Guyana committed to realising the rights of all its citizen - Minister Shadick at the UN Mission By Bina Mahabir
Guyana Chronicle
May 19, 2002

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NEW YORK: Guyana is committed to realising the rights of every Guyanese child, indeed, every Guyanese citizen, as declared by the country’s Constitution, Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Securities, Bibi Shadick informed her colleagues at the United Nations Mission.

The Minister was addressing delegates who attended the two-day Special Session on the `Convention on the Rights of the Child’, which was adopted more than 10 years ago by the UN.

The convention, which began May 8, was held at the UN Headquarters here in New York. It ended on Friday, May 10.

The Convention has become the most widely ratified international instrument, which formed the basis of national and regional plans of action on children.

Member countries of the UN that are signatories to the `Rights of the Child Act’ presented their individual countries’ national statements with regards to the status of the welfare of their countries’ children.

Delegates were charged with the responsibility of assessing and evaluating the condition of children in their respective countries after the implementation of the `Rights of the Child Act’.

After signing the `Rights of the Child Act’ member nations have to present a detailed report on the progress made for children in their individual countries at the UN Mission annually.

Delegates had to carefully review the progress made and goals achieved for the improvement of the lives of children in their respective countries.

Not only were the successes being highlighted, but also in cases of failures, member states had to pinpoint the reasons for the stagnation in the advancement of children’s rights.

Minister Shadick, who spearheaded Guyana’s delegation to the 27th Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Children, delivered her government’s report on the country’s children. For the first time, Guyana sent two youths to represent the country at the UN forum.

Working under the theme `World Fit for Children’, the Minister reminded the convention of the principles adopted by the `Convention of the Rights of the Child’ since its development over a decade ago. The focus was on the survival, protection and development of children around the world.

The fundamental principle of the Convention stated that children and adolescents, while enjoying equal and inalienable rights as human beings, need special care and protection for the achievement of their full potential.

Guyana’s national action plan for children
In delivering her national report at the forum, the Guyanese Minister told her counterparts of her government’s ongoing support for the sustained interventions for the benefit of the country’s children and adolescents.

She said that through the National Action Plan for Children, the key concerns of children and women have been kept alive on both the political and social agenda of national authorities and the achievement of identifiable goals were monitored in a timely fashion.

The National Action Plan for Children covers many areas of societal development, namely, the family, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and literacy. Children at risk, including the homeless and disabled and the legal and constitutional rights of the child are also a part of the Action Plan.

Though successes have been recorded in these areas, the Minister admitted that much more needs to be done for Guyana’s children, since the country is a developing country, faced with all the attendant socio-economic challenges.

She said that her government will maintain its current programme to provide basic sanitation and try to upgrade the water systems in urban areas, while expanding services in rural communities.

Guyana’s healthcare system
The Guyana government will continue to implement workable programmes, which serve to strengthen Guyana’s national health delivery system. The government’s objective is to expand primary, secondary and tertiary health care throughout the country.

Guyana has made impressive strides in the drastic reduction of infant mortality rates due to the improvement of immunisation coverage for all five antigens.

Shadick noted that the country’s infant mortality rates have been reduced by about a half, compared to statistics of the past ten years.

The Government of Guyana is encouraging more research and manufacturing of anti-retroviral drugs to accommodate the country’s growing number of HIV/AIDS infected people, especially among the younger populace.

The minister said that the increase in the manufacture of the AIDS drugs will facilitate the current programme at public hospitals for free medication to those affected by the killer disease, with particular emphasis on the prevention of mother to child transmission of the disease.

Free Education from nursery to university
Minister Shadick noted that the Government of Guyana is committed to providing free education from nursery to university for its young people, as stated in the country’s Constitution.

It has been acknowledged that the quality of and access to education could be further improved, she said, adding that, attention has been given to strengthening and expanding the educational infrastructure, particularly in rural communities.

The minister mentioned the literacy program, which was launched in 1996. The programme aimed at enhancing mechanical and critical reading skills, consultation skills and building self-confidence among Guyanese youngsters.

Currently, policies are implemented in schools to help reduce incidences of child truancies; increase the educational coverage of the country’s children; provide rehabilitation services to disabled children and their families and increase the coverage of early childhood.

Country’s national priorities
This year, the country’s national priorities were aimed at realising children’s rights to include the right to be identified as by a Birth Certificate. Also, the Government of Guyana has enacted a Children’s Bill as part of its attempt to harmonise the country’s national laws with that of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A clause of the Bill caters for the establishment of a Family Court with Supreme Court jurisdiction. Close attention is being given to the upgrading of the judicial processes for the de-institutionalisation of children. The country’s lawmakers are also considering the establishment of preventative and rehabilitative systems for children in conflict with the laws of the land.

Programmes for children in need of care and protection, abuse victims and child perpetrators, children and teenagers at risk and children with disabilities are also the government’s priorities.

Complex poverty in Guyana
Shadick stated that persistent poverty and its devastating impact on the lives the country’s children are a constant source of concern for her government. Poverty in Guyana is of a complex nature, she said.

Recently, poverty was the main subject of a National Development Strategy, aimed at improving the lot of all Guyanese.

The Minister pleaded with the international community not to turn a deaf ear to Guyana’s plight, but to help the South American country combat the many society ills caused by poverty in all strata of the larger community.

Guyana lauded the efforts made last April to increase international funds made available for the development of developing countries across the globe, she noted.

Shadick challenged the international community not to burden poor countries with the huge debt servicing obligations that these nations unfortunately incurred or else these poor countries would not be able to play an active role in their own national development.

She called on the international community to uplift the continued trade barriers imposed on exports of developing countries, so that global capital flows and investment would not be restricted to a handful of countries and region.

Guyana and a World Fit for Children
For Guyana, a `World Fit for Children’ would be built on the strong foundation of dignity, equal and inalienable human rights, freedom, justice, peace, social progress and economic development. It would be a world where global and national economic growth and development translates into social and economic wellbeing for all, asserted the minister.

Hence, there would be little need to set goals to reduce by half the more than one billion people, mostly women and children who live in poverty stricken condition. Instead of countries concentrating time, effort and money on developing affordable medical treatment for all, research and development would be focused on the social progress of the people.

There would be no breeding ground for the economic, sexual and other exploitation of children, noted the minister. In time, the plight of street children would fade away as families and individuals are provided with the socio-economic support and opportunities needed to live comfortable lives.

Guyana is confident that this global vision is indeed, achievable. With the firm commitment of democracy at all levels, respect for the rule of law and policies directed at promoting equity, the basis of socio-economic growth and development will be firmly laid.