More than 600 million children in the East Asia/Pacific region, including China, will have their rights improved over the next 10 years after 21 governments from the region agreed to put them at the center of their national agendas.
Calling the protection of children an important indicator of national economic and social progress, the 21 governments committed themselves to increasing budgets, investment and social service programs for children.
The Beijing Declaration was passed at the end of the fifth East Asia and Pacific Ministerial Consultation on Shaping the Future for Children yesterday in Beijing.
The declaration urged governments to ensure children get the best start in life, have high quality education, and receive the opportunity to fully develop.
It also called upon donor countries to strive to fulfill their commitments to provide 0.7 percent of their gross national product for official development assistance, and ensure a large proportion of that money is earmarked for children's social services.
The level of official development assistance from all but a handful of donor countries, which include developed nations such as the US and European countries, is well below 0.7 percent.
Mehr Khan, regional director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said governments will need to meet challenges such as HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, child trafficking and sexual abuse.
"Though we have advanced in many issues like education, a large number of problems, especially the protection of children, still remain," said Khan, who is in charge of UNICEF affairs in the region.
Khan's comments were welcomed by Xu Shaoshi, head of the Chinese delegation at the conference and deputy secretary general of the State Council. Xu vowed to strengthen investment, education and tackle HIV/AIDS and malnutrition, the top problems facing Chinese children at the moment.
"Since 1985 when the first AIDS case was discovered in China, nearly 20,000 cases have been reported and child infection is not unusual. This shows that the spread of HIV has not been effectively controlled in China," said Xu. "But we will spare no effort to protect more children from being attacked by the disease."
A weak implementation of many laws has diluted efforts to protect children from trafficking, domestic violence, sexual abuse and other problems, said Saisuree Chutikul, member of UN Committee for the Rights of the Child.
Nikki Devera, a 16-year-old girl delegate from the Philippines who attended the forum, said commitments should be turned into real action, adding children should be taught to take up legal weapons to protect themselves.
"I am a girl and vulnerable to trafficking, domestic violence and sexual abuse. But I need to learn how to protect myself using the law. Right now there are many laws, but children have little idea about them," said Devera.
Chutikul urged improvements to law enforcement and the juvenile justice system, and said there should be more children's centers and public campaigns to raise awareness among children, their parents and other members of society.
Young delegates at the three-day meeting said children's rights should be on the same level as those for adults.
(China Daily 05/17/2001)