Suomen ulkopolitiikan asiakirja-arkisto ja kronologia
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Mrs Elisabeth Rehn, President of the Finnish Committee for UNICEF, and Chairperson of the Standing Group of the National Committee for UNICEF in JUNIOR CHAMBER INTERNATIONAL WORLD CONGRESS Miami, 12 November 1992

I am very pleased to be here in Miami with the
Junior Chamber at your World Congress, and I am
honoured to speak on behalf of the United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF). The National Committee
for UNICEF, whose collective body I head,
represent the network of private sector support
throughout the industrialized world, the rich
countries, for the remarkable work of UNICEF in
the poorest places in the world.

Many of you, of course, are well aware of UNICEF
and its work. Junior Chamber International (JCI)
collaborates with UNICEF and others in a special
initiatiave to combat diarrhoeal diseases,
especially cholera, in Central and Latin America.
Why, some people might ask, is it important to
put real efforts into work that benefits the
Third World, when there are so many problems in all of our own countries? JCI is to be commended, I believe, for expanding its scope of action beyond the Immediate field of vision of members. You have emphasized in this year's World congress themes, the training of young leadership. If JCI wants to be meaningful in this role of training leaders of a very near tomorrow, what are the burning issues? If the answers were so obvioius, then leadership would not carry such special qualities. A true leader, I am convinced, must see beyond the loud issues and emergencies of the day, and perceive the silent emergencies - the ongoing problems that are so intimately linked with underlying problems of our societies.

Child survival and development

Today, as we meet here in Miami, some 35,000 children in the developing world will die; 35,000 will die tomorrow, just as 35,000 die every day. These children die silently, one by one, in the arms of their parents and far from the fanfare and attention that we associate with disasters. Yet the death toll is the equilavent of more than 100 Boeing 747 airplanes filled with children
crashing every day - a Hiroshima-sized disaster every three days - adding up to about 13 million child deaths each year. Imagine the headlines and global responses, if that were the cause! Many millions more will, in reality, be crippled for life or suffer such serious malnutrition, over an extended period, that their lives will always be stunted or limited. And too many still do not get any schooling or drop out after only two or three years. Too many will see their potential thwarted and their choices severely limited simply because they are girls - girls in a world which still practices what we call the apartheid of gender. And, since the human brain is basically complete at the age of five, all that a child has lost by then in intelligence, attention, stimulation, care and love is lost forever. These are the silent emergergencies, hidden from our common perception, that the leader of tomorrow must not only perceive, but must heal.
The good news is that the major threats to human life and health have one crucial characteristic in common: they can be most effectively combatted by changes in human knowledge and behaviour. So much so, that the toll they take could be at least halved by empowering people with what is already known, and by supporting them in using
this information, and existing simple and
low-cost technology, to take greater responsibility
for their own and their family's life.
How is it, you may justifiably ask, that, while
things are still so bad, such an unprecedented
advance can now be claimed to be within our
reach? It has been the synergistic combination of
two forces which has made such progress possible:
the combination of readily-available low-cost/-
high-impact health knowledge and technology, with
our new capacity to communicate with and organize
among the world's people - the women and the
poor, much too often people who are both poor and
women. UNICEF has called this approach the potential
for a Child Survival and Development Revolution
- one which can also serve as a leading edge
for advancing primary health care generally around
the world. The actual medical techniques are,
of course, familiar to you. They include
immunization against the six main child-killing
diseases; the oral rehydration therapy to prevent
the often-lethal dehydration from diarrhoea (to
which JCI has committed hopeful effort); a return
to the practice of breastfeeding; growth
monitoring; female literacy; family planning; food
supplementation, especially with the three
miraculous micronutrients - vitamin A, iron and
iodine. We now have the capacity, for the first time
in history, to extend the basic benefits of
modern science and medicine to all, rather than to
the privileged few.

The World Summit for Children

But having the technical capacity is not enough. The will to use it has to be there as well. And this is the second piece of good news I would like to focus on today: we are closer than ever before to harnessing this technical capacity to the forces that can make it move forward - political and popular will. Just over two years ago, the World Summit for Children brought together - for the first time ever - the presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and senior ministers of most of the world, with the sole purpose of finding a way out of the obscenity of mass child death, illness and malnutrition, in order to break the cycle of self-perpetuating poverty that casts such a shadow over the future of humankind.

The comprehensive Plan of Action they adopted -
which is now being translated into National
Programmes of Action in almost every nation - is
based on the principle of "first call for
children". That is, that the lives and normal
development of children should have "first call" on
every society's concerns and capacities and that
children should be able to depend on that
commitment both in good times and in bad. You may
simplify it even further and say "Children first". It
may sound idealistic, not realistic, but let me
give you an example.

A former Planning Minister of Pakistan chose to
put priorities right, and decided to postpone by
one year building a modern hospital in Islamabad,
and to use that money to get the children in the
country immunized. Today, thousands of child
lives are saved annually in Pakistan as a result
of putting resources where people are, instead of
tying up resources in institutions that are
inaccessible to the vast majority. That was a
practical as well as courageous political decision, one
that reflected not only the principle of "first
call", but what we like to think of as the new
ethos that is emerging in this post-Cold War era
- perhaps stills tumbling forward, but steadily making progress.

Children and the Environment

Nowhere is the linkage between environment and development more tangible and dramatic than in the issue of population. Stabilizing the earth's population is possible - the experience of the industrial world and of a number of developing countries attests to this - but the shart
reductions in population growth that will have to take place in the developing world will require a massive assault on poverty's worst consequences, a major improvement in basic health care,
education and the status of women - na revolution in social values and reproductive behaviour.
When child death rates are high, parents insure against an anticipated loss by having more
children. But when parents have a basic education and are confident their first children will survive, they tend to have fewer children. Thus, one of the key methods for slowing world population growth - and, in turn, easing the stress on the ecosphere - is to ensure that children stay alive and healthy, and receive a basic education, so
that they may grow into productive adults. In
fact, the Secretary General of the Rio conference
on the environment last June, Maurice Strong, has
written: "The effort to reduce child illness and
malnutrition and to reach the goals of the World
Summit for Children is curcial not only for its
own sake but also as means of helping to slow
population growth and make possible environmentally
sustainable development in the 21st century
and beyond."

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and
Children in situations of armed conflict

As I said earlier, nearly thirteen million of
these children die every year - some 35,00 a day.
The numbers stun the mind. Malnutrition and
disease have been reinforced, especially over the
past two decades, by a powerful multiplier agent:
armed conflict.

In World War I, only a tenth of the casualties
were civilian; now 90 percent of those who die
due to war are non-combatants, particularly
children. In the Sudanese civil war up to mid-1989,
it was estimated that 14 children died for every
dead government soldier or rebel.
A glance at the world's mortality tables is
instructive. The first, second, and third highest
child mortality rates in the world are those of
countries whose names, tragically, have in recent
decades become synonymous with war - Mozambique,
Afghanistan, and Angola. Roughly a third of the
young children of these countries do not live to
see their fifth birthdays. Close behind them are
Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, and Cambodia. A
measure of the size of child losses in these
countries is that they are occuring at a constant rate
probably five times greater than Bosnia-Herzegovina's
today.

The Somalias and Bosnia-Herzegovinas of today
were prefigured in the past by some wars that
fell squarely on civilian populations, but never
on the scale that is the norm now, and not with
the same frequency. Historically, there was a
sense, approaching a taboo, that children were
beyond the limits of attack. State-sponsored
conflicts took place mainly on battlegrounds well
away from towns and settlements. And so, across
hundreds of generations, there emerged a social
contract that bound combatants to protect and
spare children and the defenseless.
That contract began to lose its adhesion - in
this so-called "civilized" era - with the advent
of mechanized war and has pulled apart more and
more rapidly since. At this moment, there would
appear to be no contract at all on the ground
where the fighting rages, no shield worth the
name for children and the defenseless, and only,
and only rarely, brief ceasefires and safe
passages that evaporate at a gunman's whim. This
obscenity must end.

With the Convention on the Rights of the Child as
our moral compass and National Plans of Action as
our guides, we must match with strong new
protections the pace and capacity of armed conflicts to
kill, stunt, maim and terrorize our children.
We must insist that this pattern become the
blueprint for standard procedure. World adherence to
"days of tranquility" for life-saving efforts
like immunization, "corridors of peace" through
which food and basic commodities can travel
unimpeded, safe havens and shielded respites from
gunfire that may restore the bare minimum measure
of protection to children in armed conflicts.
Now we must move from the right of humanitarian
intervention to the duty of humanitarian
intervention.

Unfortunately, children need more and more
psychological help in coping with the traumas of war,
as they are increasingly exposed to the brutal
front lines of confrontation. We must insist that
children are not conscripted as soldiers. And we
must provide psychological help to those who have
already served as child soldiers, and to all
children who have experienced the violence and
hatred of armed conflict. I myself have observed,
all too many times, children traumatised by war.
This summer during visits to Croatia, the reality
was all-too-stark, and I must say, I was glad to
know that UNICEF has begun to make inroads in
dealing with this heartbreaking phenomenon.

Women's rights/women in development

Advocacy for children's rights - advocacy for
human rights in general - also means advocating
for women's rights, and doing so loudly,
consistently, and at every opportunity. The severity and scale of discrimination against women - and, needless to say, girls from a very tender age - has not yet been widely accepted, notwithstanding the important gains won in recent decades. This is true in both the industrial and developing worlds. But it is in the latter, where the
overwhelming majority of the world's women live, that the weight of discrimination is often heaviest. So much so, it even sways the survival chances of the girl child. In some countries, twice as many boys as girls are brought to health centres for treatment. Many more boys become literate than girls. Employment rights, social security rights, legal rights, property rights, civil and political
liberties are all likely to depend upon the one, cruel chromosome.

Althoug the C in UNICEF covers all children - boys and girls - we have come to place special emphasis on the girl child in recognition of the additional barriers facing girls. And there is a silent W in the acronym, too, for children's development programmes are deeply related to the status of women. The linkage can be seen most clearly in areas such as responsible and cultu
rally-appropriate family planning, breastfeeding,
and safe motherhood. Higher status for women and
better protection of their rights inevitably lead
to better raising of their children. There is
hardly any child in the world who can escape
being physically or psychologically affected if
her or his mother is abused by conditions of
poverty and discrimination. Also, child health
and maternal health go together. They cannot be
separated. Educating girls always results in
lower child and maternal mortality, as well as
reduced fertility rates. The World Bank says
educating girls "yields a higher return than any
other investment" you could make in developing
countries. We, in UNICEF, not only wholeheartedly
agree - we are prioritizing that investment in
our daily work. We know, that is efforts to
improve children's lives, efforts to spur
development and combat poverty, overpopulation and
environmental degradation.
My friends, your era of responsibility and
leadership is just beginning. The scope of your
concern, understanding and commitment will shape,
to a rather significant degree, the society that
brings us into the 21st century. I ask you to
take up the issues I have outlined here today. I
ask you to join the Grand Alliance for Children, an activist movement of the world. Investing in the survival, protection and development of
children is not only wise for our social and economic future. It is such efforts, I believe, that weigh the true measure of a civilization.

Thank you all for giving me - and UNICEF - this opportunity to speak to you.

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