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Plans Safeguard Children's Futures

Children's rights will be pushed forward at an international conference aiming to free Asian children from poverty, illiteracy and AIDS.

More than 200 officials from 29 countries and regions will trade ideas on problems facing children in East Asia and the Pacific Region at the Fifth East Asia & Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Shaping the Future for Children, which starts today in Beijing.

The conference is expected to come up with a Beijing Declaration, which will set the guidelines for strategies and actions needed to safeguard the interests of children over the next 10 years.

The results of the Beijing meeting will be discussed at a United Nations Special Session on Children in September this year in New York.

Held once every two years since 1990, the Ministerial Consultation has developed into an important consultation mechanism in East Asia and the Pacific.

The latest report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN's top agency on children's issues, found that the lives of millions of young people in East Asia and the Pacific have improved tremendously in the past decade.

More children are being educated, more are living to their fifth birthday and beyond, more families have clean water to drink and polio has been eradicated in all but a couple of countries, it said.

But the report, named "Every Last Child," which looks at the goals for children that governments from this region agreed to achieve by the year 2000, found that children are still suffering from the AIDS epidemic, human trafficking, sexual abuse, drugs and sex discrimination.

Child labour, physical and sexual abuse in the home and juvenile crimes are growing, while gender biases have barred girls' access to full education through primary schools and increased their exposure to commercial sexual exploitation, the report said.

(China Daily 05/14/2001)

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