Tuvalu Statement to the UN Special Session on Children,
New York, May 8-10 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted and honored to participate and speak, on behalf of the
Government and people of Tuvalu at the UN General Assembly Special Session
Tuvalu is committed to the fundamental rights of the child as enshrined in
the Bill of Rights within the Constitution of Tuvalu and, likewise to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child to which it acceded in 1995.
Consistent with the principles contained therein, Tuvalu wishes to endorse
the outcome document of this Special Session, which shall provide a solid
framework towards achieving the goals of the Convention and of the UN
In Tuvalu, as in other Pacific island societies, we value the fundamental
importance of family and culture to the upholding of primary
responsibility for the protection, upbringing and development of children.
We therefore need to not only recognize the important role played by
family and traditions, but also to consider means to strengthen these
traditional institutions and practices by rendering appropriate assistance
to parents, families and communities so that children can grow and develop
in a safe and stable environment, and in an atmosphere of happiness, love
Significant progress has been achieved in the promotion of child welfare
in Tuvalu since the World Summit for Children in 1990. In the area of
health, improved programs on maternal - child health and immunization have
resulted in reduced infant and under-five mortality rates and as well as
better access to drinking water and sanitation.
Despite the progress made, a number of challenges remain. Most seriously
is the urgent need to improve quality medical services. The acute need for
overseas patient referrals is adding strain to our meager financial
resources. This is further aggravated by the high cost of medical
supplies, especially vaccines. We believe that a regional approach towards
the procurement of pharmaceuticals would be more cost-effective.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is of great concern to my country. The incidence of
HIV/AIDS is highest among our seafarers who have gone overseas to work on
merchant boats and are contracted with the killer virus abroad. Although
our small economy has greatly benefited from the income earned and
remitted back home by our seamen, it is through this particular group of
our community that Tuvalu is exposed to the HIV/AIDS threat. Many of these
seafarers have families, including children to take care at home, and one
can imagine the devastating impact this will have on families of those who
return home with the killer virus. We share the urgent need to combat this
killer disease, particularly on measures to reduce the incidence of
HIV/AIDS among the more vulnerable groups, including children and
seafarers. We therefore welcome the establishment of a global fund to
combat HIV/AIDS as agreed to at the last UN Special Session.
Universal access to basic education is a key priority for Tuvalu, and
significant progress has been made. However, we are concerned about the
decline in the quality and standards of education in our schools. This
decline is linked to a combination of factors, particularly the inadequacy
of human and financial resources. To address these issues, a national
education forum will be convened later this year and to be followed by a
round table meeting with development partners to determine appropriate
The progress achieved in these areas has been made possible through the
support of donors and the UN and its specialized agencies to which we
extend our appreciations. In addition, international and regional
cooperative arrangements in certain areas have provided Small Island
Developing States such as Tuvalu with more cost effective programs. In
education for example, the University of the South Pacific based in
neighboring Fiji provides Tuvalu with tertiary educational opportunities,
as Tuvalu cannot afford to run a university all on its own, given its size
and resources. These institutional cooperative arrangements at the
international and regional levels need to be recognized and further
strengthened, in order to complement national development efforts,
particularly for small island nations such as Tuvalu, which suffer greatly
from the lack of resources and economies of scale.
A country that has also been active in the promotion of the rights and
welfare of children in many parts of the world but which is excluded from
the United Nations and its agencies, is the Republic of China on Taiwan.
This contribution by the ROC needs to be properly acknowledged and
recognized. We hope that the international community will support the ROC
in its resolve to participate in the work and activities of the United
Nations designed to promote the rights and welfare of children.
The security along with the future well being of the children of Tuvalu,
like many low-lying Small Island Developing States, will be seriously
compromised by the impact of globalization and the threats of climate
change and sea level rise. Tuvalu’s capacity to cope with and to take full
advantage of opportunities offered by globalization is severely limited.
Our children need assistance to develop their full potential to be able to
participate meaningfully in a globalized world.
The vulnerability of Tuvalu to the effects of global warming, particularly
sea level rise, deserves urgent action. It must be considered on
humanitarian grounds. In the event that rising seas, as reported by the
Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others submerge our
islands, we would inevitably become environmental refugees in our own
land. Where then is the security and future of our children? We appeal to
the international community, particularly the industrialized nations to
take immediate actions to save our world from the ominous impact of global
The implementation of the Declaration and Plan of Action for Children
requires renewed political will and commitment if this Special Session is
to succeed in truly creating a world fit for children. Within its
capacity, Tuvalu will exert its efforts to achieve these goals for the
benefit of children.
I thank you, Mr President.
“Tuvalu mote Atua” (Tuvalu for God)