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Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the
General Assembly on the Implementation of the
Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development
and Further Initiatives

New York, April 3-14, 2000

STATEMENT BY THE

NGO CAUCUS ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

Distinguished Representatives of Governments and of Non-Governmental Organizations:

    The Caucus on the Rights of the Child would like to ask each of us: why are we here?
In one sense, it is quite late to speak about the current adult generation, many members of which have already been marginalized since the decade of the 80s. Although we have a commitment to seek the well-being of every human being of any age, if we are realistic, we have to admit that we are addressing with this Summit the present and the future of the new generations, themselves in danger of marginalization, lacking opportunities to prepare themselves for productive employment and without access to basic needs.
        Five years after Copenhagen, although one can identify some accomplishments, we are faced overall with a negative balance and a painful doubt: are we ADon Quijotes@ fighting against windmills or are we agents for development.
        In the world of today=s children, millions have to work in order to survive: and their work is often hard, dangerous and denigrating, work such as cutting sugar cane, selling on the streets for long hours or prostituting themselves in brothels. The presence of child soldiers and millions of refugee children embody this negative balance of Copenhagen. Millions of children are victims of AIDS, especially in Africa, being orphaned and given the responsibility of younger brothers and sisters. Millions of children suffer early death because their families cannot afford to buy the simplest of medicines. Millions of little girls are objects of abusive, discriminatory and patriarchal practices. Millions of children remain out of school or receive such poor quality of education that they are not prepared for life and even less for development.
        Five years ago, after the Summit, Ambassador Juan Somavia, who proposed Copenhagen and dreamed of a solidary international community with a commitment to development, sharply summarized the next step. He said, ANow we have to work on the >how=.@ The challenges and the possibilities had been identified and it was necessary to work on how to concretize the Plan of Action.
        After five years, we are still in time to identify resources and mechanisms and to reach agreements on priorities. Emphasis on education seems to have slipped in the current document on AFurther Initiatives@. We strongly feel that the right to education needs to be a priority with emphasis on the goal of the Summit, quality and universal basic education by the year 2015, and closing the gender gap by 2005. Two main resources may help us meet this goal: 1) cancellation of the debt of the poorest countries, debt relief for all developing countries, and 2) fulfillment of the agreed upon 0.7 per cent from developed countries for ODA. Other sources of funds can also be negotiated but these two are key, concrete, and realizable steps for the achievement to this goal. They have the potential for enormous, society-wide impact.
        When governments are required to set aside between 30 to 50 percent of their budgets for serving foreign debt, it is impossible for them to generate the necessary resources to achieve the Summit goal of education.
        We send out a special call to creditor nations: the feasibility of finding resources for education is in your hands! We send out a call to developing nations: the sensitive, moral and transparent use of the resources for education is in your hands!
        Why do we prioritize education? Because without education for all, we cannot speak of democracy and of the full exercise of human rights. Without education there will be no health. Without a quality public education there cannot be social mobility and the rigid and pyramidal social structures in which power is consolidated by an elite minority will be preserved. Without education there can be neither social integration, nor productive employment, nor the overcoming of poverty.
        I return to the first question. If we do not prioritize, if we do not arrive at concrete agreements, if we do not focus on the HOW, if we do not rethink development and its goals from the point of view of the children, then why are we here and what are we doing here?

Thank you.

ON BEHALF OF THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS CAUCUS ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD

Melba Smith
General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church
April 12, 2000

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