New York, 20 November 2014 – Today as the world celebrates the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we reflect on its continuing relevance and how far its solemn promises are being kept. In 1989, a compelling vision for a better world for children was carefully and comprehensively set out in the Convention’s 54 articles and embraced by the international community. The world has changed immensely since 1989 but the ethos of the Convention endures.
The Convention has helped bridge different legal systems, cultural contexts and political agendas. It raised children above politics and it mobilized all nations behind a common endeavor: the realization of the human rights of all children, everywhere and at all times. The Convention marked a turning point in the way children are envisaged in society: not as passive beneficiaries of services or goodwill but as holders of rights and agents of change.
While many pressing challenges still remain, children’s rights are no longer peripheral to the development debate. The world has taken concerted action for the effective promotion and safeguarding of the rights of the child with significant progress in many areas, including reducing child mortality, halting the spread of disease, improving nutrition and extending access to education.
While we rejoice in these achievements we also know humankind is failing many of its children, amongst whom are countless girls and boys exposed to violence, often in a pervasive, hidden and concealed manner. They are the children intentionally targeted in politically driven processes, drawn into organized crime, exploited for economic gains, groomed on line, disciplined through violent means, sexually abused in the privacy of their homes, neglected in care institutions, bullied in schools, stigmatized and ill-treated as a result of superstition or harmful practices. Every five minutes a child dies as a result of violence.
When confronted with the fate of these children, it is hard not to feel deep sadness, frustration and anger. But there are always glimmers of hope and they come, not surprisingly, from children themselves. Time and time again child victims emerge from the worst of nightmares and yet show resilience, confidence in the future, strength, generosity and a determination to move ahead. All over the world, young advocates engage with their governments, civil society organizations and many other allies to raise awareness about the detrimental impact of violence; prevent the occurrence of violence; promote support to child victims; and empower young people like themselves as a first line of protection from the risk of abuse and exploitation.
Violence can be prevented and eliminated. And we know how to do it: through good laws and effective policies, firm funding and well trained professionals to sustain steady implementation, end impunity, prevent violence, empower and protect children and provide them with the necessary services and support. We have to seriously invest in meaningful and safe child participation. We need research and data to inform policies and monitor their effectiveness and impact. We must address the social norms that condone violence, build strong safety nets for every child, empower children and families, and promote a culture of children’s rights. If we are to ensure that these necessary steps are taken, a commitment to end violence against children must be at the heart of the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
Eliminating violence against children is an ethical and a legal imperative. But it also makes economic sense.
Today, we have enough scientific evidence of the high cost of violence both for the victim and for society. And we also know the significant return that comes from investment in prevention.
In 1989, with the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the international community made a promise to create a better world for children. On the day of the 25th anniversary of the Convention, we should celebrate real progress in delivering its promise while continuing to aim for the complete realization of its inspiring vision. Children deserve nothing less!