31 May 2000
H.E. Mr. Hadi Nejad Hosseinian
Ambassador and Permanent Representative
of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly
in 2001 for Follow-Up to the World Summit for Children
Wednesday, 31 May 2000 New York
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The World Summit for Children in 1990 and entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of the Child represented major turning points towards a collective commitment for planning and action in support of children around the world. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and its Plan of Action with seven major and twenty supporting goals was also an important cornerstone for advancement and promotion of the status of children. The Plan of Action called for national and international action and cooperation to achieve a number of important goals and objectives within ten years by the year 2000.
The Secretary-General’s report – a very good and comprehensive document I should say- shows that the needs of children vary from region to region, country to country and even community to community. Nonetheless, it clearly indicates that progress for children has become a major goal of the overall national development policies in almost all developing countries. The outcomes of major conferences of the last decade with specific references to children and their growth and development reflect the aspirations of the international community for the promotion of the well-being of children. At the national level, the mid-decade review also indicated in clear terms that almost all developing countries have endeavoured towards achieving the mid-decade goals and objectives. On the basis of all indications, as underlined in the report, it could be said that the situation of children around the world has improved in a general sense during the past decade. Existing reports further indicate that efforts have been made by a wide range of countries in changing legislation, policies and procedures as well as in the provision of basic services and resource allocation to ensure children’s access to food, good healthcare, basic and quality education. Immunization has been one of the major areas of progress and it is helping to prevent two thirds of neonatal-related deaths, and polio has been nearly eradicated worldwide.
Turning to the national scene, as is generally known, Iran has made great strides for the realization of children well-being and has achieved almost all the goals of the World Summit for Children for the year 2000. With strong political commitment for allocating financial resources, wide-reaching and strong infrastructure, well-trained staff and development of policies and programs to ensure universal access to healthcare and education, the rates for immunization coverage, primary school enrolment, use of iodized salt at the household level, coverage of safe drinking water and sanitary latrines have reached to over 90 percent at the national level. According to the 1996 national population census, by 1996 the infant mortality rate and the under-five mortality rate had dropped to 25 and 35 per 1,000 live births respectively; and the maternal mortality rate was less than 37 per 100,000 live births. Presently, access to health services and education facilities is almost universal. Over 85 per cent of births are attended by trained birth attendants and take place in a health facility. Moreover, recent data show more progress in all these fields. In the field of education, the right to free education, guaranteed by the Constitution, has been the major factor contributing to the significant increase in school attendance since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Free primary education is equally accessible to boys and girls. Over 96% of children enroll in schools and over 90% complete their primary education. At the national level boys account for 51% and girls for 49% of all admissions to primary schools. The ratio of female to male students increased from 66% in 1976 to 90% in 1996 at primary school level, from 57% to 83.%% at junior high school level and from 59% to 99% at high school level. These achievements, albeit far from an ideal situation, have for the most part been the result of a still-on-going socio-economic and cultural process which has endeavoured to integrate all relevant actors, both public and private, in particular through emphasis on gender-related policies. Provision of education and health care services for all, especially for girl child and women, have been among the major pillars of this process. As far as future is concerned, our main challenge is to ensure universal provision of all basic services across the whole nation and in all provinces, with particular emphasis on deprived areas and communities, and also to address emerging problems in major urban areas. Given the strong commitment of President Khatami’s Administration to social development, including betterment of the children’s situation, these challenges are expected to receive adequate attention and allocation of resources.
While dealing with the national situation, I would like to touch on issue of foreign refugees in the country. Currently, more than one million and a half refugees from neighboring countries reside in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which continues to be the largest refugee load in any one country. More than half of these refugees are children who need education and healthcare services. Needless to say, presence of a such a large refugee population is bound to exert a heavy burden on the national economy and the social infrastructure. As in the past two decades, Iran continues to utilize its limited national resources to assist these refugees, however, the need for international assistance hardly needs to be emphasized. In this regard, we welcome assistance from multilateral bodies, bilateral donors and international NGOs.
Although progress in the well-being of children has been encouraging in many fields, the situation has nonetheless been disappointing in a large number of developing countries, in particular in LDCs and Sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that only a small proportion of developing countries have achieved the majority of World Summit goals is a matter of serious concern. The root cause for such a situation, as everybody reckons, lies in poverty which hits the children hardest. As addressed in the report before us, poverty has a disabling impact on children’s mind and bodies, and causes a wide range of pernicious long-term consequence The process of globalization, I have to underline, has further exacerbated this situation in the developing countries, making the task much harder for the national governments and also making a vigorous international collective effort all the more imperative. Without substantial international assistance many developing countries will hardly stand any realistic chance of realizing the established and agreed goals for the children’s well-being.
To close my statement, let me just add that action in the following areas, among others, in the years and decades ahead could help improve the children’s situation in the developing world.
1- Advancement and transfer of new technologies, especially communications and information technologies, to the developing countries on preferential terms could improve the quality and efficiency of provision of basic social services;
2- Development of new strategies for the more active and effective involvement of other actors and stakeholders, including the private sector, at both national and international levels; and
3- Development of a long-term and comprehensive strategy for the effective protection of children and their rights, including, in particular, for children in vulnerable situations and families such as those affected by drug addiction.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.