World leaders convene today for the three-day United Nations General Assembly Special Session for Children. Three thousand delegates from over 180 countries and 3,000 representatives from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) will consider new objectives and approaches to improve the condition of children over the next 15 years. Attendees will confront these sobering realities: 10 million children die each year from preventable diseases; over 120 million children, many of whom are girls, still do not have access to education; and more than one million children, primarily girls, are forced into the sex trade each year.
While the summit will address critical issues for children worldwide, it is not without controversy. The Bush Administration has vocally opposed language in the Summit declaration relating to the reproductive health of children and has repeatedly supported language that would exclude support for abortion counseling and services. When preparing for the summit, the Bush Administration made clear its view that the phrase “reproductive health services” in the declaration was an endorsement of abortion. The US has also opposed provisions in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and has refused to ratify the treaty. At issue, according to some members of Congress, is language that would give children more control over their healthcare. Opponents argue that children could elect to have healthcare procedures performed without parental consent. Ratified by 191 countries, however, the Convention is the most universally ratified treaty in history.
For more information, see the United Nations General Assembly Special Session for Children.