Item 380 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the National Programme of Action for Children and Report on Child Poverty

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Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the National Programme of Action for Children and Report on Child Poverty


  • 1996-05-31 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Website

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Launch of National Programme of Action for Children and Report on Child Poverty

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  • English

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Paragraph beginning: "Finally, effective implementation requires a reliable monitoring and information system"
Sentence in web text: "Improving the welfare of our children should become as much a part of the New Patriotism as success on the sporting field and progress in overcoming the divisions of the past. "
Changes made: "New Patriotism" changed to "new patriotism"



Honourable Ministers;
Members of the diplomatic corps;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Today is an important milestone for our nation and its children. Building on the steps that government has already taken, the National Programme of Action for Children will give concrete meaning to the call by the 1990 World Summit for Children to give children's essential needs a first call on society's resources.

It will give practical expression to the obligations which South Africa assumed by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on June 16th last year. It will make a reality of the injunction in our new Constitution to make the best interests of the child paramount.

To reach this point has required the co-operation of several Ministries, departments and organisations. They have worked hand-in-hand with our international partners, in particular UNICEF and the Nordic Countries, whose support we deeply appreciate.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend all those involved for their dedication to our children and the spirit of partnership that has informed their work. Congratulations! You have created a sound framework to guide us in one of the most important challenges facing our nation.

Our children are our nation's future. Prospects for development are seriously undermined by the kind of large-scale deprivation of children that South Africa has experienced. On the other hand investing in their health, nutrition and education not only improves our children's quality of life - the gains reverberate into future generations.

Having a specific integrated programme to ensure the survival, protection and development of South Africa's children is therefore a vital element in building an economically dynamic and healthy nation. Children can be our spearhead for attacking poverty, reinforcing human rights, and accelerating economic growth and development.

Such a programme will also help alleviate the urgent plight of the children of today, the principal victims of yesterday's neglect of the majority of South Africa's people.

The report commissioned by our RDP Office starkly details the dreadful legacy of that neglect. Its grim statistics should jolt us into renewed determination to act.

We have the resources, if we use them wisely, to change the situation. There is no reason for our society to allow one out of every eight children born to die before their fifth birthday; and a quarter of those that survive to grow up physically stunted. It should not continue to be the case that more than half of rural South Africans live over five kilometres from a medical facility. The extent of illiteracy amongst adults and emotional disturbance amongst young children must not be part of our future.

In response to this legacy, many of the government's priority programmes were strongly child-focused, including the RDP's Presidential Lead Projects. The National Programme of Action for Children consolidates this focus within a single, comprehensive programme central to national development.

It sets national goals which establish priorities and specific targets to guide the efforts of ministries and provincial authorities, in collaboration with civil society organisations, local authorities, communities and individuals concerned for children.

This is a programme for practical and achievable action. South Africa has the accumulated knowledge, the technologies, and the communications capacities to protect the normal growth and development of almost all children at relatively low cost. Reducing malnutrition, disease, and illiteracy is therefore among the most achievable as well as the most fundamental of development's challenges.

In launching comprehensive and long-term programmes, sight is sometimes lost of immediate needs and particular problems. It is not the intention that the launch of this programme should be at the expense of any children anywhere, nor of the organisations which played so important a role when government neglected our children. On the contrary, such a programme should involve steps to deal with existing problems and to assist the organisations to adapt their roles to present needs.

Tackling the needs of children calls for a comprehensive approach that affects all areas of policy, legislation and practice. It will mean that departments and offices of government at all levels should co-operate and join hands with non-government organisations and all sectors of society.

For example, for a child to learn properly requires a conducive environment: warmth and light at home and school; good health; reliable transport to school; a secure and stable family life and parental involvement in schooling.

Throughout government and civil society, therefore, there has to be awareness of the needs of children in all the activities contributing to the building of a new society, and co-ordination of those activities in the interest of children.

Ladies and gentlemen; The National Programme of Action sets out the priorities and the framework to help us realise our goals for children. The challenge now is to put the programme into action. That brings at least three major tasks.

Firstly, we must find the ways to unleash the power and wisdom of all South Africans in this endeavour. The national programme will only bring real change when it is taken up at provincial, district and community level programmes of action. I am very pleased that as we launch the framework for the National Programme, the provinces are launching their own Programmes within this framework.

Secondly, we need to refine the estimates of the programme's costs and mobilise the funds needed from within government, from civil society, and the international aid community.

Finally, effective implementation requires a reliable monitoring and information system to measure progress and identify further needs. The report being presented today provides an important baseline from which we can measure progress. The needs, the targets and the progress should be known not just to decision-makers, but to ordinary people throughout South Africa. In that way they too can help in mobilising resources, rejoice in progress and successes, and urge more action when it is needed. Improving the welfare of our children should become as much a part of the new patriotism as success on the sporting field and progress in overcoming the divisions of the past.

Each of these steps show that government alone cannot achieve the goals of the World Summit, or implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or make a reality of the vision for children in our new constitution.

Each and every South African has a role to play, a specific responsibility to become part of the revolution for children.

As we celebrate International Children's Day tomorrow, there is no better time to commit ourselves - individually and collectively - to the task of building a better future for our children.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 21/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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