UN special session on children: September 2001
In September 2001, a special session of the UN General Assembly on Children will be held to review the progress made to reach goals established at the World Summit for Children. These goals, set out in 1990 and reflected in National Action Plans in many countries of the world, cover such issues as the reduction of infant, child and maternal mortality; universal basic education; universal access to safe water and sanitary excreta disposal; reduction of malnutrition among young children; reduction of adult illiteracy; and protection of children from exploitation and abuse. In addition, in view of the near global ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, progress towards its realisation in law and practice will also be reviewed at the Special Session on Children.
For this Special Session on Children, each government has been requested to prepare a National Report on the status of children, and progress in relation to the World Summit for Children Goals and the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This report is due at the UN on 31 December 2000. In addition, the UN and UNICEF, which is the Secretariat for the Special Session, have encouraged governments actively to involve NGOs, civil society and young people in the preparation of the Report, and in national discussions towards a consensus on actions for the future.
It is important that the situation of Romani children be fully considered in the respective country reports. Some ideas on how NGOs, community leaders, social workers, human rights activists, and others working for the realisation of children's rights may participate are noted below:
- Join in the preparation of the National Report of the Government on the 10 year review of the situation of children in each country, to ensure and facilitate the inclusion of the situation of Romani children.
- Attend and participate actively in meetings and discussions organised by NGOs and others on the National Report and in-country preparations for the Special Session on Children in September 2001.
- Organise public discussion on issues that affect Romani children and youth, aiming at building consensus and policy alternatives for the coming decade.
- Organise meetings of Romani children and youth, boys and girls, seeking their views on issues that affect them as young people as well as those which affect them as Roma. What are their views and hopes for the future?
- Work together with Government, NGOs and others in undertaking data collection especially related to the health, education and social status of Romani children, youth and women. Work together towards identifying the actions that are needed as a result of the findings.
- Organise or participate in cultural and other events scheduled as part of a "Global Movement for Children" being organised in your country. The UNICEF offices are one source of information on the events planned, locally, regionally and globally.
- Consider establishing a coalition of Romani NGOs focusing on issues affecting Romani children and youth.
- Engage Romani media to consider developing programmes to share information on the UN Special Session on Children and related events in the country and region.
- Become acquainted with the Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Children in your country. Provide this information to other Roma activists and leaders. Work together with government to address issues and suggestions.
- Prepare a children's version of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a language local Romani children understand to ensure that all children are aware of the Convention and what it means for them.
Since a new agenda for children and young people is being developed over the next months leading up to the UN Special Session, there is a unique window of opportunity to advocate for stronger action to put an end to the patterns of discrimination and disadvantage affecting Roma, starting with children.
- Marty Rajandran is UNICEF Regional Officer for Central and East Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic states.