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Conferences & UNGASS 2002

Statement by Mr. Miroslav Fuchs,  Deputy Minister of Labour & Social Affairs, on the occasion of debating the 2nd Periodic Report of the Czech Republic on Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination  of All Forms of Discrimination against Women New York, August

  • Statement by Mr. Miroslav Fuchs, Deputy Minister of Labour & Social Affairs, on the occasion of debating the 2nd Periodic Report of the Czech Republic on Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
    New York, August 2002

  • Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Brezina, Minister and Head of the Government Office of the Czech Republic at the 27th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children
    New York, 9 May 2002

  • Message by the President of the Czech Republic, H.E. Mr. Vaclav Havel, to the Participants of the 27th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children

  • Statement by Mr. Bedrich Moldan on behalf of the Czech Delegation at the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development
    New York, 1 February 2002


Address delivered by Head of the Delegation of the Czech Republic Mr. Miroslav Fuchs, Deputy-Minister of Labour & Social Affairs, on the Occasion of Debating the 2 nd Periodic Report of the Czech Republic on Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, August, 2002, New York

Honorable Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Committee, ladies & gentlemen,

At the outset I would like to express my great pleasure over the fact that the Government of the Czech Republic has been provided with the opportunity to present during this session of your Committee its information on the progress achieved so far in the area of the protection of the human rights of women according to the UN Convention. As the 2 nd Periodic Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has been submitted more than two years ago, in my speech I am going to focus the most significant changes that have taken place since the submission of the report.

It is my personal pleasure to be head of the Czech Government delegation today, because I was a member of the delegation of the Czech Republic during the presentation and discussion on its previous report in 1998. I believe, you have noted from the 2 nd Regular Report and the Additional information provided by the Government to you in the spring this year on your request, that there has been significant progress and development during the last 4 years in areas covered by the Convention. Certainly, the situation is far from to be perfect, but it is my Government's opinion that we are on good way to progress further in the near future.

As you can see, our delegation for today's deliberations have several members and now I would like to introduce you my colleagues who will assist to me and provide you answers to your additional questions:

  • Mrs. Dagmar Zelenková, Head of Section for Equality of Men and Women, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs,

  • Mrs. Jana Švecová, Director-General for Education from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports,

  • Mrs. Šteflová, Head of Section for Health Care, Ministry of Health,

  • Mr. Vit Schorm, representative of the Ministry of Justice, Agent of the CR Government before the European Court on Human Rights in Strasburg,

  • Ms. Petra Burčíková, senior expert in the Department for Human Rights of the Office of the Government, secretary of the Section for Discrimination against Women of the Governmental Council for HR,

  • Mrs. Šnajdrová, senior expert of the Department for Crime Prevention, Ministry of Interior, and

  • Mrs. Ivana Grollova, the 2 nd Secretary of the CR Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.

When you look at the list of our delegation, you can see, that my colleagues cover almost all areas, which might be of interest to you during our discussion on various policies and measures already taken or envisaged by the Government with the aim to promote and enhance the position of women in our society. I believe we will be able to provide you answers to all questions you may have today, to provide you additional information, materials and statistics that might me of your interest. Should there be any question that we would not be able to answer immediately today, we will communicate the information to the secretariat of the Committee as soon as possible - in order to be at your disposal for final assessment of the situation in our country and formulating your recommendations.

Honorable Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Committee, ladies & gentlemen,

Allow me to state at the beginning that recent 4 years were for the Czech Republic period during which the Government and the whole society has achieved outstanding progress in advancement of the women status in society as well as in implementing relevant international legal obligations. Apart from the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Czech Republic developed great effort to implement other UN Conventions concerning women's rights. It has also ratified the European Social Charter (1961) of Council of Europe and its Additional Protocol of 1988, It has improved implementation of several ILO Conventions (namely No 100 and 111), other conventions of the Council of Europe as well as both UN Covenants on Human Rights.

The key international political undertakings of the previous Government in this area has been the Conclusions of the 4 th World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, and the follow-up conclusions known as "Beijing + 5".

Moreover, the Czech Republic, within the framework of its preparation for the accession to the European Union, has been creating necessary legislative and institutional conditions for proper implementation of equal opportunities policy - based on the European Union principles, in particular those principles which apply to the area of employment.

The Czech Republic is currently finding itself in the period of crowning fundamental social and economic changes, essential for the transformation of the former Communist regime into a free civil society, based on democratic principles. Due to these developments, the Czech Republic is undergoing obvious changes in society as far as the understanding of human values and attitudes is concerned, which contribute to the positive shift in viewing the significance of practical human rights implementation, including women's rights.

The Government supports this trend by means of creating and enhancing legal as well institutional framework for application and enforcement of human rights. This apply to the equality between men and women, too.

It was in late 1997 when the Czech Government came to conclusion that its policy towards equality between men and women requires both systemic and co-ordinated implementation. This was derived from the conclusions of the Beijing Conference, from the requirements to implementation of the CEDAW Convention, as well as from the ongoing process of association with the European Union within the framework of which the Czech Republic, as a candidate country, was required to harmonize its legal system with that of the EU.

Since the most striking inequalities between men and women are traditionally found in labour market and social spheres, in January 1998 the Government charged with the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs to co-ordinate Government policy towards women. At the same time, the Government instructed the Ministry to draw up the national action plan for the advancement of equality between men & women. In April 1998, Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs submitted the said plan to the Government in the form of a Government programming document entitled "Government Priorities and Procedures in Enforcement of the Equality of Men and Women" (hereinafter referred to as Priorities). This document was primarily based on the Recommendations adopted at the Beijing Conference Recommendations and on conclusions adopted in January 1998 by the UN Committee on Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women as a result of the debate over the National Report on the Implementation of the Convention. The Government approved the "Priorities", resolving that the implementation thereof will be reviewed on a regular annual basis. The reviewing mechanism makes it possible to respond to current developments by modifying and up-dating the original measures; this, as a rule, implies fine-tuning or amending any original measures, introducing new measures, or, contrariwise, deleting measures already implemented. Government Priorities were most recently updated in May 2002.

In the interest of implementation of gender mainstreaming in all spheres of practical national policies, in May 2001 the Government instructed all Ministries to develop by the end of 2001 their own Departmental (sectorial) Priorities and Procedures in Enforcement of the Equality between Men and Women. The Ministries were also requested to set up at each Ministry gender "focal point" - one place (job) for a person who would look at all legal and policy proposals and make assessment from the possible impact on women or men. To promote equal opportunities in the field of employment, in March 2002, the Government adopted an updated version of the National Action Plan for Employment, the fourth pillar of which represents policy measure on equal opportunities in employment.

The range of traditional human rights protection institutions (courts) was in late 1998 extended to embrace the Government Human Rights Council and the Government Agent for Human Rights whose responsibilities include chairmanship of the said Council. In relation to the Government, both the Council and Human Rights Agent have advisory and initiative-presenting status. Apart from representatives of relevant Government departments and agencies, the Council is composed of permanent representatives of both NGOs and professional public.

The Council has several working committees, one of which is the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. This Committee is also composed partly from the Government officials and partly from non-governmental organization and results of its work are submitted to the Council and then to the Government itself. As a whole, the Council monitors the human rights observance with regard to undertakings arising from fundamental international human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Based on the results of its findings, the Council proposes to the Government relevant changes to be made in legislation as well as practice.

In 2000, another human rights protection institution was established, the Office of Public Human Rights Protector - an ombudsperson, whose principal responsibilities include monitoring of Public Administration in relation to the observance of individual human rights and encouraging the rectification of incorrect official procedures.

Another positive step addressing the status of women in Czech society was the establishment of the Government Council for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men as an advisory body of the Government (in October 2001). This initiative of the Government initiative was aimed at to eliminate imperfections of institutional nature related to the creation and enhancement of equal opportunities for men & women policy, and at setting up a platform for designing principal conceptual directions of this policy.

Membership of the Council is made up of persons representing Ministries (deputy-ministers), social partners, NGOs and professional public. The establishment of the Government Council for Equal Opportunities of Women and Men represents a significant step towards building up the institutional support for implementation of gender equality by gender mainstreaming.

Another outstanding initiative in the field of strengthening the institutional backing of equal opportunities policy is represented by the Ministry of Labour & Social Affairs project approved by the European Union Commission in April 2001 within the framework of PHARE 2001 Programme. This Project will include evaluation of the existing institutional mechanism for men & women equality advancement, as well as a proposal for its new model. In 2002-2003 the Project will be undertaken by Sweden, as a country the practical equality results of which are universally appreciated. The aim is to build up such an organizational structure that will make it possible to initiate, create, co-ordinate, carry out and promote the equal opportunities for men and women policy both at the national and local level.

With regard to women's status in political life, changes after the general elections of June 2002 represent a positive signal in the Czech society. Out of 200 newly elected Members of Parliament, women account for 34 mandates (17%), that has brought four more women into the Chamber of Deputies than in the preceding period. Two women have become vice-presidents of the Chamber. As early as at its July 2002 session, the newly elected Chamber resolved to establish a Family & Equal Opportunities Commission, thus demonstrating its interest in addressing this issue.

The men and women equality principle in access to executive positions in Government agencies and institutions is being implemented fairly slowly, resulting in insufficient representation of women at decision-making levels. Gender ratio of the current Government (July 2002) is more favorable than that of the previous in which no woman held any ministerial office. The current Government can boast two women Ministers: Minister of Health, and Minister of Education, Youth & Sports.

Women leaders head a number of other supreme national institutions such as National Statistical Bureau, the Supreme Court, National Prosecutor's Office, National Nuclear Safety Bureau, National Academy of Sciences. The share of women in political, public and managerial positions is, however, higher at local levels.

Within the process of national legal system improvements, human rights legislation has undergone fundamental changes. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is the key instrument of international law to protect the equality between men and women. Originally the Convention was adopted by former Czechoslovakia in 1987. Then, after the Czech Republic came into being in 1993, it became an integral part of the Czech legal system. In October 1999, the Optional Protocol to the Convention was approved, entering into force in the Czech Republic in May 2001. Likewise, the Czech Republic ranks among those countries that have responded to the conclusions of the Beijing Conference by striving to implement its objectives. As already stressed at the beginning, measures contained in the Beijing Action Platform, including the updated ones "Beijing + 5", represent a source of inspiration for developing our national policy of equal opportunities for men & women.

In the Czech Republic, formal equality of persons irrespective of sex is guaranteed by the Constitution. A mere constitutional embedding of this principle does not provide, on its own, individuals with sufficient guarantee of its everyday implementation and direct enforcement. Therefore, the principle of gender equality has so far been introduced into our legal system by means of revising individual acts. With respect to harmonization of the Czech legal system with the legislation of the European Union, the gender equality principle has been introduced into a number of laws and regulations, the positive trends being most tangible especially in labour legislation. One of the most prominent examples is the newly amended Employment Act that came into force on October 1, 1999; it defines more explicitly banning of gender-based discrimination in access to jobs and execution thereof; it also bans discrimination-based advertising. An extensive revision of the Labour Code, effective since January 1, 2001, contains similar anti-discriminatory provisions, detailing the equal treatment principle for men & women (equal pay, parental leave, compensations for victims of discrimination or sexual harassment, etc.). Furthermore, revised remuneration-related legislation (Wages Act and Salary Act), effective since January 1, 2001, explicitly contains the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value for men and women.

The position of plaintiffs in court proceedings relating to gender-based discrimination cases has been boosted in the revised Civil Court Proceedings Act (effective since January 1, 2001) by shifting the burden of proof from plaintiff upon defendant. Yet, another revision of the Employment Act, effective since May 28, 2002, has introduced an option for adoption of the positive (affirmative) actions in favour of disadvantaged groups on the labour market (for instance, women after parental leave) to be used as one of Active Employment Policy tools; other provisions prohibit indirect discrimination as well as instruction to discrimination.

In early 1998, after having debated the initial report of the Czech Republic on the implementation of the Convention, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed in its conclusions a concern that the Czech legislation does not provide for a definition of discrimination. This imperfection should be remedied within the framework of a newly drafted general Act on the protection against discrimination that should be submitted to the Government by the end of 2002. There is expectation that adoption of one "umbrella" Act would provide for the best protection against discrimination applicable to all persons, irrespective of their sex, race and ethnic origin, belief, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation.

Madame Chairperson, Members of the Committee, ladies & gentlemen,

Having outlined the most important changes in the institutional support to the policy of equal opportunities for women and men, as well as the relevant legislation, I would now like to address the principal problems faced by the Czech Republic in the process of implementation of the CEDAW Convention. At the same time I would like to inform you about the steps the Czech Government has taken to put the undertakings arising from the Convention into everyday practice.

The main obstacle hindering the progress of equal treatment principle can be termed as a still prevailing low level of public awareness related to equality between men & women. Public meaning cannot easily get rid of traditional stereotypes, related to the role of women and men. Though the legal framework has been built, there is still a problem of full incorporation of legally embedded rights in everyday life. Consequently, the outstanding priority in the area of equal opportunities is to back up the implementation of the equality in practice.

To make this process effective, the Government endeavors to involve both women and men in the advancement of the equality principle. At the same time it seeks to not treat the equality as a so-called women's issue, but to treat it as a gender issue that concerns also men. The Government firmly believes that the prerequisite of fulfilling the aims of its policy in this area is the involvement of general public, including NGOs and social partners, and strengthening mutual cooperation between the government and civic society. Both education and awareness campaigns represent the first stage in the effective application of tools and methods of eliminating the gender-based discrimination, in particular, methods of affirmative actions and gender mainstreaming.

In April 2001, the Government instructed all its members to incorporate, where appropriate, positive (affirmative) measures in relevant drafted legislation. Shortly after that, the most important piece of legislation reflecting this task became reality through the already mentioned revised Employment Act. This Act contains a provision (effective since May 28, 2002) laying down positive actions in support of equal treatment for men & women with regard to access to jobs, retraining, professional education, and specialized courses. Another Act (to enter into force on January 1, 2003) that provides for positive actions in favour of underrepresented sex with regard to job recruitment or promotion, is the Act on Employment Conditions of Civil Servants on Local Level.

Madame Chairperson, distinguished Members of the Committee,

Let me now to characterize the current situation in the Czech Republic, and measures adopted by the Czech Government to suppress violence against women.

The Czech Republic considers the issue of effective suppression of trafficking in women the matter of urgent international importance. Forcing women into prostitution represents one of the principal domains of international organized crime. Not only has the Czech Republic become a country of origin out of which women are being sold, but it is also a transit country, and, in recent years, even a destination country. Czech legislation reserves severe penalties for those engaged in procuration, rape and trafficking in human beings; the main emphasis is, however, focused on preventive strikes against trafficking in human beings as well as on other activities combating international crime.

In many cases, violence against women is identified in families. Domestic violence is overwhelmingly directed against women, but family violence can also affect weaker family members such as children, the elderly, and the disabled. For many years, domestic violence was in my country considered a taboo topic, being perceived by the public as a more or less private problem of marginal significance. In recent years, the situation has been gradually changing. The issue of domestic violence has been made prominent, particularly by non-governmental women's organizations and the Government has also manifested initiative in that it is ready to contribute both to a change in public attitude and to prevention and solutions of domestic violence consequences.

The aim of the public awareness campaign on unacceptability of domestic violence, launched in 2001, was to appeal to the public, to openly identify the problem, and to contribute to a fundamental change in public opinion. In April 2002, an interministerial working group was set up under the leadership of Ministry of Interior for the introduction & operation of interdisciplinary teams, involving health care, social, legal and police assistance in detecting and prosecuting cases of violence against women. Membership of the Group embraces both representatives of government institutions and NGOs.

In the existing Czech legislation, domestic violence is not listed as a specific criminal offence; however, it can be punished as assault and battery, restricting of personal freedom, extortion, rape, homicide, or, where children are involved, as maltreatment of a charge. The Government has been preparing a new Penal Code, and domestic violence ranks among those negative phenomena to be specifically dealt with and provided for in the new legislation. The draft of the new Penal Code is to be submitted to the Government by the end of 2002. Pursuant to the amended Criminal Proceedings Act, domestic violence offenders can be prosecuted even without consent of their victim; this provision entered into force on January 1, 2002.

In cases of domestic violence, victims can if necessary to resort to the "asylum houses"; however, it is more and more evident that it should be the aggressor not the victim of domestic violence, who should leave the household, as is legitimately demanded by both NGOs and domestic violence victims.

In the area of suppression of violence against women, both the Government and NGOs undertake a number of information and public awareness activities; direct assistance is being provided for victims of domestic violence by means of emergency telephone lines, safe shelters (asylum houses), counseling services, etc.

The Government provides substantial subsidies to cover the operation of safe shelters and counseling centers as well as training of law enforcement officers, physicians, safe shelter (asylum houses) workers, teachers, etc. In combating domestic violence, non-governmental organizations have a major role to play.

In connection with what has already been stated, I should like to point out the fact that the Czech Government considers violence against women a gross violation of fundamental human rights of women, which shall not be tolerated.

Madame chairperson, ladies & gentlemen,

To conclude my exposition, let me briefly mention a number of socio-economic aspects that play a significant role in determining the status of women both on the labour market and in the family.

In the Czech Republic, there has been for decades traditionally high employment rate among women and this trend continued for last 12 years; for instance, the rate of economic activity of middle-aged women (40-49 years) represents the figure of 91%. Thus, labour market has been adjusted to using female labour force that remains its very flexible part.

However, in the Czech society the division of male and female roles in family has still been deeply stereotyped, according to which a woman is responsible for housekeeping, childcare and senior family members' care whereas man is supposed to secure his family in financial terms. Living standard of a average Czech family is, however, based on the earnings of both husband and wife. Therefore there are relatively few women who stay at home or take up a part time job. This situation results in doubled load placed upon women, who are required to cope with both their job and their family.

For a fairly long time, these adverse women-related consequences were compensated for by a high degree of legal protection at work, which sometimes resulted in a distinct negative tendency of employers to hire men rather than women. A sudden reduction of that protection of women or suspension of social advantages, however, represents a fairly sensitive problem. A principle instrument to be used for addressing this apparent deadlock is to be found in consistent creation and promotion of equal opportunities for both men and women.

Particularly important is promoting legislative measures and changes in public opinion towards more active involvement of men in family life. Proportional share in family duties - especially in relation to children - hand-in-hand with building conditions favorable for reconciliation of family and professional life, represent a significant step on the way to full gender emancipation. Positive changes in attitudes associated with gender equality not only in society but also in family are already apparent, especially in younger generation.

The new Czech Government, that was set up after the recent parliamentary elections and which yesterday received the confident of the Parliament, is going to support various measures that are focused on reconciliation between the family and professional life. The Government will thus promote equality between women and men, in the field of employment, politics and in society as a whole.

Drawing on what has been stated earlier let me close my speech by emphasizing the key role of international co-operation when formulating and advancing national policy in the very sensitive area of gender equality. Thanks to such co-operation and directives arising from both international legal instruments and current international political commitments, the Czech Republic has been fairly successful in identifying and accepting ideological fundaments of a policy that, through its implementation, will hopefully provide both sexes the solid guarantee of mutually fair individual development. By this guarantee the Government will, at the same time, allow both women and men to make their life aspirations come true.

Honorable Chairperson, ladies & gentlemen,

In my speech, I strove to introduce you to at least some changes in the area of women's rights protection that have taken place since the submission of the 2nd Periodic Report.

In the coming hours, the delegation of Czech experts is now ready to answer your questions, having the intention of giving a complete and objective picture of the position of women in the Czech Republic.

Thank you for your attention


Statement by H.E. Mr. Karel Brezina, Minister and Head of the Government Office of the Czech Republic at the 27th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children

Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Czech delegation I would like to express my congratulations to all those who have been instrumental in organising this session. We are confident that the personal commitment of all of us to the cause of children will make this Special Session a success. It will reinforce our efforts to realise the goals of the World Summit for Children and will focus our attention also on the new goals, proposed as a reflection of the changing nature of challenges facing children of the world at the beginning of the 21st century. The Czech Republic views these targets as an essential contribution to our progress towards the full implementation of the Millenium Declaration.

I have the honour to bring with me a personal message from President Václav Havel addressed to you, the participants of this Special Session. Copies of this message are at your disposal.

Mr President,

The World Summit for Children in 1990 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child represented major turning points towards a joint commitment for planning and action in support of children around the world. The World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children and its Plan of Action were also an important cornerstone for the advancement of the status of children, protection of their rights as the main means of securing their well-being.

Preparations for this Special Session, including the completion of the Czech Republic's end-decade national review report, provided our Government with an excellent opportunity to examine what had been accomplished and what has yet to be resolved. The experience and comments of citizens and non-governmental organisations to this draft national report were helpful and proved the significance and necessity of mutual respect and co-operation among the Government, civil society and the private sector over the complex issues of sustainable social development.

The impact of the conclusions of the World Summit for Children has been reflected in many aspects of our policies concerning children. The Czech Republic welcomes, in particular, the coming into force of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, one on the involvement of children in the armed conflict, and the other on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. It is my honour to inform you that the Czech Republic has ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2001, as the fourteenth State-Party. The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography is now in the process of its ratification. Our Government appreciates the ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour as an extremely important step of the international community towards the protection of all children's rights and the final total elimination of child labour. Therefore the Czech Republic ratified this Convention in 2001 and by the end of 2002 will hopefully finalise also the ratification of the ILO Convention No. 138 on the Minimum Age.

Since the World Summit, a number of measures have been taken in terms of new legislation, government and ministerial decisions related to children and families. In 1998 the Government of the Czech Republic established its Human Rights Council, which became a consulting and co-ordinating body for issues connected with the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the jurisdiction of the Czech Republic. One of the 8 sections of this Council deals with issues related to the rights of the child according to the CRC (Convention of Rights of the Child). In 1999 the Government approved the Guidelines of the Government Policy toward the Young Generation until the year 2002. It thereby accepted responsibility for the development of the young generation and for creating conditions for its broad participation in the social, political and economic life of our country. In this context, the Government also created a temporary body - National Committee for the Family, Children and Youth -, headed on the ministerial level and involving representatives of governmental as well as non-governmental institutions. The objective of the Committee was to assist the Government in drafting its pro-family policy and creating a system of measures supportive to children and families in difficult situations.

My Government welcomes the focus of the Report of the Secretary-General as well as the focus of the Special Session's draft final document on the core challenges such as poverty eradication, prevention of armed conflict, protection from violence, discrimination and the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Government of the Czech Republic places special emphasis on the children's right for protection from abuse and violence and for quality education. We are convinced that the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols should be an underlying framework for our future actions in this direction.

Evaluation of the fulfilment of our goals should be performed regularly at all levels, based on comparable and transparent internationally agreed indicators, to enable Governments, regions and societies to exchange good examples, share experience and plan mutually supportive co-operation.

At the end let me express our appreciation for UNICEF and other organisations who have made a significant contribution to promoting rights and the well-being of children and our special thanks to UNICEF for the work it has done in preparing this Special Session.

Thank you for your attention.


Message by the President of the Czech Republic, H.E. Mr. Vaclav Havel, to the Participants of the 27th United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my most cordial greetings to the 27th UN General Assembly Special Session on Children and to wish you every success in your deliberations.

The World Summit for Children, organized in this city 10 years ago, followed unprecedented success achieved by the international community: most countries in the world had, within just a few months, acceded to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Children, which exhaustively and precisely defined threats to which the rights of children are exposed throughout the world. I am proud to have had the honor to sign this Convention as the representative of the Czech Republic. Together, we signed it to confirm our commitments resulting from the World Declaration on Child Survival, Protection and Development.

Now it is time for review and consideration about whether or not we have managed to honor the commitments stated in these documents, by which we expressed our common concern about the future of the next generations and our common responsibility for them.

Over the last ten years, we have seen much work to improve the position of children by the UN and UNICEF, as well as by governments and non-governmental organizations.

What we cannot ignore, however, is that many of the problems persist, and that there are new threats to the lives and healthy development of children. There are still too many children suffering from hunger, malnutrition and diseases; too many children becoming victims of violence and armed conflicts. Little success has been achieved in the fight against child slave labor, child prostitution and pornography. Millions of children have poor access to healthcare and education. There is still an enormous amount of work to be done.

Children are born in a world they cannot influence. This world is being formed by us, adults, and we are responsible for what is happening in it. It is our paramount duty to join our forces to ensure that children can live dignified, fully-fledged lives in a world for which they, too, will assume responsibility one day.

I believe firmly that your meeting will make progress towards that goal.

[Václav Havel]

To the participants of the 27th UN General Assembly Special Session on Children
New York
United States of America


Statement by Mr. Bedrich Moldan on behalf of the Czech Delegation at the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development

Mr. Chairman,

The Czech Republic's evaluation of what happened since Rio in terms of promoting sustainable development is in general positive. Of course, we may say that the World is no more on a sustainable path of development than ten years ago, and it is probably true. But we are convinced that Rio substantively helped to slow down some negative trends and potentially revert them through the Rio-inspired action, including by all "shareholders". We saw progress in number of areas identified in Agenda 21 and we are pleased to have been able to contribute, in all modesty, to this progress - e.g. by organizing several CSD-related workshops. We saw the principles from Rio Declaration finding their way into new global and other agreements. And we saw the very concept of sustainable development getting firmly rooted in international, regional, national and local arenas, and we saw this concept maturing, embracing in more balanced manner all its three pillars.

The stress on positive evaluation above is not to indicate that everything went right since Rio. We definitely do not tend to ignore the serious gaps or even failures in meeting commitment and expectations raised in Rio - most notably in the area of the "means of implementation". Some of these failures can be probably attributed to the very dynamics of the globalizing World over past 10 years including all the new challenges, but some of them are clearly linked to a lack of political will and longer-term visions. The WSSD has a potential to change this.

A fair assessment of what happened after Rio is in the report of the Secretary-General and my delegation takes this opportunity to thank him for that. This report, as well as reports from regional preparatory meetings, is something we can, and we have to build upon, when approaching the assessment part of the Rio+10 exercise. In any case, we should not negotiate the past, we should not try to re-negotiate Agenda 21, our "Old Testament". Rather, we should focus on future - an if I may follow the metaphor - on a "New Testament" we are looking for.

Mr. Chairman,

Coming to what we expect from the Summit, my delegation strongly believes that there is quite simple recipe for success: to accept - at the highest level of political authority - that "development" and "sustainable development" are the same. "Sustainable" is not just one of the adjectives of development, but its true identity. This alone would be a great achievement. However, it would not be very meaningful without translating this general vision into practical terms and actions. Here again, the report of the Secretary-General, and its Chapter VIII with the ten identified areas, provides us with wise guidance on how we approach the complexity of challenges in further implementing Agenda 21. We therefore support the idea to model our outcome around the areas outlined in the report.

In this, as in other areas, we are very much in line with the position of the EU, presented yesterday by the distinguished representative of Spain. We align ourselves with that statement, and it allows me, Mr. Chairman, just briefly touch upon few items of particular concern to my country.

First, the issue of governance. Indeed, we find it difficult to overestimate the importance of this issue. If we are serious about sustainable development and its increasingly all-embracing nature, we should not shy away from attempts to substantively review the whole institutional architecture relevant to the three pillars of sustainable development - at global, regional, national and local levels. This may include the "core" bodies inside the UN like the CSD, UNDP, UNEP (with its own process of strengthening as a part of the whole picture), other subsidiary bodies of ECOSOC including regional commissions, the follow-up processes of Millennium Summit and major UN conferences, other members of the UN family, international financial institutions etc., and - last but not least - partnership arrangements with the "major groups". The WSSD is a great opportunity to bring more coherence, synergy and efficiency into this area and as it may not be realistic to expect agreement on all the necessary changes in the coming months, the Summit should give clear direction how to proceed in this area.

Second, we would like to highlight - very much in line with number of stakeholders we heard over last few day - areas like biodiversity, freshwater management, energy, transport or agriculture which are but few examples of core sustainable development areas "par excellence" as they touch equally upon all three pillars of sustainable development and require integrated, interdisciplinary approach.

Third, and this again comes reinforced by multistakeholder dialogue, we would like to stress the importance of capacity building, as well as the role of science, education and awareness raising. The scientific and technology community faces enormous challenge in deepening the scientific understanding of sustainable development, providing authoritative advice for decision-making, including in areas of measurements and monitoring, or elaborating principles of sustainable development impact assessment, and re-shaping its own institutional structures and mechanisms to this effect. As concerns education, we emphasize the role of education for sustainable development: this role can hardly be overestimated and should be fully recognized in the Summit outcome. We also support the idea of developing sustainable development curricula.

Mr. Chairman,

While we are fully in favour of decentralizing and regionalizing of our efforts in pursuit of the goals of sustainable development, which could present specific packages for individual geographic areas, we strongly appeal not to loose focus on global issues. Here, we believe, among others, that the notion of "global public goods" deserves greater attention.

Finally, we voice our support to the idea of the Global Deal, although this idea still needs more clarity and elaboration.

Mr. Chairman, let me assure you that the Czech Republic looks forward to the coming months and the hard work before us: the work which - we strongly hope - will bring principal results and make the Summit a success.

Thank you.