As government representatives gathered in New York to lay the groundwork for an upcoming forum on children's rights, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today urged a renewed political push to meet the needs of the world's young people.
Addressing the Preparatory Committee for the UN General Assembly's special session on children in September, Ms. Fréchette cited "real and significant" progress in a number of areas since the landmark 1990 World Summit for Children. Child mortality rates were down, immunization levels were up, and more girls and boys were receiving an education than ever before.
"Clearly, children now have a much higher profile on the national and global political agendas," said Ms. Fréchette, introducing We the Children, a report by the Secretary-General which reviews progress since the 1990 Summit. "Yet much more needs to be done." She noted that over 10 million children still die each year "often from preventable causes," while an estimated 150 million others suffer from malnutrition. Conflicts took the lives of approximately 2 million children over the past decade, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic has left more than 13 million orphans in its wake.
The General Assembly's special session on children "must aim at regenerating political will and commitment in order to address the remaining challenges and emerging issues affecting the well being of our children," Ms. Fréchette told the final preparatory session, which opened today and runs through Friday.
Calling for a "decisive shift" in national investments to favour the well being of children, the Deputy Secretary-General said leaders attending the special session must exert the necessary political will to bring about that transformation.
"We have the knowledge, the resources and the strategies to act," she said. "It is no longer a question of what is possible, but of what is given priority, and there is no issue more important than the survival and harmonious development of our children."