion.Stressing the need for action in the future, Ms. Bellamy said, “This meeting is not a success or failure based on whether it has an outcome document – it is a success or a failure based on what happens after the meeting.”The action plan focuses on four primary areas: promoting healthy lives, access to and completion of quality education, protection of children against abuse, violence and exploitation, and fighting HIV/AIDS. According to Ms. Bellamy, over 60 summit-level participants attended the event. In parallel to the special session, there was also a religious leaders’ forum on the role of those individuals with respect to children, as well as a forum for parliamentarians, which attracted some 250 lawmakers from 79 countries. Leaders from the private sector were on hand, as were members of civic society, with some 700 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 119 countries attending.Statistics released by the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly showed that the special session was attended by over 2,600 delegates, 1,720 NGO representatives and 800 media correspondents. Several legal actions have also been taken during the meeting, including Somalia’s signature of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has now been endorsed by every country on earth, and ratified by all but the United States. A dozen countries signed or ratified the treaty’s Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and 10 its Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. read more