Holy See on a World Fit for Children

"The Opportunity to Pause and Assess Where We Stand Today"

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NEW YORK, DEC. 17, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, gave Thursday to the plenary session of the U.N. General Assembly on the follow-up of the 2002 Special Session on children.

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Mr President,

This commemorative high-level plenary meeting gives us the opportunity to pause and assess where we stand today with respect to the commitment to create a world fit for children, made during the 2002 special session for children.

The Convention of the Rights of the Child remains the standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. It contains such fundamental principles as the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to the best health care and education possible.

Echoing the principles enshrined in the said Convention, the 2002 special session reaffirms the family as the basic unit of society, providing the best environment for children to acquire knowledge, cultivate good qualities and develop positive attitudes to become responsible citizens. It is, therefore, in everyone's interest to motivate parents to take personal responsibility in the education of their children and strengthen the family.

Acting on its perennial conviction that education lies at the heart of the development of every child, today the Catholic Church runs more than two hundred and fifty thousand schools in all continents, with three and a half million teachers educating forty-two million students. To help every child exercise the right to education, many of these schools are in some of the most challenging locations where otherwise children would be completely left behind, such as remote villages, deprived inner cities, conflict zones, refugee camps and waste dumping grounds.

Recognizing that chronic poverty remains the single biggest obstacle to meeting the needs of children, helping working children through education is key to empowering them to break the cycle of extreme poverty and raise awareness of their self-worth and dignity. Ways must be found to offer them free basic education and training, and integrate them into the formal educational system in every way possible.

The commitment of the Holy See in the area of protecting children and their families from the impact of HIV/AIDS is illustrated by the thousands of institutions engaged in the care and education of orphans, prevention and awareness campaigns, the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, basic health care and nutrition, the prevention of mother-to-child viral transmission, the fight against stigma, and the empowerment of peoples living with HIV/AIDS to be protagonists in the fight against the epidemic.

However, while continuing the focus on HIV/AIDS, we must enhance our health care policies on even more common killer diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.

An even more fundamental challenge is the lack of access of children and mothers to basic health care and sanitation. As the Secretary-General recently stated, sanitation is one of the most overlooked and underserved basic human needs, and international efforts to deliver on this area have been "lackluster". Children are the first victims of such an "unacceptable situation". This neglect or lack of focus on basic health care is very costly, given that basic medical prevention is often one of the most cost effective and successful ways of improving the health and stability of society.

My delegation earnestly hopes that the commitments renewed or made in the course of this plenary are not mere declarations of good intentions or objectives for which to aspire, but steadfast commitments to uphold, so that a world truly fit for children can at last become a reality.

Thank you, Mr. President.