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UN Children's Forum
Children Are Heard at Issues Forum
By Suzanne Freeman

Delegates from the Children's Forum hold a press conference at the Manhattan Center in New York. From left are UNICEF moderator Nicole Amorosa, and delegates Li Yi, 18, China; Lotoya Barnaby, 17, Jamaica; and Yassar Al-Fraih, 17, Saudi Arabia. (Suzanne Freeman)

Meet the Delegates

For stories and pictures of individual delegates to both the Children's Forum and the UN Special Session on Children, click on the names below:

Meet Aliya Allie, 13, of South Africa
Meet Claire Bradley, 18, of Northern Ireland
Meet Darren Andrews., 15, Jamiaca
Meet Edis, 12, of Indonesia
Meet Leidy Johana, 14, Sierra Vargas, Columbia
Meet Tom Burke, 17, England

Before the UN Special Session on Children, the more than 300 young delegates to the session met for three days at a Children's Forum. The group held meetings and press conferences in a building on the opposite side of Manhattan from the imposing UN complex at 42nd Street and 1st Avenue. They spent three days preparing a statement to be presented to the UN General Assembly, giving their view of the state of the world's children, and offering their solutions.

"We hope all our views will be implemented," said Latoya Barnaby, 17, of Jamaica, during the forum. "We hope our voices will bring forth some sort of action from our governments to make change."

The delegates divided their concerns into eight major issues, assigning delegates to working groups on each issue. They first outlined the problems, then made a list of what the governments should do, and what they, as young advocates, should do to improve the lives of children around the world. Their work was compiled into a document that was read before the General Assembly of the UN at the opening of the Special Session on Children.

This declaration of children's rights was then discussed throughout the rest of the week, in committee meetings and closed negotiation sessions. The goal was to have every member nation of the UN sign the document. UNICEF would then be able to measure the success in each country over the next 10 years, of turning the written policy into reality in children's lives. UNICEF is the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, which was in charge of the special session.

"What we put together from this conference is meant to last from 10 to 12 years," said delegate Laura Hannant, 16, of Canada, at a press conference the first day of the special session. "This is going to be the voice of children from now for a long time. You heard our voices now. Are you going to keep listening?"