| Summary - 1993 State of the World's Children, UNICEF |
The importance of the Convention, the Summit goals, and the national programmes of action that have been drawn up should neither be overestimated nor underestimated. At the moment they remain, for the most part, promises on paper. But when, in the mid-1980s, over 100 of the world's political leaders formally accepted the goal of 80% immunization by 1990, that, too, was just a promise on paper. Today, it is a reality in the lives of tens of millions of families around the world.
One lesson to be learned from that achievement is that formal political commitments at the highest levels are necessary if available solutions are to be put into action on a national scale. But a second lesson is that such commitments will only be translated into action by the dedication of the professional services; by the mobilization of today's communications capacities; by the widespread support of politicians, press, and public; and by the reliable and sustained support of the international community. Most of the countries that succeeded in reaching the immunization goal succeeded primarily because large numbers of people and organizations at all levels of national life became seized with the idea that the goal could and should be achieved. Many developing countries could provide examples, but it will be sufficient to cite the case of Bangladesh: against formidable difficulties, one of Asia's poorest and most populous countries succeeded in lifting its level of immunization coverage from only 2% in 1985 to 62% in 1990. "Never in the country's history," wrote a UNICEF officer in Dhaka, "had so many groups come together for a single social programme: the President, eight social sector ministries, parliamentarians, senior civil servants, journalists, TV and radio, hundreds of non-governmental organizations, social and youth clubs, religious leaders, film and sports stars and local business leaders all worked successfully towards a common goal."
The question for the years immediately ahead is whether people and organizations in all countries and at all levels are prepared to breathe similar life into new goals that have been agreed on, and into the national programmes of action that have been drawn up for achieving them.
Many hundreds of organizations, especially in the developing world, are already beginning to respond to this challenge. In particular, many have come forward in support of the commitment made by their political leaders to achieve basic social goals by the end of this century. In some 70 countries, people's organizations of one kind or another have worked with governments in drawing up national programmes of action for achieving those goals.
These efforts are just a beginning; and when measured against the demands of the task in hand they are still only a very weak beginning. Not hundreds of organizations but thousands, not thousands of people but millions, will need to give their support to this cause if it is to become a matter of national and international priority.
To maintain the political momentum that has been generated, nothing less is now required than a worldwide strengthening of the basic needs movement to the point where it begins to exert the same kind of pressure as is today being brought to bear for the protection of the environment.
Such pressure will not be easy either to create or to sustain. A movement to overcome the worst aspects of poverty, and particularly to protect children, has no obviously powerful constituency and no immediate vested interest to appeal to. The environmental and women's movements are, in varying degrees, becoming everyone's concern, for the obvious reason that almost everyone is directly touched in one way or another by both of these issues. A movement to meet basic human needs will not succeed unless it, too, becomes everyone's concern. And to achieve that, the complex realities of common cause must also become more widely known and understood.
None of the great issues that are assuming priority today - the cause of slowing population growth, the cause of achieving equality for women, the cause of environmentally sustainable development, the cause of political democracy - will or can be realized unless the most basic human needs of the forgotten quarter of the earth's people are met. This cause, too, must therefore become the concern of all. Only by this degree of popular participation, by the practical and political energies of literally millions of people and thousands of organizations, will the new commitments and the promises of the 1990s be given a priority in national life. And only by such means will a new age of concern be born.