From 8-10 May 2002, the United Nations General Assembly met in a Special Session on Children. Representatives from more than 180 countries agreed on 21 new goals in the areas of education, health, combating AIDS and protecting children against abuse, exploitation and violence (Reuters 2002), The Assembly set six new targets aimed at meeting the goal of ‘quality basic education for all children’. In this paper we critically examine the strategies that the UN identified to ensure that the targets are met, in the light of our experiences researching and writing a report for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) on mainstreaming environmental education.
At the Special Session, held in New York, children and heads of state evaluated progress towards achieving the 27 goals set at the 1990 World Summit for Children (UNICEF 2002a). The Special Session on Children was preceded by a three-day Children's Forum ‘for those most directly affected by the decisions made at the conference’ (UNICEF 2002b). As well as 350 children from more than 150 countries (reported elsewhere as ‘376 children and young adults from 115 countries’ (MacCentral 2002) there were ‘2,000 representatives of more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including many of UNICEF's partners in the field’ (UNICEF 2002b). The claim that the Forum was attended by ‘those most directly affected by the decisions’ is at best pious hope and at worst pure spin, but the size and scale of the event merits consideration by those working for and with children around the world.