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UN Representative Focuses on Needs of Guatemalan Children - 2002-03-02

U.N. representative Olara Otunu, who just returned from a mission in Guatemala, is urging the war-torn nation to address the needs of its children.

Civil war ravaged Guatemala for 36 years. The conflict ended only 6 years ago. Olara Otunu, the Special Representative to the U.N. Secretary-General for Children In Armed Conflicts, went to Guatemala to see how children are faring during the country's ongoing healing process.

Mr. Otunu says he addressed several issues with Guatamalan political leaders, including President Alfonso Portillo. The issue of adoption was of particular concern. "Especially adoption by parents outside Guatemala. We support strongly adoption, and we applaud parents who wish to adopt children from Guatemala. But we are concerned that the present arrangement allows for too many abuses. Therefore, I urged the government to ratify the Hague Convention on Adoption, which would bring local arrangements to international standards," Mr. Otunu says.

Mr. Otunu also addressed the issue of missing children with Guatemalan officials, and the establishment of a legal code concerning the protection of children.

Finally, he urged the Guatemalan government to invest generously in children and youth, specifically in the form of education initiatives.