Everyone has a role to play to create an environment that is both safe and conducive for the rights of our children, writes ALISON ANIS
WHILE progress is being made in reducing some violations of children’s rights, not enough is yet known about the extent of abuses against children. Violence and exploitation remain a harsh reality in the lives of many children around the world (including Papua New Guinea).
The statement above appeared in the groundbreaking report on child protection released by United Nations on Children’s Fund (UNICEF) last month (October 6).
The report highlighted it was a harsh life out there for children without the protective environment and gave progressive reports on the status of children around the world.
The issues of child trafficking, child labour including abuse and neglect were highlighted in the new UNICEF report.
According to the report millions of boys and girls around the world are subject to trafficking, are without parental care, or lack documentation they need to attend school and access basic health care.
It went on to say that millions more were forced to work under harmful conditions, while others face violence or abuse in homes, schools, communities, institutions or while in detention, often from the adult entrusted with their care.
The issues were reviewed in the new UNICEF report – Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection released by UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman in Tokyo last month.
The report gathered together for the first time data on a range of issues that impact on children, including sexual abuse and trafficking, child marriage, physical punishment of children, child labour, birth registration, the harmful traditional practice of female genital cutting, and attitudes toward violence against women inside marriage.
She said some abuses – such as sexual exploitation and trafficking – are usually committed in conditions of secrecy and illegality, which makes collection of accurate data challenging.
Carolyn Hardy chief executive of UNICEF, Australia when speaking from Sydney on Monday during a World Bank Praxis Seminar series said there has been significant progress since the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Child 20 years ago by member states.
“The era of the Convention has seen marked advances in child survival and development as recent research by UNICEF has revealed the number of children – aged under-five – who die unnecessarily (from poverty and disease has fallen from 12.5 million in 1990 to less than 9 million in 2008. It means that each day, 10,000 less kids die than they did some twenty years ago.”
“Further, the number of children not in school has dropped by almost 15 million in the last two years alone. Now more than 90% of children in developing countries are in primary school and stay there until the end. There has also been some improvement in the numbers of girls going to school.”
However, she said much needs to be done despite these improvements.
Globally, almost a billion children lack access to at least one essential service that is vital to their survival- such as clean water or proper nutrition.
“We have children still being forced to fight as child soldiers and children still exploited in bonded labour,” she added saying there also the impact of the Global Financial Crisis.
“While the impacts on adults – such as unemployment even hunger – are largely temporary, for children the impacts are permanent. If a child is malnourished it can stunt their physical and mental development forever and if a child is pulled out of school there is a high likelihood that they may never return to the classroom.”
“The great challenge for the next 20 years will be to unite government accountability with individual responsibility to maintain this commitment and continue the progress made over the last 20 years.
“It is essential we recognise, maintain and improve our efforts to realise the rights of children – especially amid the new challenges posed by the financial crisis,” Ms Hardy said adding that to make the CRC a reality for every child, it must become a guiding document for every human being,” says Hardy.
She said the convention or the CRC – is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. The 54 provisions of the CRC and its Optional Protocols, articulate the full complement of civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights for all children.
“Its aim is to ensure that children everywhere have the same basic rights. This translates to the right to go to school, the right to shelter, the right to adequate food and much, much more,” Ms Hardy said.
According to Veneman, children in such circumstances were experiencing fundamental infringements of their human rights, and suffering physical and psychological harm that has wide-reaching and sometimes irreparable effects.
The report also offers a strategy to improve child protection, identifying five areas of activity that are needed to improve protective environments for children: 1) improving child protection systems; 2) promoting social change; 3) enhancing protection in emergencies; 4) strengthening partnerships for greater impact; and 5) collecting reliable data and using such data to achieve concrete results for children.
The UNICEF report stated that:
More than half the children in detention worldwide have not been tried or sentenced.
In some parts of the world, the births of two out of three children were not registered in 2007. In Somalia and Liberia less than 5 % of births are registered. Birth registration is an important element in building a protective environment for children for a range of reasons, including that without a birth certificate they are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, trafficking and illegal adoption.
More than 150 million children between five and 14 years of age are engaged in child labour. Child labour is often both a result and a source of poverty. It can compromise a child’s education and perpetuate the poverty that pushed them into the workforce.
More than half of women and girls in developing countries think that wife-beating is acceptable and, younger women are as likely to justify wife-beating as older women. In most regions, neglecting the children is the most commonly cited justification for wife-beating.
“This report on harmful practices and abuse of children comes just six weeks before the 20th Anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child,” said Veneman. “The evidence of continuing harm and abuse must inspire the world to greater effort to guarantee the rights of all children, everywhere.”
Next year 2010, PNG will need to report to United Nations on the country’s compliance with convention of the rights of the child.
Department For Community Development Secretary Joseph Klapat said they will be presenting the children’s report but needed good and substantial information on children to report on since previous report lacked the essentials.
Today, Nov 20, more than 100 countries around the globe who are signatories to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Children (UNCRC) including PNG, commemorate the International Day for Children.
In fact, today is the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly.
While children’s right which includes right to education, health and the right to live in safe and protective environment without fear or hassle will be at the fore of our many speeches.
Perhaps today will be to remind some of us of the social obligation and responsibility we have in safeguarding our most important resource – the children – who will become tomorrow’s leaders.
Everyone has a role to play in creating an environment that is both safe and conducive for the rights of the children.
More so it is our actions whether good or bad that will have a lasting effect on these vulnerable souls.
Let us not make it a subject of our many long speeches and inaction but good results of our thoughtful actions.