Devoting resources to helping children will pay off in terms of reaching global development goals, senior United Nations officials said today as the General Assembly opened its three-day special session on children. “Children are not an expense, they are an investment,” Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told a press conference at UN Headquarters. She pointed out that success in meeting international targets, such as those set at the recent International Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey, Mexico, would depend on how children were being treated. Concrete commitments made during the special session were crucial to achieving real progress across the world, she said. The special session offered young people the opportunity not only to be seen, but also to be heard, probably for the first time in the UN’s history, she said, noting that 132 countries had included children in their official delegations. At the same time, she stressed that the session afforded governments the opportunity to agree on new goals for children, and world leaders the chance to re-energize their commitment to achieving those goals. “It is not enough to just make promises to children; you have to keep your promises.” During a separate press briefing, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Thoraya Obaid, emphasized the need for governments to reaffirm their commitment to ensure that young people have access to reproductive information, health and education services. Ms. Obaid pointed out that each year, 15 to 17 million adolescent girls got pregnant, and 4.4 million resorted to abortion, with fully 40 per cent of those procedures performed under unsafe conditions. In addition, thousands of adolescents – most of them female – became newly infected daily with HIV/AIDS. “In today’s world, access to information, education and services will protect [girls] against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, and it’s really a matter of life and death for them,” she said, acknowledging that the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents is a delicate matter. “Fortunately, world leaders in the past have met and have agreed on many of the components of this very sensitive issue,” she said, emphasizing that by reaffirming principles adopted at previous UN conferences, the special session would pave the way to meet international development goals.