Statement by Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, at the at the Commemorative High Level Plenary Meeting devoted to the follow-up to the outcome of the Special Session on Children

Baki İlkin 12.12.2007
Mr. President,
Excellencies and distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Children,

It is my distinct pleasure to address you today, at the "Commemorative High-Level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-Up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children".

Five years ago, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children was held with the noble aim of creating "a world fit for children". Today, we are here to evaluate how far we have come in actually achieving this aim and what remains to be done.

We all know that safeguarding and improving the well being of children are among the most profound responsibilities of humanity since investing in children is investing in our common future. With this mindset and as a country with a vast child and adolescent population of 22 million, we believe this meeting is both timely and much needed.

Distinguished Participants,

The Secretary General's report on progress towards the goals of "A World Fit for Children" as well as the statistical review issued by UNICEF as part of their Progress for Children series indicate that we are on the right track. It is especially encouraging that the Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most universal human rights treaty. At the same time, however, it is also true that we are still far from achieving our end goal. There remains ample room for further progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Turkey aligns herself with the statement made on behalf of the EU. At the same time, allow me at this point to briefly update you on what Turkey has achieved regarding children's issues since the Special Session.

As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Turkey signed the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts. The Optional Protocols were ratified on August 19, 2002 and on May 4, 2004 respectively.

Very recently, on October 25, 2007, Turkey signed the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse at the beginning of the 28th Conference of the European Ministers of Justice. The Convention is of great value since it for the first time criminalizes sexual abuse, which is one of the most damaging offences against the children's physical and mental dignity.

Turkey has also undertaken a comprehensive review of its domestic legal framework. In this respect relevant parts of the Turkish Civil Code, Labor Code, Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Code on Enforcement of the Penalties and Security Measures, Child Protection Code and the Code on Persons with Disabilities were amended in line with the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

On the other hand, our cooperation with UNICEF continues successfully. The Country Program Action Plan for the term 2006 - 2010 is approaching its mid-term and we will undertake a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Plan in cooperation with UNICEF. Here, I should also add that we are steadily increasing our voluntary financial contribution to the UNICEF budget and projects in line with our emergence as a donor country in recent years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you would see from this brief summary, Turkey exerts great effort in fulfilling the MDGs and the objectives put forward in the "A World fit for Children" resolution of the General Assembly. At this point, I would like to make a few additional remarks with a view to highlighting the progress made specifically on the main topics of this meeting:

First, regarding the promotion of healthy lives, we have achieved significant reduction in the infant and under-five mortality as well as maternal mortality rates.

In addition, progress has been made in the betterment of access to affordable health services before and after the birth, eradication of child malnutrition and diseases like poliomyelitis, tuberculosis and diphtheria. For instance, since 1998, no case of poliomyelitis has been observed in Turkey. There is also no death case related with malaria. Hence, we are close to achieving our commitment in this respect.

With an amendment to the social security system in 2006, all children have been granted with the right to receive treatment, consultation and support services from our relevant agencies.

One of the most damaging challenges of today's world is combating HIV/AIDS, as stipulated by the sixth Millennium Development Goal.The studies pursued by our Ministry of Health indicate that the number of children under 15 years of age carrying HIV/AIDS is 51. The number increases to 59 and 305 for age groups 15 - 19 and 20 - 24 respectively. It is for sure that the accurate number of people carrying HIV/AIDS is greater than what the statistics tell us. However the rate is still well below the international average. Moreover, the increasing public awareness about HIV/AIDS is a promising factor with respect to meeting our commitments.

The second area I would like to touch upon is education. Indeed, as rightfully stated in "A World Fit for Children" resolution, education stands as one of the cornerstones in the path towards eradication of poverty and child labour and promoting democracy, peace, tolerance and development as well.

In line with the Millennium Development Goals, we have a commitment to achieve the universal primary education and eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2015. In the light of these goals and within the context of the strategies put forward at the UN Special Session on Children, Turkey intensified its efforts in increasing the literacy rate of children with a special focus on the girl-child.

The campaign of "Let's Go to School, Girls! - Haydi Kızlar Okula!", led by Turkish Ministry of Education and UNICEF, is a clear example of these efforts. This inter-sectoral campaign led to the enrolment of approximately 230.000 girls in primary education in the period of 2003 - 2006 as well as some 115.000 boys. Also since the launch of the said campaign, 100.000 new classrooms have been built and made available for use.

Needless to say, we have much to do to meet the Millennium Development Goals. However, achievements on the ground, the public awareness about the children's issues and determination of our Government to improve the living standards of the children are clear indications of our ambition in this field.

Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,

Turkey also takes pride in dedicating a specific day to children. Indeed, every year on 23rd of April, we are joined by children from all over the world in celebrating the Childen's Day. This date marks the inauguration of the Turkish Parliament in 1920 and thus signifies the importance attached to children in our country.

In this regard, I would like to conclude my remarks by sharing with you the timeless words of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, which, I believe, summarizes the gist of our efforts today:

"We love the children, because they are the continuation of our very existence. In each and every child, we find the fulfillment of our longing to reach eternity."

Thank you Mr. President.