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.
Ben Stokes today faced claims he was “really very drunk” and “over-exaggerated” any homophobic abuse against two camp revellers in a bid to justify launching a barrage of punches in a street fight.Yesterday Stokes told jurors he fought with two men after they lunged at two gay clubbers with a bottles. The 27-year-old said he was protecting himself and those around him by fighting with Ryan Hale, an Afghanistan veteran, and Ryan Ali, a fire brigade worker.Stokes is accused along with Ali of affray following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub on September 25 last year. Hale was cleared yesterday at Bristol Crown Court. In addition to “two or three pints” and five or six vodka and lemonades on the night before the fight, Stokes said for the first time that he may have drunk “jagerbombs” inside the Mbargo club in Bristol’s Clifton Triangle. “It was a fun night,” he told the court.Prosecutor Nicholas Corsellis suggested to Stokes that the reason he was having problems remembering exactly what happened that night was because he was “actually really very drunk”. Stokes replied: “No.” Ryan Hale (front) and Ryan Ali (back) leave Bristol Crown CourtCredit:Peter Nicholls/Reuters In attempting to bargain his way back into Mbargo, jurors heard how he told the heavily-tattooed doorman: “Come on, mate. I’ve got s— tattoos as well.”Mr Corsellis suggested to Stokes that he had been angry, shouted and pointed at Mr Cunningham, to which Stokes replied: “I don’t think you can tell if I’m angry. I might just be looking at the night sky.”The prosecutor asked him: “Who were you speaking to when you were looking at the night sky?” Stokes replied: “God?”The all-rounder accepted he suffered “significant memory blackout” surrounding the night in question. He denied Mr Corsellis’ suggestion that the cricketer’s eyes were “glazed” and his speech was slurred in the body-worn camera footage. Despite telling police he was defending his “gay friends”, Stokes told jurors: “They weren’t my friends. That’s what I chose to call them at the time.”Anna Midgley, defending Ali, then told Stokes: “Mr Ali was backing away and offering you no punches.” Stokes did not recognise Ms Midgley’s description of the fight, but said: “It’s clear in my statements that I admit to throwing multiple punches.” Ben Stokes outside Mbargo “looking up at the night sky” Stokes denied claims that he had been abusive towards “flamboyant” Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor, saying instead that his conversation with them was in regard to his poor dress sense after they had earlier mocked his £695 shoes.To illustrate Stokes’s taste, Gordon Cole QC, defending, showed the jury a pair of white Buscemi high-top shoes, with gold padlocks on the back, which Stokes claimed Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor were laughing at.Stokes, who denies flicking a cigarette butt at Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor, said their conversation revolved entirely around “my attire on that night”. As Mr Cole held up the Buscemi leather shoes, Stokes said: “I had never heard of the brand, I just quite liked them… I get told by quite a lot of my teammates that I dress the worst.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. “I used my right arm around his neck and my left arm to grab his left hand so I could pull him against me to try to restrain him.”Ali told the jury he is still under the care of a maxillofacial surgeon.”I still get double vision when I look around,” Ali told the court. “I get floaters and my eye goes blurry quite a lot so I have to blink to re-focus.” Addressing the cricketer’s tattoos, Mr Corsellis asked: “First of all Mr Stokes, you don’t have s— tattoos. You have spent a significant amount of money in the past on your tattoos. Three Lions on the back of your shoulder. The sleeves of tattoos to both left and right arms. They are not s—.”Stokes replied: “This one on my right arm, I really like it. The one on my back I tend to agree with the grief I get that it’s a bit s—.”Facing cross-examination in the witness box at his affray trial, the England all-rounder was accused of “misrepresenting” his friendship with the two men he claims were being insulted before he knocked out Ali and Hale. When asked if he had become “enraged” at any point, Stokes replied it was a “difficult question”. The 6ft 2in sportsman added: “I didn’t know if they were carrying more weapons… At all times I felt under threat from these two.”Stokes, of Castle Eden, Durham, and Mr Ali, of Bristol, each deny affray. Ali said there had been “banter” between him and Mr Hale and the gay men, Mr O’Connor and Mr Barry – and they had no issue with the pair’s sexuality.”I remember at some stage walking down that street, someone saying ‘We are going home with them tonight’,” Ali said.”Then someone else said ‘No you’re not’ or words to that effect but they got quite irate when they said it.”I recall we were in a group of four, having a laugh and having some banter and the next thing I remember is having a tall blonde man charging towards me.”Ali claimed he walked backwards, saying “I don’t want no trouble”.He added: “I have a memory of calming down Mr Stokes. I recall trying to calm him down. I thought I did because he turned away from me. He then turned his attention away from me and turns to Ryan Hale who is unconscious on the floor.”I saw that as an opportunity to try to restrain Mr Stokes from attacking my friend, who couldn’t defend himself. As Mr Stokes’s back was turned away from me, I saw that as an opportunity to get behind him. Show more Stokes admitted his injuries were “not anything compared to what Ali sustained”, but denied claims he was “looking threatening and aggressive” and told jurors his actions were in self-defence. Yesterday Stokes told jurors he fought with two men after they lunged at two gay clubbers with a bottles.”Everything I did… was in defence of myself,” insisted Stokes, who claims Hale and Ali were shouting “homophobic abuse” at clubbers Kai Barry and William O’Connor.But Ali, called to give evidence after Stokes, said the cricketer came at him for no reason, telling jurors: “He was very angry and he was looking for someone to pick on.”The fire brigade worker said he would have been drinking Jack Daniel’s and Coke and during the course of the night he would have drank six or seven before leaving Mbargo. Ben Stokes holds an umbrella over himself and his wife Clare as they arrive for day four of the trial Credit:Hannah McKay/Reuters Stokes agreed with Mr Cole that Mr O’Connor and Mr Barry were “openly camp”, but he denied claims that any of his actions were homophobic.”No, absolutely not,” Stokes said.”The only comments between myself and the gay couple was what we had chosen to wear that night.”Stokes, on the fourth day of his trial for affray at Bristol Crown Court, told how he felt “under threat” at all times when he punched Mr Hale and Ali. Stokes insisted he had stepped in to protect Mr Barry and Mr O’Connor after hearing Mr Hale and Ali – who had a glass bottle – shout homophobic abuse at them. told the pair: be taking the they are gay.”Stokes said the pair: “You shouldn’t he p—because they are gay.””I was told by Mr Ali along the lines of ‘Shut the f— up or I’ll bottle you’.”The cricketer said the street fight began when Ali allegedly held the neck of the upturned bottle in his hand and began “waving it around”.”As soon as I saw Mr Ali swing the bottle and physically hit them that’s when I took the decision to get involved. I was trying to stop Mr Ali doing damage to anybody,” Stokes said. Stokes also denied abusing doorman Andrew Cunningham, with whom he claimed to have shared a joke about tattoos. He told jurors that his memory of the evening was “incomplete” because of the head injury he suffered when he was knocked out by Stokes.