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How they would rule the world

FRANCE. THE FIRST World Parliament of Children met this week in France to set out its vision for the future in a declaration that called for peace, improved education and environmental protection.

The 350 teenagers from 175 countries were elected by classmates to the parliament convened by the French National Assembly and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, as the opening event of France's Year 2000 celebrations.

They met in the Chateau of Versailles and the Palais Bourbon in Paris to debate and adopt a youth manifesto for the 21st century.

The manifesto covered the six themes of peace and non-violence; education; environment; economic and human development; solidarity and culture, communication and intercultural dialogue.

The idea for the parliament came from France's annual children's parliament where 577 primary pupils, one from each constituency, meet to discuss and vote on Bills proposed by their schools. Since 1996 it has become traditional for the winning text to be passed into French law.

Federico Mayor, UNESCO's director-general, and Laurent Fabius, president of France's National Assembly, wrote to 180 countries inviting schools to participate in producing the manifesto.

More than 10,000 pupils entered contributions which were whittled down by national and international committees to 18 texts, three for each theme.

Divided between English, French and Spanish language workshops the junior MPs composed the final version at Versailles last Saturday. It was presented to UNESCO's general conference, and next year a delegation will deliver it to the United Nations in New York.

It calls for creation of a "culture of peace and philosophy of non- violence"; more resources and higher standards for education; greater respect and protection for the environment; improved provision of basic human needs such as health, education, adequate diet and absence of discrimination; greater action to achieve solidarity, starting with young people; and efforts to increase cultural, artistic and sports activities.

Messages relayed to the young MPs included an appeal for "true emancipation for humanity and deep human solidarity" from former South African President Nelson Mandela, and a plea for compassion from Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently under house arrest in Rangoon.

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