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Maharey Speech: A World Fit For Children

9 May 2002 (Friday 10 May 2002 – NZ time) Speech Notes

A World Fit For Children

Address to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children. United Nations, New York.


Mr President, distinguished delegates and child and youth representatives.

It is an honour to represent New Zealand here today. I am particularly proud to be accompanied by New Zealand’s two young delegates - Te Kerei Moka and Jessica Dewan.

This is a unique global gathering. With child representatives from almost every country in the world participating in this Special Session, we have had the unique opportunity to hear first-hand the voices of the future leaders and shapers of our societies. They have shared with us their hopes and aspirations, and it is now incumbent upon us to match their commitment with a strong plan for action to truly achieve a ‘World Fit for Children’.

Around the world children experience suffering which no child should have to face - hunger, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and violence - and many of course never reach adulthood. In all of our countries more needs to be done to protect children, and to ensure the enjoyment of their human rights, and to build a firm platform for living a healthy, happy life.

New Zealand Initiatives

In New Zealand’s report to the United Nations on progress since the 1990 World Summit on Children, we described measures to promote the rights and well being of children in our country.

I want to mention a few here today.

We are giving young people the chance to have a direct input into policy making. In New Zealand, thousands of children were actively involved in developing both the Agenda for Children and the Youth Development Strategy, which set out the government’s policies with regard to children and young people.

We have established an annual Children’s Day to celebrate children, and demonstrate how much we value them.

New Zealand’s Commissioner for Children is attending this forum. The Commissioner, as an advocate for children, has worked extensively to promote awareness and understanding of children’s issues and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Recognising the vulnerability of children, we are committed to eliminating family violence. New Zealand’s Family Violence Prevention Strategy paves the way towards our goal of ‘families living free from violence’. Strengthening communities and the voluntary sector is an important element of this strategy.

The plan of action for a ‘World Fit for Children’ focuses on three key areas; promoting healthy lives, providing quality education and protecting children. A World Fit for Children requires that we act in the best interests of the child. And the Convention on the Rights of the Child must be at the heart of all our efforts. As the most universally ratified human rights treaty in history, it is the fundamental framework for all actions concerning children. But we must strive harder to implement it, with the aid of the Platform for Action adopted by this Special Session.

In this action plan, New Zealand has highlighted the special position of indigenous children. We have emphasised the need to pay particular attention to the promotion and protection of their rights, especially in the fields of education and health. This reflects New Zealand’s dedication to the reduction of inequalities between Maori as indigenous people and Pakeha as tauiwi, or later arrivals.

We appreciate the emphasis in the Special Session’s action plan on the need to protect children from exploitation and abuse. In this respect, New Zealand has responded wholeheartedly to the development of additional levels of international law to protect children.

New Zealand has ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and also the ILO Convention 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.

We are also working towards ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the new protocol to the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime that aims to prevent and punish people-trafficking, especially of women and children.

New Zealand endorses the emphasis on the health and education of children in the Special Session’s action plan. Access to education and basic health services are the fundamental ingredients to enable children to live full and meaningful lives. In our view, this should also include access to appropriate reproduction health services and information.

Final Comment

When we go back to our parliaments, offices, boardrooms, communities, homes, playgrounds and schools, we must sustain our commitment to achieving the goals that brought us together and on which we are united. I reiterate the commitment of New Zealand to work to create a world fit for all children. By equipping and empowering our children to face the challenges of the future, we not only act in the best interests of the child, but in the best interests of all humanity.

Thank you.

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