“The children of today are standing up for their rights. What will you do?”
20 November 2019, GENEVA – 20 November celebrates World Children’s Day, and 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly. It is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, which protects the right of all children to be free from discrimination, violence and neglect.
A Commemorative Conference took place at the United Nations Office in Geneva on November 18-20, which the Geneva Centre attended. During the closing Official Ceremony, Ms Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Ms Afshan Khan, the UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, addressed children, young people and adults in the audience who, for three consequent days, examined important and urgent topics that have impact on children’s well-being, their future and their rights.
Ms Khan started with acknowledging some accomplishments and progress made in the recognition and protection of children’s rights. Global child mortality has decreased for more than 50%, the proportion of undernourished children has halved, and there is a significantly bigger percentage of children going to school. And yet, said Ms Khan, too many children in the world are still being left behind. “Inequality gaps are growing, not shrinking. Progress has to be universal, our goal has to be – ALL rights for ALL children", she added.
The 21st century has brought forth new challenges and emerging threats. 30 years ago there was no World Wide Web, there were fewer protracted conflicts and people on the move, the crisis of climate change was not yet that present. Today more than ever the voices of the children and young people should be heard. Ms Bachelet underlined that children and young people are already the ones rising to demand climate justice, social justice and political freedoms, speaking out on their rights and calling the leaders to protect their future. “What we do for children, should be done with and by children”, she added.
Following the opening ceremony, the child participants presented the key messages and recommendations of the first two days of the conference. Zacharia, who represented a working group on migrant children, spoke on behalf of those boys and girls who could not be there today because of the legal restrictions related to their status. Anas, Erika, Sokhna and Jui young people from different countries, referred to such complex and pressing matters as the involvement of children in terrorism and violent extremism groups, the need for friendly justice system for the deprived of liberty children, and the synergy between women’s rights and children’s rights. Summarizing the discussion, Josephina, a child rights defender, appealed for the words of the children not to be forgotten.
The Geneva Centre took part in the Commemorative Conference and joined the international celebration of the World Children’s Day. The Centre reiterates its steady commitment to promote children’s rights, and will continue to raise awareness about the problems that children face in the MENA region and globally.