Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 20 November 2009


Distinguished Delegates,

Ms. Veneman,

Monsieur Daou,

Mr. Beah,

Distinguished guests,

Youth representatives:

The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognized for the first time that children have human rights, and that they need special protection that adults do not.

Over the past twenty years, the Convention has been our beacon, our template, our guide in protecting and nurturing the youngest and most vulnerable members of society.

Its influence has been profound. It has become history's most widely accepted international human rights treaty.

One hundred and ninety-three states have ratified it. We look forward to the day when all UN members give it their full backing.

The Convention has had a huge impact on the agenda for human rights and development.

It has inspired new approaches and advances in child survival and education and it has increased awareness of children's specific problems.

But realizing the rights in the Convention remains a huge challenge.

Millions of children still die before their fifth birthday from largely preventable causes. Millions more lack access to clean food, water and education, and are victims of violence and exploitation.

Children are physically and emotionally vulnerable. They are often the first to succumb to disease and malnutrition. They can be scarred for life by mental or emotional abuse.

That is why children should always have the first claim on our attention and resources. But this is especially true now, at a time when multiple crises threaten the poorest people, particularly in developing countries.

Children must be at the heart of our thinking on climate change, on the food crisis, and on the other challenges we are addressing on a daily basis.

We know what to do, and we know how to do it. Even during the most severe economic crisis in decades, the means are at hand. It is up to us to seize the opportunity and build a world that is fit for children.

Thank you.