The State of the World's Children 2002 - Leadership

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Governments, as well as international institutions, must be held accountable for their leadership in putting the rights and well-being of children above all other concerns. And those that fail to do so must also be held accountable. Ensuring the rights and well-being of children is the key to sustained development in a country and to peace and security in the world. Meeting this responsibility, fully, consistently and at any cost, is the essence of leadership. Heads of State and Government hold the lion’s share of this responsibility but commitment and action are also called for across the board: from community activists and entrepreneurs, from artists and scientists, from religious leaders and journalists - and from children and adolescents themselves.
  • Birth and broken promises: There was high excitement in the village, the kind ofjoy and optimism that only a new baby can bring. Ayodele was a beautiful baby, full of limitlesspotential, her whole life before her. For this moment, as should be the case at the birthof any child, everyone set aside their fears and doubts about the future, their anxietiesabout family health and growing enough food. They congratulated the baby’s parents andcontemplated the resurgent hope that new life always brings.At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, there was a birth of a different kind,one to which great hope was also attached. An unprecedented number of country presidentsand national leaders gathered in New York for the World Summit for Children. It wasSeptember 1990, a time of unusual optimism in the world.
  • “To change the world with children:” Since the earliest days of its existence,UNICEF has called the world’s attention to the situation of children - to the many of thembruised by the operation of national societies and the global economy, to the ways in whichthey have suffered because of their parents’ poverty, to how their health has suffered throughlack of food or immunization and their mental development through poor health, abuse andneglect and lack of education - and has taken action to offset the damage.
  • Actions that can change the world: Unquestionably, countries with the mostpower in the global economy need to show leadership in the pursuit of child rights. Butdeveloping countries’ disadvantage does not exempt their governments from the need todemonstrate leadership on behalf of children. The rights of children are indivisible andparamount. No society should be satisfied until the rights of all are guaranteed and respected.Investing in children is, quite simply, the best investment a government can make. Nocountry has made the leap into meaningful and sustained development without investingsignificantly in its children.


Carol Bellamy

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