December 17 2007

A positive balance of the "A World Fit for Children Plus 5" events

Raise the voice for children

15/12/2007 - As the mid-decade follow-up meeting to the Plan of Action "A World Fit for Children" at the United Nations in New York closes, participants draw a positive, yet cautious, balance of the event.

Photo: SOS Archives
Children raised their voice - Photo: SOS Archives

This year marks the 5-year anniversary of the historical 2002 United Nations Special Session on Children and its resulting plan of action, "A World Fit for Children" (WFFC). To honour the occasion, the United Nations General Assembly convened a meeting, officially called the Commemorative High Level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-Up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children (or World Fit for Children Plus 5) on 11 and 12 December in New York.

The gathering brought together government and UN representatives, members of civil society, and children and youth to e
valuate progress made in fulfilling the goals set out in the plan of action. A whopping 141 governments requested to speak during this special session, topped only by the recent September Heads of State meeting at the UN.


In his opening statement from the Children's Forum to the UN General Assembly Plenary Session, 14-year-old Longeni Matsi from Namibia reminded adults at the event that this "is the time for us to come together. This is the time to listen to our words not only with your ears, but also with your hearts. There are no better people to consult on children's rights than children themselves."

Photo: SOS Archives
Afifia Arsanios was invited to one of the roundtables - Photo: SOS Archives

The event itself comprised plenary sessions and two roundtables, dedicated to the four priority areas of the WFFC. The President of the Board of SOS Children's Villages Lebanon, Afifa Arsanios, who was selected as one of only 20 NGO representatives on the roundtables, said of the event, "This meeting is a wake-up call for all governments that ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They were confronted with the child and civil society representatives who were very forceful and determined." Ms Arsanios was very impressed with the participation of youth, saying "[the children] were very serious and had strong convictions; and they were eager to make commitments on their part as well."

Photo: SOS Archives
Richard Pichler and representatives of SOS Children's Villages at the UN Headquarters - Photo: SOS Archives

SOS-Kinderdorf International Secretary-General Richard Pichler, who also attended the event, was optimistic about the role that NGOs play. According to Mr. Pichler, "even though the review, which shows that progress has been slow, could have been done much more profoundly, it is still important that it was done at all. Without NGOs, the review would have been too positive, as governments tend to report on progress and not on challenges; therefore, NGO participation was crucial."

For Secretary-General Pichler, "[SOS Children's Villages'] particular role is to raise our voice for children without parental care and at risk of losing it, as they are amongst the most vulnerable groups of children. They have not been well represented in the documents produced for this meeting. If we don't act as an advocate for them, nobody will."