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UNICEF Say Yes for Children Forum

Hon Steve Maharey
30 August 2001 Speech Notes

UNICEF Say Yes for Children Forum

Opening address to the UNICEF Say Yes for Children Forum. Legislative Council Chamber, Parliament Buildings.

Introduction

Thank you for the opportunity to open this discussion today.

Say Yes for Children is the name of this UNICEF forum and is also the title of a world-wide campaign by a collection of people and international organisations to promote the rights of the child.

One of the main messages is that we all have a role to play in the interests of children whether we be leaders or citizens, public or private organisations, and of course children and young people themselves.

That is why we have here today a diverse range of people including the media, business people, sporting groups, and other sectors not normally directly associated with children¡¦s issues. I welcome you all and look forward to hearing about your views.

Setting the Scene/Government Initiatives

Our purpose today is to share information about what is happening for children in New Zealand - and to discuss what needs to happen.

We are here to affirm the value of children in our society, and to raise awareness of the need to bring children and their rights and interests into the mainstream, so that they are included in planning and action in which they may not traditionally have be considered.

Children are already having their say in all sorts of ways.

Let me give you one example:

The children from Room 9 at Masterton Central School put 19 submissions to their District Council about a proposed $6.3 million recreation centre upgrade, with a number of suggestions on how to improve the swimming pool.

At the top of their wish list was a hydroslide along with blow-up floating toys. As one child said in her submission ¡§why aren¡¦t you asking the children what we would like because we are the main users?¡¨

In one of the sessions today we will be looking at ways to better include children in processes concerning them, and we shall also see how young people have been participating in policy development for government.

The Labour/Alliance Government has been busy over the past 20 months working to promote the rights and participation of children and young people:

„h we have begun a work programme to promote the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is, incidentally, the most universally embraced human rights treaty in history;
„h as part of that work - the annual budget of the Commissioner for Children¡¦s office is to almost double within two years to enable him to better promote the rights of children and to monitor our compliance with the Convention;
„h we have been developing an Agenda for Children in consultation with children and young people to set goals for Government policies and programmes. The views of some 7000 children were represented through the consultation and the agenda is expected to be developed by December 2001;
„h we have also been preparing a Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa which covers the 12 to 25 age group. Again the Strategy is being developed in close consultation with young people;
„h and we have established a Children¡¦s Policy Reference Group with key community people who have experience and interest in children¡¦s issues, which has an advisory role to the Government.

There is also a session today on disadvantaged children. I do not have time to describe all of the work that is going on in the government sector for disadvantaged children, but it is important to note the extent of collaboration that is happening between the health, education and social services sectors on both policy and service delivery.

A number of initiatives, such as Social Workers in Schools, and Family Start, for example, are jointly funded and managed between sectors. Over the past year these sectors have also been working closely to develop and implement intensive services for children with high and complex needs.

I hope that there will be an opportunity today for further information sharing on these activities.

There is also a session today on children and the economy. This topic is timely and reflects our social development goals to build the capability of all New Zealanders to be part of the modern economy, and address issues that can trap people in poverty and prevent their full participation in society. In terms of children and young people the social development model that we are adopting applies particularly in the areas of participation and education.

UN Special Session

This forum today is part of a lead up to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, which I shall be attending in New York in two weeks time.

The Special Session is a follow-up to the World Summit for Children which was held in New York in 1990. That session was attended by 71 heads of state and government and 88 other senior delegates. At the World Summit leaders made promises to children, and a Declaration and 10 year Plan of Action for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children was adopted.

I was pleased to see, in the end of the decade review by the United Nations, that there has been significant progress in a number of areas, such as better immunisation and fewer deaths among children. There are more children in school than ever before and as a result a rise in adult literacy rates.

But while there has been significant progress, it is not enough.

At the Special Session in September political leaders will agree upon actions to complete the unfinished agenda of the World Summit and to tackle some emerging issues for children in the 21st century.

I am happy to welcome today the two young people who will be attending the Special Session and the Children¡¦s Forum as part of the NZ Government delegation. They are Tekerei Moka from Christchurch and and Jessica Dewan from Auckland.

Children¡¦s Day

In concluding, I would like to remind people about an event happening soon in this country to celebrate children through our Children¡¦s Day on Sunday 28 October 2001.

I urge you all to support this day. It is important to let children know that they are valued and appreciated.

Final Comment

As the Say Yes for Children campaign states in its rallying call: Children are the bearers of our common future- as members of the human family each of us is responsible and all of us are accountable.

I applaud UNICEF, with the support of the Ministry of Social Policy, for providing this opportunity.

Thank you.

ENDS

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