Despite much progress, more must be done to protect children’s rights – UN

A child in Dili, capital of Timor-Leste.

19 November 2009 – Despite considerable progress over the past 20 years in improving the lot of the world’s children, including a 28 per cent drop in annual mortality of those under five from 12.5 million to an estimated 8.8 million, their rights are still far from assured, according to a new United Nations report issued today.

“It is unacceptable that children are still dying from preventable causes, like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said in releasing the annual State of the World's Children report.

The special edition of UNICEF’s flagship report comes on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly.

“Many of the world’s children will never see the inside of a school room, and millions lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect,” she added, stressing the “particularly alarming” problem of violence against children, with between 500 million and 1.5 billion youngsters estimated to suffer such abuse annually.

The Convention “is the most ratified human rights treaty in human history” with 193 States parties, she said, listing the benefits achieved since its inception.

Beyond the mortality reduction, these include access to improved water sources for 1.6 billion people; an increase in primary-school-age children in class to around 84 per cent, with the gender gap narrowing; more care for children in the HIV and AIDS pandemic; steps to protect youngsters from serving as soldiers or trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude; a rise in age of children getting married; and a gradual fall in the number of girls subjected to genital cutting.

The rights of girls still require special attention, the report stresses. The majority of children not attending primary school are girls, and girls are more likely to suffer sexual violence, be trafficked or forced into child marriage. In many regions they are less likely to receive essential healthcare.

The report includes special expert essays from public and private sector representatives, alongside examples of the child rights situation in a range of countries. The essays offer advice on the role the Convention can have in an increasingly populous, urbanized and environmentally challenged world, over the next 20 years and beyond.

More than 160 events are taking place worldwide commemorating the anniversary. The report launched today is part of UNICEF’s contribution, which includes jointly hosting with civil society and government partners a global commemoration and panel discussion at UN Headquarters in New York tomorrow.

In a foreword to the report, Ms. Veneman called for broad collaboration at international and national levels in implementing the Convention’s principles and the rights contained in it.

“The challenge for the next 20 years is to build on the progress achieved, working together to reach those children who are still being denied their rights to survival, development, protection and participation,” she wrote. “The Convention on the Rights of the Child stands as a universal standard for building a better world – a world in which the best interests of children are a primary concern of all.”


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