World-wide advocacy campaign for children underway

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- "Say Yes To Children" is the slogan of the world-wide campaign UNICEF recently launched for the children of the world.
The initiator of this campaign is former South African president Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel.
The campaign is a prelude to a special session of the UN General Assembly to be held in New York from 19 to 21 September devoted to children's issues.
The session will assess the progress of the World Summit on Children held at the same venue in 1989.
A platform entitled "Promise to Children", which was expected to be achieved over the past decade, was adopted at that summit.
The September session will review the platform and assess the lessons learnt from it and the commitment to be taken for the next decade to improve children's welfare.
In order to achieve these measures, it is important for high decision-makers, especially heads of states, to attend the New York session.
UNICEF, the secretariat of the event, said that for the session to succeed, advocacy measures would have to be undertaken by the decision-makers.
In Mali, children have got a reliable and committed ally in President Alpha Omar Konare, the current ECOWAS chairman, who has promised to convince his peers on measures to take to help the little ones.
In the next months, UNICEF is planning to have everybody committed by working on a "coalition" around 10 priority areas: inclusion of children, give them priority, concern about their plight, fight against HIV/AIDS, end their exploitation and mistreatment, listening to them, educate them, protect them from war, protect the earth for them, reduce poverty and invest in them.
As of now, sub-regional traditional leaders have shown their interest of the issue by adopting a document called "The Sahelian Children's Convention.
" Individual commitments are also welcome and registered on the UNICEF Internet site or directly at the UNICEF offices.
However, although the convention on children's rights was signed and adopted by all the countries, except the US and Somalia, it remains largely unknown to the public.
The convention reasserts the main principles such as the universal rights of children, non-discriminate against children and for states to put the interest of children first.
This document contains an innovating aspect by emphasising on the need to have children participate in the decision making process concerning them.
It particularly says that children have the right to speak.
The application of this right was realised with the setting up of children's parliaments in parts of the world.
"They do not have all the rights.
However, parents should take decisions in the highest interest of the children," said the resident representative for UNICEF in Bamako, Pascal Villeneuve.
The press was also called upon to help publicise the convention by reporting the measures carried out, emphasising on the work towards preventing children from getting HIV/AIDS, and to highlight the hope raised by the measures taken to facilitate patients' access to medicine.
Child trafficking, which has become a serious matter of concern, should be broadly covered by the press in order to encourage the concerned states to join in and implement the existing inter-state treaties to end the practice.
Journalists should finally publicise the Libreville Convention, which was drawn up in February 2000 against this phenomenon.
In a nutshell, the press should do everything to have the rights of children respected in deeds and not just words.
The last step on the way to New York will be the Pan-African OAU/UNICEF Forum to be held in Cairo from 28 to 31 May.
At this meeting, leaders, NGOs, upholders of the cause of the children, and the children themselves are expected to harmonise their views.
They will identify their priority actions based on the African common platform.

10 may 2001 07:56:00

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