Director of the UN Children’s Fund tells event ‘Childhood is changing, and so must we’
The adoption thirty years ago of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its near universal membership has created “unprecedented international solidarity around children’s rights,” the UN Secretary General told attendees of a commemorative event held in Geneva on Wednesday.
The Convention holds the distinction of being the most widely-ratified international human rights accord in history; a landmark achievement which meant “for the first time, governments explicitly recognised that children have the same human rights as adults”, UN chief António Guterres said, adding that the document put in the spotlight the “specific additional rights that recognise their special status as dependants.”
The UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child works to monitor how well governments are setting and meeting the standards for children’s rights outlined in the Convention. This entails regular progress reports submitted by States within two years of ratification, and every five years thereafter, to which the Committee responds with country-appropriate recommendations for improvement.
The high-level meeting at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly was geared towards celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Rights of the Child, and highlighting progress made in the advancement of healthy and sustainable livelihoods, whilst also calling on member states to strengthen their commitments to the cause.
In the years to date, 196 countries, including Australia, have ratified their commitment to the inalienable rights of children. Despite this, the Secretary General noted, Government actions and inactions, “have a greater impact on children than on any other group in society.” As a result, he urged all UN Member States “to give it their full backing.”
Successes since the birth of the Convention include deaths of children under the age of five falling by half, and the number of children without adequate nutrition also halving. However, despite these successes, the gathering heard that there was still “tremendous room for improvement” and that actions “must adapt to meet the new challenges children and youth face in the modern world.”
Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Henrietta Fore, also speaking at the event, highlighted that the changes children face today “were unimaginable to children in 1989”, pointing to a changing climate, rising inequality, and protracted conflicts as drivers of the new wave of young advocates.
“Childhood is changing and so must we” she urged, assuring children in the audience, “you have the rights to health education and protection, you have the rights to make your voice heard, you have the right to a future.”
Countries must invest, she said, in “those who carry the future forward”, and not only listen to children and young people, “but work with them to achieve the change they want to see.”
“Let us support them, let us take action with them, and 30 years from now let us look back on this time as a time when the world committed, and put concrete programs in place to keep our promises to children and young people” she said in closing.
For more information on children’s rights from a UN perspective, please see here.