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Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 2006

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, fellow award recipients, ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed an honor on behalf of UNICEF to accept the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, one of Spain's highest distinctions.

It is with deep respect that we join the other winners for this year and those of the preceding 25 years since the Award's inception.

As the Prince of Asturias Award celebrated its 25-year anniversary last year ... UNICEF is especially honored by your recognition this year as our organization marks its 60th anniversary.

When UNICEF began in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II it worked primarily in Europe and Japan to deliver emergency assistance to children in need.

Over the years, the reach of UNICEF's work has expanded to include the millions of children around the world - from Africa to Latin America - whose lives are affected by poverty, conflict and emergencies.

UNICEF evolved over the past sixty years from its emergency beginnings ...

to become an organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of children in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

The organization continues to work tirelessly to protect children from harm and disease ... and to provide them with nutrition and the opportunity to learn and lead productive lives.

Children are a significant part of the world's hungry, the ill-fed, the poorly-clothed, the homeless, the illiterate, the exploited and the displaced.

In fact, children are at the very heart of the Millennium Development Goals ...

... from eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, to achieving universal primary education and gender equality, to reducing child and maternal mortality, and combating HIV/AIDS and other diseases, to ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

In taking stock of the past 60 years, great strides have been made ... not only for the children in Europe and parts of Asia but also for millions of children in the developing world.

The world has seen more gains against poverty and more progress for children in the last 60 years than in the previous 500.

Between 1960 and 2004, the under five mortality rates in developing countries on average decreased from 222 deaths per 1,000 live births to 87 deaths per 1,000 live births.

In the 1980's the average rate of child immunization in most developing countries was between 10 and 20 per cent.

Today, immunization with routine vaccines has reached more than 70 per cent of children world wide.

The world is now free of smallpox ... the first major human disease to be eradicated.

Where polio was once epidemic, extraordinary progress has been made and today some 175 countries are polio free.

An estimated 1 billion more people have access to safe water today than in 1990.

And more children are in school today than ever before.

But much remains to be done.

We still live in a world in which more than 2 billion people live on two dollars a day ... or less.

We live in a world in which over 10 million children die every year of causes that are largely preventable such as disease and malnutrition ...

... We live in a world in which natural disasters, exploitation, famine and hunger continue to undermine peace and stability.

Every minute, nine more people become HIV positive ... and at least one of those people is a child under 15.

Throughout my travels for UNICEF, I have witnessed many of the children's faces behind these numbers.

I have met survivors of the genocide in Rwanda ... and learned of women who were targeted for rape by soldiers with HIV.

I have visited with victims just days after the earthquake in Pakistan ... where thousands of children were lost when schools collapsed from the quake.

I have seen mothers and babies in countries like Malawi who are dying of AIDS.

I have spoken with children who were orphaned by the tsunami in India and Sri Lanka.

I have met with a young Romanian woman who was forced into prostitution in Ireland by sexual traffickers.

And I have spoken with a 12-year-old orphan girl in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who was brutally raped by four men ... in an area where rape is used as a weapon of war.

These children, and millions like them, are the children who call on our collective conscience and who depend on our collective action.

It is on behalf of these children ... and all the children around the world ... that UNICEF accepts this award with deep appreciation.

Thank you very much.

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