Statement by H.E. Archbishop Celestino
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See
62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly
Agenda item 66 (b)
Commemorative High-level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-up to
the Outcome of the Special
Session on Children
New York, 13 December 2007
This commemorative high-level
plenary meeting gives us the opportunity to pause and assess where we stand
today with respect to the commitment to create a world fit for children, made
during the 2002 special session for children.
The Convention of the Rights of
the Child remains the standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of
the child. It contains such fundamental principles as the rights of the child
before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the
growth and education of children, and the right of the child to the best health
care and education possible.
Echoing the principles enshrined
in the said Convention, the 2002 special session reaffirms the family as the
basic unit of society, providing the best environment for children to acquire
knowledge, cultivate good qualities and develop positive attitudes to become
responsible citizens. It is, therefore, in everyone’s interest to motivate
parents to take personal responsibility in the education of their children and
strengthen the family.
Acting on its perennial
conviction that education lies at the heart of the development of every child,
today the Catholic Church runs more than two hundred and fifty thousand schools
in all continents, with three and a half million teachers educating forty-two
million students. To help every child exercise the right to education, many of
these schools are in some of the most challenging locations where otherwise
children would be completely left behind, such as remote villages, deprived
inner cities, conflict zones, refugee camps and waste dumping grounds.
Recognizing that chronic poverty
remains the single biggest obstacle to meeting the needs of children, helping
working children through education is key to empowering them to break the cycle
of extreme poverty and raise awareness of their self-worth and dignity. Ways
must be found to offer them free basic education and training, and integrate
them into the formal educational system in every way possible.
The commitment of the Holy See in
the area of protecting children and their families from the impact of HIV/AIDS
is illustrated by the thousands of institutions engaged in the care and
education of orphans, prevention and awareness campaigns, the distribution of
antiretroviral drugs, basic health care and nutrition, the prevention of
mother-to-child viral transmission, the fight against stigma, and the
empowerment of peoples living with HIV/AIDS to be protagonists in the fight
against the epidemic.
However, while continuing the
focus on HIV/AIDS, we must enhance our health care policies on even more common
killer diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis.
An even more fundamental
challenge is the lack of access of children and mothers to basic health care and
sanitation. As the Secretary-General recently stated, sanitation is one of the
most overlooked and underserved basic human needs, and international efforts to
deliver on this area have been “lackluster”. Children are the first victims of
such an “unacceptable situation”. This neglect or lack of focus on basic health
care is very costly, given that basic medical prevention is often one of the
most cost effective and successful ways of improving the health and stability of
My delegation earnestly hopes
that the commitments renewed or made in the course of this plenary are not mere
declarations of good intentions or objectives for which to aspire, but steadfast
commitments to uphold, so that a world truly fit for children can at last become
Thank you, Mr. President.