Agreed to at the Inter-Parliamentary Workshop "Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Central Asia and Kazakhstan ", organized by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Turkmenistan under the sponsorship of the Inter-Parliamentary Union

(Ashgabat, 20-22 February 1997)

We, the representatives of the Parliaments of Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gathered in Ashgabat to address the priority problems of the survival, development and protection of children in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to define effective and realistic strategies to implement the Convention in the countries of Central Asia and Kazakhstan , and to undertake a joint commitment to ensure that in our independent countries, every child receives all that is required for a happy and healthy life and development today and tomorrow.

We commend UNICEF, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Turkmenistan which have jointly convened this important Forum. With great satisfaction we recognize the presence of representatives from other States involved in cooperative projects with UNICEF in Central Asia and Kazakhstan , and express our sincere gratitude for sharing their experiences in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Recognizing the critical role of Parliaments in the noble undertaking to ensure the primacy and practical application of the Convention in Central Asia and Kazakhstan , we have achieved a consensus on the following:

We accept and endorse the new vision of children contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The child is to be respected as a subject of rights and a human being needing special attention and assistance from the State and society. We recognize and respect the human dignity of every child.

We will continue to strive toward raising the children of our countries in the spirit of the ideals declared in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and, in particular, in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. It will be a guarantee of stable and progressive development of society.

We appeal to the Presidents of Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to declare 1999 The Year of the Rights of the Child.

Children need to be more prominent on the national social, moral, cultural and economic development agendas. We recognize the need to assure a sound legislative foundation and adequate budgetary resources to find solutions to the range of problems related to the survival, development, protection and participation of children, and to develop mechanisms for the implementation of the decisions adopted.

We will promote cooperation among parliamentarians of our countries, alliances with UNICEF and other UN agencies, Governmental bodies and local authorities, non-governmental and religious organizations, and the media, and facilitate the exchange of information, experiences and approaches to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In order to harmonize our legal frameworks with regard to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we advocate for the establishment of an Inter-parliamentary group of the countries concerned to carry out activities aimed at forming and developing legislative mechanisms on the range of issues related to the survival, development, and protection of children. The first meeting of the group will focus on micronutrient and iodine deficiencies in children in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan. A decision on the date of the meeting will be determined.

We will aim at creating a structure at the national level to assure coordination of actions and efforts of state and non-state bodies and organizations related to the implementation and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We will endeavor to further adapt our national laws to reflect to the maximum extent possible, the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and assure effective and cost-efficient approaches to the provision of social sector services for children, in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, labor, social welfare, and justice.

We will encourage the establishment or strengthening of parliamentary committees, commissions and groups on the problems facing children in our respective countries, with the purpose of undertaking a comprehensive review and assessment of legislation related to children, and formulating recommendations to change and supplement legislation.

We will advocate for the development of legislation aimed at improving the nutrition of children and women, particularly through the development and effective use of regulations on food labeling, fortification of food products (iodization of salt and fortification of wheat flour) and with due consideration to the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.

We stress the importance of conducting further research and developing practical recommendations to improve the situation of girls and women in the context of national social and economic development and based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Particular attention should be paid to the problems of girls' education, maternal mortality, and adolescent pregnancy.

We will take effective measures to solve the problems of children in especially difficult circumstances and to meet their needs for special protection. The children victims of Tajikistan's civil war, children of the Aral Sea, Semipalatinsk and other regions of environment danger, children in institutions, children in conflict with the law, working children, children affected by HIV/AIDS and street children demand special attention. Action must be taken at the national and local levels to prevent the trafficking of children, as well as sexual and drug abuse. Measures must be put in place to protect the rights of refugee children, children subjected to maltreatment and deprived of the family environment, and the rights of disabled children. Children and families facing especially difficult circumstances must be provided with the necessary social support and guidance, including material assistance.

Civil society can be a major force in securing survival, development, protection and participation of children, and in assuring quality and sustainability of social services. We will promote both development of civil society and encourage civil society actions for children, in particular through laws and regulations compatible with international standards and norms. We recognize NGOs as significant contributors to social development, and will promote active cooperation and partnership between the NGO community and state structures.

We recognize the critical role of the family in the upbringing and development of the child. We will facilitate a supportive environment for informed and responsible parenting, a social support structure for low-income families, and encourage the establishment of alternatives such as foster care for children deprived of their families. Empowerment of children and families should be pursued by facilitating their access to necessary information, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Special priority should be given to the training of social workers dealing directly with children and families.

We consider it necessary to bring the text of the Ashgabat Declaration to the attention of our Parliaments and facilitate dissemination of the text of this Declaration to the general public and its publication in national newspapers.

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