World Children’s Day

Around the world, children are showing us their strength and leadership advocating for a more sustainable world for all. Let’s build on advances and re-commit to putting children first. For every child, every right (
UN Secretary-General António Guterres).

Today, 20 November, is World Children’s Day, the day the UN General Assembly adopted both the Declaration and the Convention on Children’s Rights.  It is, in fact, the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention of Children’s Rights, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Whilst all human rights treaties are international agreements that apply equally to children and adults, the CRC only applies to children under the age of 18 years and it defines what governments must do to ensure the realisation of these rights within families, schools, communities and countries.

Designed at a time of massive global change, the motivation was to commit to action that would protect the world’s children and enshrine their rights including the right to an education, the right to a healthy environment, the right to think and the right to guidance.

Today, thirty years on, the world’s population is younger than ever before, with almost a third (29.3%) being under 18 years of age (and so entitled to these rights). A further 13% of the world population is between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age (known as a youth or young adults). 

There is evidently significant progress that has been made in thirty years; that fact cannot be disputed. But it is not enough and much more needs to be done. There are also new and unprecedented global challenges that threaten not only the rights of children, but their very lives. It means that we don’t only need to do more, we need to do more urgently.

The hope and fear for the future of today’s children is beautifully expressed by Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of UNICEF in an open letter to the world’s children. It is well worth reading not only because it balances concerns and fears with the hope and potential to overcome them – if we act – but because it captures the essence of the new, very real and significantly unpredictable struggles that children are facing today.

For Fore, there are eight reasons to be worried and eight reasons why there might be hope.  They will all make you pause for thought:

1. You need clean water, clean air and a safe climate

2. One in four of you are likely to live, and learn, in conflict and disaster zones

3. We must make it OK to talk about mental health

4. Over 30 million of you have migrated from your place of birth

5. Thousands of you will officially never exist, unless we act

6. You need twenty-first century skills for a twenty-first century economy

7. Your digital footprint must be protected

8. You might be the least trusting generation of citizens ever

There is, in Fore’s letter, a sentence that highlights for me a very meaningful but perhaps more subtle present danger facing children. Hidden in words that might seem obviously true for some or dismissed by others as “bad parenting”, it is the statement that “Childhood has changed, and we need to change our approaches along with it”.

That change is embodied in the actions of children like Malala Yousafza, Greta Thunberg, Bana Alabed, Mari Copeny, Marley Dias and the millions of other children who are asking, #GiveAFuture.

We salute you all.