Subject: [fem-women2000 787] Women's GlobalNet #195: Kids Demand Action for World Leaders
From: iwtc <>
Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 19:23:48 +0000
Seq: 787

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Initiatives and Activities of Women Worldwide
By Anne S. Walker 

May 10, 2002


(The following has been excerpted from articles in the New York Times)

They heard plenty of promises from world leaders who vowed to improve 
their health, education and rights -- or simply provide them with food. 
But children attending the UN Special Session on Children demanded one 
thing: action.

As the three-day meeting comes to an end, children from around the world 
are speaking out about AIDS and other diseases, the 120 million children 
who don't go to school, and governments that fail to respect children's 

"Most leaders just pay lip service to children,'' Bernice Akuamoah, a 
15-year-old from Ghana, said during a rare dialogue between African 
leaders and African children. "They come and they say all these nice 
things and we expect them to happen, but that's a whole other matter.''

Meanwhile, delegates from more than 180 countries were meeting behind 
closed doors, wrestling with a final summit document that is to set out 
new priorities and goals in efforts to improve the lot of children 
worldwide over the next 15 years.

The most serious divisions were over an effort to include a reference to 
the plight of Palestinian children and over language on family planning, 
children's rights, and "reproductive health" that some conservatives 
interpret as advocating abortion. Negotiators met into the early hours 
on Friday, trying to wrap up the summit's final document.

A US official said all the delegates have agreed privately that "health 
services" does not mean abortion, but the United States wants this 
specified in a footnote to the document. Diplomats said there was 
near-deadlock on the issue amid strong resistance to the US demand.

During the negotiations over wording, American officials have pressed 
for specificity demanding, for instance, that the term "reproductive 
health services" be annotated to exclude abortion. In this they are 
joined by the Vatican, as well as several Islamic nations, from Iran to 
Pakistan. On the opposing side are delegates representing the European 
Union, as well as countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

In the General Assembly, leaders of both the industrialized and 
developing world were urged to spend more money on children and less on 
weapons. "When there is a war against any nation, the state finds the 
money. This is a war for our children. We want the money and we are 
going to get it for them," said Najma Heptullah, deputy head of India's 
upper house of parliament.

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo pledged to spend less on defense and 
more on children. "My government has reduced the military expenditures 
and will use that money to bolster social spending, particularly in the 
defense and education of children," he told the General Assembly.

Norway's Minister for International Development Hilde Johnsson said 
there was reason to be optimistic. "The tide is there. The countries 
that are not increasing aid feel a bit awkward and feel they should 
deliver more," she said. "That is very good pressure that has been 

The conservative U.S. delegation also opposes the Convention on the 
Rights of the Child (CRC) a UN treaty on children's rights that 187 of 
the 189 Member States of the UN have ratified. The United States and 
Somalia are the only holdouts, on the grounds that codifying such rights 
impinges on the rights of parents. (The US also opposes the banning of 
the death penalty for children under 18 which is part of the CRC).

"The Bush administration is behaving as if they are all three branches 
of government,'' said Adrienne Germain, president of the International 
Women's Health Coalition. "Their positions are contrary to the Supreme 
Court, a majority in Congress and U.S. public opinion who support 
adolescent reproductive health and education," she said.

The UN Special Session on Children is a follow-up to the 1990 World 
Summit on Children that aimed at setting guidelines in the areas of 
education and health for children for governments, advocacy groups and 
UN agencies. Many of those targets have not been met, due to lack of 
funds. Since then, the issues of AIDS and child protection have emerged 
as critical problems for children.

Critics accuse the United States of trying to withhold life-saving tips 
about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV/AIDS, which is 
swiftly spreading among the young, particularly in the developing world. 

"We are really stuck," said Eveline Herfkens, the Minister for 
Development Cooperation of The Netherlands, "because one or two 
governments one of them this country (the US) wants to renegotiate 
commitments we made in previous conferences. Others, like us, feel it's 
unacceptable. I feel it's irresponsible."

The European Union delegation, as well as those from many Asian, African 
and Latin American countries, favors maintaining earlier "agreed" 
language. "I think we should keep all the agreements we have done so 
far," the Finnish president, Tarja Halonen, said at a briefing with 
reporters this afternoon. "This special session is supposed to take 
steps forward." 

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