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UN Schedules Special Session on Children for May - 2002-04-26

Sixty-five heads of state and over 300 children are expected in New York City next month to attend the U.N. Special Session on Children. Carol Bellamy, the head of the U.N. Children's Fund, UNICEF, was in Geneva Friday to discuss the upcoming session. Ms. Bellamy has said issues of child mortality, AIDS, exploitation and poverty will be high on the agenda.

The special session runs from May 8-10. It will be preceded by a three day children's forum that will be attended by 300 children from all over the world. UNICEF chief Carol Bellamy has said young people will also play a prominent part in the General Assembly discussions.

"I think this is the first time in U.N. history children will address the General Assembly at the opening plenary. Children will address the three round tables that will take place and involve heads of state and heads of governments largely in dialogue," Ms. Bellamy said.

Ms. Bellamy said former South African President Nelson Mandela and Microsoft Corporation Chairman Bill Gates will discuss the involvement of the private sector in improving the lives of children.

The special session on children originally was scheduled to take place in mid-September but was re-scheduled after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Ms. Bellamy said she expects the violence in the Middle East will be discussed within the context of violence against children. "It seems to me that investing in children, trying to make sure that children grow up in a less violent world, trying to make sure that children do at least have the opportunity to go to school, that fewer children die before the age of five - these are all ways of creating a world where one would hope there would be more tolerance and less violence," she said.

The final document that the U.N. special session will consider includes 21 proposed goals that could have a far-reaching impact on the well being of children around the world. The proposals offer suggestions for reducing infant and maternal mortality, expanding access to clean water and sanitation, and establishing universal primary education. In addition, the final document also calls for a special focus on the problem of AIDS.