Implementing global goals for
children: Lessons from
History will judge the UN global conferences of the 1990s as landmarks of international efforts in the twentieth century to advance human rights and human development. Four of these conferences were at summit level and all involved senior representation from virtually every country in the world. The themes were lofty in their vision but down-to-earth in their human specifics – education for all, better health and nutrition for children, protecting the environment, human rights, reproductive health and family planning, poverty eradication, the advancement and empowerment of women, human settlements in an urbanizing world, food security for all. All of these priority themes were set in a frame of sustainable development, seeking and receiving government commitments but recognizing the role of community and non-government initiatives and especially important for the poorest countries, the need for international support.
Table 2.1 shows the list of the conferences, with their dates and participation. It is a remarkable list – remarkable for the range of topics covered, the vision of the goals endorsed, the practical commitments made and the process established for monitoring follow up. Beginning in 1996, the conferences were also brought into the mainstream of UN reform. Although major international conferences on development had been held in previous decades, especially in the 1970s, none were comparable – for size, level of political participation, specifics of commitments or breadth of follow-up.