Talks intensify as General Assembly session on children enters final stretch
Talks are intensifying on a final document which delegates hope to adopt when the General Assembly's special session on children wraps up late today, according to a spokesman for the Assembly President.
"Apparently, negotiations continued until 4.00 am and I have heard both optimistic and not so optimistic evaluations, so let me just say that even if there is agreement on the text, it looks as if it will be a long day," Jan Fischer, spokesman for Assembly President Han Seung-soo of the Republic of Korea, told reporters at UN Headquarters. The document, entitled "A World Fit for Children," reviews efforts over the past decade and contains an action plan for the future.
Addressing the plenary today, Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), underscored the devastating impact of the disease on children, noting that every day, 6,000 people under 24 are infected with HIV. He said taboo hampered effective prevention for young people. "We know the proven tools include a combination of life skills and peer education for responsible and safe sexual behaviour, condom distribution, and youth-friendly services, but too few of these tools are being applied to mobilize young people," he said. "Where young people are given the chance to organize themselves, they have shown they can tackle AIDS."
Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (HABITAT), stressed the need to provide the world's children with a proper home. The Habitat Agenda, a global action plan adopted in 1996 called for special attention to be given to the shelter needs of vulnerable children. In response, the HABITAT agency was working "to improve the living environment for children around the world, particularly in the slums of our cities," she said.
In his address yesterday, the Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), Juan Somavia, called attention to the plight of the world's 180 million children trapped in exploitive jobs, where they risked serious injury and even death. He called for "family-centred strategies that provide escape routes out of poverty; and safety nets to deal with crises." Parents must get jobs and children must get schooling, he stressed, urging the establishment of child-labour-free zones. "We must never forget that child labour is about adults using and exploiting children," he said. "Stopping it is the responsibility of adults."
Also speaking on Thursday, Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on States to make every effort to eliminate discrimination against children, pointing out that Afghanistan served as a recent example of the need to address gender inequality. "None of us will ever forget the joy in the faces of the girls who had finally returned to school after years of denial of this most fundamental right." Battling AIDS also required a rights-based approach, including providing young people with the tools to survive, she said. "The empowerment of adolescent girls, and their knowledge of reproductive rights, is an essential element in responding effectively to HIV/AIDS."