April 11 2002
SOS Children's Villages prepares for the UN Special Session on Children
11/04/2002 - The "UN General Assembly Special Session on Children", postponed following the tragic events of 11 September 2001, has been rescheduled for 8-10 May 2002. SOS Children's Villages hopes that this major conference will focus the world's attention on children and their situation.
Government leaders and Heads of State, NGOs, children's advocates and young people themselves will attend the Special Session, which will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The gathering will focus on important issues affecting the lives of children, review the progress that has been made since the 1990 World Summit for Children and set global priorities for the future.
The issues on the agenda, which include the rights of children to the best possible quality of life, full protection from discrimination and exploitation, access to quality education and health care, are matters of particular concern to SOS Children's Villages. The draft of the final outcome document of the Special Session "A world fit for children" is still being discussed by governments. NGOs - among them SOS-Kinderdorf International, the umbrella organisation of SOS Children's Villages - have been actively participating in the process through the elaboration of an alternative document by a "Child Rights Caucus". It is hoped that a strong document will give fresh impetus at national level to further improve the situation and well-being of children in the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
SOS Children's Villages will participate in the Special Session with a delegation of representatives from different continents. Dudu Dlamini, SOS Children's Village Director in Swaziland and one of the members of the delegation, is calling for the creation of a forum for the worldwide advocacy of children's rights. She works directly with children in her country, particularly with many HIV/AIDS orphans, and is convinced that the Special Session will improve co-operation and facilitate experience and information exchange between all those working on behalf of children. A collaboration, she says, which will benefit the children and "foster greater respect for one another's work and contribution."
Participation is not limited to those physically present in New York. The important part of the work will be the follow-up in the countries, where the agreements and policies will be implemented. NGOs like SOS Children's Villages will play an important role in this process, by ensuring that children's rights are at the fore of their programmes and by participating in regional and national activities to promote those rights.
A number of national SOS Children's Village associations have already been organising activities as part of the "Global Movement on Children", a grassroots campaign launched in the run-up to the Special Session on Children to mobilise public support. In Pakistan, Jordan and Venezuela, for example, Child Right's Festivals have been organised and surveys carried out. SOS Children's Villages Bolivia has published - in collaboration with other NGOs - a booklet for children on the themes of the Special Session.
Lina Kopty, National Director of SOS Children's Villages Jordan, will be part of Jordan's governmental delegation to the Special Session. She emphasises that: "This session is also very important to show that the time for action and not only words has come, and that each and everyone is responsible."
The national director of SOS Children's Villages Sudan, Ali Mahdi, is the head of the Sudanese Movement for Children. He was one of the organisers of a march in July 2001 which called for peace in the country. Theatre performances, live broadcasts and traditional dances accompanied the marching crowd of up to 20,000 participants, which also visited schools with the message of peace. 25,000 pledges were collected from communities along the way. "War has hurt millions of children," says Ali Mahdi. "It is time for the person on the street to spur them into action."