General Assembly on Children

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Statement to the 27th Special Session of the United Nations
General Assembly on Children

By The Honorable Ro Teimumu Kepa Minister for Education of the Republic of the Fiji Islands

New York May 8, 2002

Mr. President,

I bring warm greetings of the Government and the people of Fiji to all the children: those here participating in this 27th Special Session and around the world.

Children are a gift from God. Their presence here serves to remind us of the awesome responsibilities we have towards their development, and in service to God's creation. This Special Session therefore, represents a significant force for change involving governments, nations and people.

Mr. President,

Fiji welcomes the Secretary General's report "We the Children: End- decade Review of the Follow-up to the World Summit for Children." The report sufficiently informs us of the remaining multiple challenges we all face today.

Global Initiatives and Achievements - World Summit, Millennium Summit, MDGs

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) is the most ratified international instrument today. We applaud the implementation of the 27 children-specific goals in the World Declaration and Plan of Action.

Globalization imposes a variety of enormous challenges. Traditional social safety nets are collapsing under pressures from emerging new forces of change, for which many societies are ill equipped.

Governments and the United Nations are thus obligated to find appropriate solutions. Fiji strongly supports the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In its image, we are optimistic that children will be placed at center stage of member states' respective National Development Goals. We welcome the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development, and this Special Session will conclude before the United Nations convenes in Johannesburg to review our Sustainable Development goals that were set in Rio in 1992. The outcomes from this meeting therefore, form a critical social cornerstone to our future sustainable development, and must inform the deliberations in Johannesburg.

27th UN General Assembly Special Session on Children

There is universal agreement that we must put the best interests of our children first. Our benchmarks are as stated: "to put children first, leave no child behind and care for every child." This special session should craft a blueprint for better protection for our children today and in the immediate future.

Fiji Initiatives

Fiji Government has a Coordinating Committee on Children (CCC), which was established in 1993. The Committee membership consists of Government, non-Government and international agencies. For greater efficiency and effectiveness, it works through its various subcommittees to focus on specific issues related to children.

Mr. President,

The CCC has made some remarkable achievements. It has reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The second report is under preparation.

The government is harmonizing Fiji legislation with the principles and provisions of the Convention. The Attorney General is now considering reports by the Fiji Law Reform Commission on Children's issues, in the areas of criminal law and in general offences against children.

In addition, the Family Law Bill is now before Parliament. The Bill is child-centered. It aims to ensure that parents focus on their children and their best interests in terms of custody, maintenance and care.

Mr. President,

The CCC had commissioned a study to assess the impact of the political crisis of May 2000 on children in Fiji. The report has been released and is currently being studied for further action.

Mr. President,

The CCC is also formulating a Strategic Plan of Action for a more focused implementation of the Convention. This Plan will be incorporated into the Government Strategic Development Action Plan for the 2003-2005 triennium. This would ensure that resources are better targeted for children-related issues.

Mr. President,

Fiji's national efforts have been greatly facilitated by the assistance of donors and partner agencies, including UNICEF in the areas of advocacy, social mobilization and in raising awareness on children's issues and in improving the lives of our people.

Developing Countries Perspectives

Mr. President,

Fiji is conscious of the comparatively low profile that Pacific children's issues occupy on the global map. The allocation of resources and the shifting focus of global and UN activities away from our region render our children to higher risks over the next decade. We urge the global community to remain focused on the increasing vulnerabilities that small island developing states (SIDS) face.

Mr. President,

It is projected that by 2025 developing countries could account for as much as 80% of the earth's urban population. The implications of this on children are quite obvious and enormous. The urban agglomerations of the 21st Century are a real challenge for developing countries. For Fiji, part of our solution is enhancing Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to developing, including the least developed countries (LDCs). Greater coordination is essential between the recipient governments, donors and international agencies to ensure a judicious use of aid and resources.

Mr. President,

This session needs to set out ideal mechanisms that appropriately link the sub-regional and global processes and targets, to the implementation measures at the various levels. It is, therefore, necessary that the outcome document carefully places goals and targets for children within the holistic framework of international development goals and objectives of the Special Session package.

Human Rights Framework

Mr. President,

Today's prevailing human rights culture has properly profiled the value of the rights of children. To our benefit, the human rights domain gives us the appropriate context for pursuing new and fresh efforts to protect and promote the welfare, well-being and human rights of all children.

Mr. President,

We acknowledge that ten years after the World Summit for Children, many global and national challenges remain. Nevertheless, we believe that conditions are ripe for increasing commitment and effort in this area.

Current Issues in Fiji

Mr. President,

Fiji is now experiencing an early onset of urban social malaise that typically occurs in metropolitan cities. The number of street kids seems to be rising, with the added socio-economic problems from the political crisis in 2000. From the extended family support that was the traditional safety net, families now juggle their meager resources and onerous burdens, often at the expense of our children. The children, therefore, find greater solace with peers on the streets. The multiplicity of problems overwhelms our search for answers. It is clear, however, that providing education for life is a basic need.

A recent panel commissioned to review the education system in Fiji has called for qualitative improvements in the system, with sharper focus on quality, equity and relevance. The Government of Fiji spends 20% of its budget on education. We recognize that to get our full value from this investment, this allocation needs to be carefully targeted.

Mr. President,

When our task concludes at the end of this meeting, we anticipate an outcome that will be celebrated for its realistic objectives and achievable targets that fulfill the gaps and unmet targets of our earlier action plans.

Fiji hopes that this Special Session on Children will articulate that message even more clearly in terms of policy statements, goals and resource mobilization. We can see no other alternative but nurture in our children today the virtues and quality of knowledge, skills and attitudes that will make them responsible citizens of Fiji and the world.

I thank you.

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