Statement on Building a Global Partnership for Children

By Nelson Mandela Johannesburg, 6 May 2000

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Graca and I, are proud to be here today with our esteemed friend Carol Bellamy, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children Fund, to announce our commitment to work closely with her and her respected organization, on a cause we hold most dear to our hearts - the rights of the children and adolescents of this

Nelson Mandela and a new friend
  world to live safe from violence and exploitation, free of poverty and discrimination and to grow healthy
and strong.

Here, in my beloved country where people once divided by apartheid, now work together in the name of justice, Graca and I, pledge our energies to building a global partnership for children, of leaders from every sector and every calling, who share a dogged determination to change the way the world sees our children and the way the world treats our children.

Our purpose is to get specific commitments from these leaders and specific results.

We will be insistent, gracious, yes, but unyielding, as we make phone calls, write letters, provide consultations and make speeches on behalf of children - pressing a wide circle of leaders from business, civil society and governments, to rethink what they do every day, to better the lives of children. And whatever it is they do today, we will coax them to do more tomorrow.

We will urge these leaders to take their turn in reaching out to a wider circle, still inviting, cajoling, carrying each other along, in an unprecedented international movement, a collective global force that will herald the rights of children and act to ensure them.

This global partnership will be guided in its work by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, that luminous, living, document that enshrines the rights of every child without exception, to a life of dignity and self-fulfilment.

We are not seeking, nor will we accept vague promises. We will challenge enlightened government leaders to join us and turn their words into deeds, enforce the laws, enact the policies and search out the excluded children - the girl child, the poor child, the one little one with disabilities, the one from the wrong tribe, wrong caste - and find the ways to embrace them.

We will ask innovators in the business world to put their unique abilities to work for children. Use distribution networks, that deliver cola drinks to the most remote towns and get textbooks and vaccines there first. Share profits, share talent, share advertising space - all in the name of children.

We will call upon leaders in academia, the media and other sectors, to join with us, to ensure that the world honours its obligation to children. Be ever vigilant, hold governments accountable, struggle for peace and justice. Do not let up for a moment, for there is no circumstance in which the neglect or abuse of children can ever be tolerated.

And to all, who would be leaders, we will issue the challenge that if met, will speak louder than any document, reach out to children and adolescents themselves, involve them, engage them and listen to what they have to say. Make certain that the global partnership for children includes children.

This new partnership for children builds on the promises made nearly a decade ago at the World Summit for Children, when national leaders from every part of the world, made a solemn commitment to ensure the well-being of all societies, by giving high priority to the rights of children, to their survival and to their development. Those leaders pledged to act together in international cooperation as well as in their respective countries, to enhance child health and pre-natal care, to promote optimal child growth and development's, to work toward strengthening the role and status of women and to mount a global attack on poverty.

In the ensuing years, some objectives - but far from all - of that noble agenda, have come to pass.

Now, at the dawn of the 21st Century, we have a unique opportunity to fulfil the remaining commitments of the World Summit for Children - while simultaneously tackling new and emerging problems including poverty, HIV/AIDS and the scourge of armed conflict.

In this world, in which we have the means to cure many of the cancers, that only a decade ago were considered lethal, surely we are able to vaccinate all children against child killing diseases. In this world of such abundance, surely we can find the means to assure that no child will go hungry, no pregnant woman will be too weak to survive childbirth and that every one of the nearly 6 million children, who will die next year because of malnutrition, will be saved.

Surely, in a world where communication technologies let some children exchange messages across oceans in seconds, we can provide every child with a basic education of the very best quality. In this world of such invention, there can be no excuse for not ensuring that all our children will have the knowledge and skills for success and the capabilities to work with others, reach their full potential and transform their society.

Surely, when children and adolescents in every part of the world, can name their favourite soft drink, running shoe or sports, we are able to ensure that they will have access to the information they need, to stay healthy. In a world, that so often decries the apathy of its youth, we can open our arms for the millions of adolescents eager to contribute their new ideas and bounding enthusiasm. And surely, we can stand by the commitments, that nearly every government in the world has made to children, in signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Governments remain the primary actors in addressing such challenges - and indeed, in playing a leading role in all development cooperation, while involving the poor and the young themselves as full participants.

But now, amid growing economic interdependence among nations, we see a new global reality with additional protagonists including non-governmental organisations, grassroots groups, private enterprise the business community and other diverse elements of civil society.

These new actors possess both the knowledge and the resources to make a difference. Thus, their involvement in a global partnership for children, is not only desirable - it is vital. The task before us is to bring them together.

But time is short - for if we do not act now in concert, the brushfire crises that are proliferating around the world, may yet become an uncontrollable conflagration.

Graca and I hope, that we can act as catalysts, helping to persuade leaders of government and civil society at every level, to recognise that if we want a more just, equitable and thriving world, we need to invest in children now.

This must include efforts that take full account of the immense peril that HIV/AIDS and armed conflict poses to every aspect of child survival - and the recognition that global poverty, which has already consigned some 3 billion people to living on less than $2 a day - half of them children - is not only a moral outrage, but a profound political and economic threat to the whole world. The knowledge, the resources and the strategies all exist to make this a better world for all children - and Graca and I are convinced, that if we start now, we can build a truly global alliance to bring it about.

To dear Ms. Bellamy, to UNICEF and to the children of the world we say, you have our word to help.

To our friends and colleagues we say, expect our call. To you here today, who have afforded us your kind attention, thank you.

See also:

Lets not forget the Children in Our World, 5 May 2002

Source: UNICEF