12 December 2007 - CRINMAIL 941 - Special edition on the 'World Fit for Children' follow-up event
- Quotes from the event
- Report from Children's Forum and Ombudsmen meeting
- Day One from the 'World Fit For Children' follow-up event [report]
- Day two from the 'World Fit For Children' follow-up event [report]
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Quotes from the event
"This meeting is a time for honesty, real action and meaningful change, to end poverty and discrimination, to educate our children and fight disease. This is the time for us to come together. This is the time to listen to our words not only with your ears, but also with your hearts"
Children's statement at the opening session
"I noticed many Member States’ seats are empty...My hope is they are back in their countries creating a world fit for children".
Dr. Balwant Singh from Save the Children in India
"We are humans today. Being hit is not a good way to grow up. Being afraid does not promote learning"
Child delegate from Norway
"Hitting adults is called assault. Hitting animals is called cruelty. But hitting children is for their own good."
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe
“Why do governments spend so much money on arms and not on education? If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
A representative from SOS Children's Villages
“States spoke about what they had done in the past, but they need to answer the children's questions and say what they plan for the future."
Lennart Reinius, of Plan Sweden, and chair of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Report from Children's Forum and Ombudsmen meeting
[NEW YORK, 10 December 2007] - More than 85 children, speaking over 20 languages and representing 63 countries, gathered at the Millennium Hotel in New York, United States, at the World Fit for Children +5 Children's Forum.
The Forum has been organised so that children's voices can be heard at the meeting to evaluate the progress made in fulfilling the goals set out in the UN's World Fit For Children plan of action.
The meeting is officially called the Commemorative High Level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-Up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children, and took place from 11 to 13 December.
At the Forum, key issues related to the two thematic interactive round-tables were discussed, and participating children chose one boy and one girl to speak at the closing session of the plenary (what does this mean?). In order to generate an interactive discussion, children also prepared their perspectives and issues to be raised at the round-tables.
The themes discussed at the round-tables were 'Promoting healthy lives and combatting HIV and AIDS', and 'Providing universal quality education as key to achieving the MDGs and as the first line of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence against children'.
Richard, 16, is a member of a child rights advocacy organisation in Ghana. He was selected by his government to attend the event. He said: “It's very important that children play their part here.
“In order for the problems to be solved, children have to be part of the process as they are the ones who will be affected.
“Children must be listened to if it is to be a true democratic process, and it is important we are listened rather than just invited to take part.”
Read the rest of the report including: Desired outcomes from the Forum, Interviews with children and organisers and Further information
The second global meeting of children’s ombudsmen took place at the UN General Assembly this week prior to the ‘World Fit for Children’ event.
The first global meeting of ombudsmen took place five years ago during the Special Session on Children. One of the important achievements of the Special Session was the formal recognition of the important role of independent human rights institutions for children in the promotion and protection of children’s rights at national level.
In the last five years, new offices have been established and new networks have emerged. The aim of this meeting was for ombudsmen institutions to share their experiences and prepare a statement to be delivered at the General Assembly meeting calling on governments to reaffirm the commitments made five years ago.
The meeting was opened by the Minister for Social Affairs of Sweden, Mr Goran Hagglund who said the Swedish government was very pleased about the decision to establish to a Special Representative on violence against children (SRSG).
Read the rest of the report
[11 December 2007] - There was mixed reaction at the end of the first day of the follow-up meeting to the Special Session on Children, taking place at the United Nations headquarters in New York, United States, this week.
Children, NGO representatives and State delegates came together in different fora to discuss progress made in light of the 'World Fit for Children' report, produced following the Special Session on Children in 2002.
In addition to the main plenary session, where States and children made presentations, NGO side events were also organised.
Meanwhile two other meetings, a 'round-table discussion' on the subject of 'Promoting healthy lives and combatting HIV and AIDS' and an 'Informal Dialogue with Heads of Government delegations, Heads of UN agencies and the Chair of the CRC Committee' also took place.
These latter meetings were billed as an opportunity for children, NGOs, UN agencies and Governments to all play their part in talks about the progress made since 2002.
Skip to: Report on the round-table discussion | Report on the interactive discussion | Child's statement at the plenary session | Report on NGO side event on violence
Report on the roundtable discussion
It was hoped the round-table discussion on 'Promoting healthy lives and combatting HIV and AIDS' would be an opportunity for State delegates to talk about the ways in which they had been focusing on the issue, and for children and NGO representatives to raise questions and add their voices.
Representatives from countries including Vietnam, Egypt, Ecuador, Belgium, China, Haiti, Japan, the Ukraine, Cambodia, Italy, Senegal, Nigeria and Swaziland had the opportunity to speak.
Some of the children's questions included:
- What can we do to reduce the rate of child mortality? (Benin)
- How can we improve education for children not in school because of health problems? (Kenya)
- What can we do to prevent discrimination against children with HIV and AIDS (France)
- When a child's parents die of AIDS, who should be responsible for the child? (Iran)
- What are the steps governments are taking to tackle the problem of children and pollution? (Ukraine)
Sandra, a youth delegate from the Netherlands, said: “Only 25 per cent of young people have knowledge of HIV and AIDS. A good way to combat this problem is peer pressure, as it is children who know our problems best. Use us and involve us – if you listen to us you will realise that children under 18 do have sex, but we are not using condoms and HIV and AIDS services are often not available to under 18s.”
A representative from NGO Comité de los Derechos del Niño, Uruguay, noted that National Plans of Action are not implemented for lack of resources. The plans are often enacted without the particpation of children.
He said: “If we continue to deal with the HIV and AIDS situation among children in a fragmented manner we will continue to leave aside crucial questions. If we don't link the rights of the child with HIV and AIDS then neither the present nor the future will be a good one.”
However, many NGOs and children were disappointed with the session after the voices of States appeared to be given primacy over those of children and NGOs, despite assurances that participation would be inclusive.
Particpants who had prepared statements and questions registered to speak at the beginning of the session, only to discover three hours later that provision for their interventions had not been made.
In stark contrast, every State delegate was given the chance to speak.
Sara Austin, of World Vision, said: “Today's event has made a mockery of NGO and child participation.
“Some of the NGOs were consulted about the format of the session, and it was suggested that we would rotate, but protocol was simply not followed.
“The General Assembly invited ten children and ten NGOs to participate, and many of us registered at the start of the session.
“We waited for three hours and still could not speak.
“What we witnessed today was not participation.
“This is a step back from where we were in 2002 when children and NGOs had a good opportunity to have their voices heard.
“We were told this would be an interactive dialogue, but the States just read out prepared statements.”
Ms Austin said she and other disgruntled NGO representatives intended to file a complaint to the General Assembly.
Lennart Reinius, of Plan Sweden, and chair of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, questioned the utility of the session.
He said: “States spoke about what they had done in the past, but they need to answer the children's questions and say what they planned for the future.
“Everyone of us has failures, including NGOs, so we should talk about those as well as successes."
Later, speaking in the plenary meeting, Norway's child representative said: “I would like to say that in the Children's Forum we asked many questions. But we did not get many answers today. I only hope that tomorrow will be better.”
Child statement at the plenary session
Longeni Victorius Matsi, 14, of Namibia, read out a statement drafted by the Children's Forum at the morning plenary session. He presents a programme on a Childline radio show in Namibia which educates and provides advice.
He said: “It was such a great experience and a great honour.
“My main hope from this event is that the opinions of the children will be listened to, and their objectives met.
“There are big problems in my country with poverty and HIV and AIDS, and a lot of people from other countries do not know about the problems in my country.
“This event is a real great opportunity to share experiences and have children talk to each other about the challenges that they face.”
The full statement
Ninety-three young people, thirty-seven boys and fifty-six girls, aged eleven to eighteen and representing fifty-one countries, despite our twenty different languages, we are united for one cause, to create a "World Fit for Children".
Five years ago, children like us spoke for the first time in this General Assembly and they presented a document called "A World Fit for Us".
Since then, we young people have been taking actions to make that world a World Fit for Us.
We have raised our voices and taken responsibility for those issues that directly impact us. We are becoming increasingly involved in children's forums and organisations, like Children's Parliaments which allow for a free environment for children to learn about their rights and express their opinion.
We have fought for equality in all aspects of gender, age, ability, race and religion. we believe that our rights are universal, including boys and girls, minority groups, and indigenous people.
We undertake projects in our home countries that benefit a wide variety of children. We take various actions to combat issues such as malnutrition, child trafficking and HIV and AIDS, including countries affected by disaster, conflict and war.
We denounce all forms of child exploitation, violence and abuse against children. We need to establish and maintain those partnerships between young people and those who can ensure that rights are being enforced.
Promises were made in 2002, and we are eager to hear from you as to what has been achieved, and what is still to be achieved.
This meeting is a time for honesty, real action and meaningful change, to end poverty and discrimination, to educate our children and fight disease. This is the time for us to come together. This is the time to listen to our words not only with your ears, but also with your hearts.
There are no better people to consult on children's rights than children themselves. Together we can continue building A World Fit For Us.
[12 December 2007] - The follow-up event to the Special Session on Children continued with a second round-table discussion, more side events and further statements from government representatives during the plenary meeting.
Skip to: Report on the 2nd round-table discussion | Side event on children and religion | Statement of independent human rights institutions for children
Report on the 2nd round-table discussion
A loud round of applause greeted the opening statement from a Bangladeshi child at the beginning of the second round-table discussion on 'providing universal quality education as key to achieving the MDGs and as the first line of protection against abuse, exploitation and violence against children'.
NGOs and children yesterday regretted not being given the opportunity to speak in the first round-table discussion. All State delegates who had requested to speak were able to do so.
Ruita, from Bangladesh, said: “We regret that the round-table [yesterday] was not interactive enough and that we did not get the answers to our questions.
“We would like that this round-table will offer the opportunity for dialogue and ideas and we are looking for more answers.”
Sara Austin, of World Vision, also later added; “I would like to appeal to the co chairs and Member States to allow the opportunity for all NGOs and children to participate as we were invited to do so by the General Assembly.”
Complaints had also privately been made to the General Assembly prior to the opening of the second round-table discussion, all of which prompted a more fruitful and interactive debate.
Questions from child representatives during the session included:
- Why do governments not spend more on early childhood development. And why do they spend more on war than on education? (Bangladesh)
- What have our governments done to provide high quality education? (China)
- How can we convince children of the importance of education to their furture? (Germany)
- Could countries tell us what they are doing to ensure universal access to education? (Democratic Republic of Congo)
- What is being done in the follow-up to the UN Study on Violence Against Children? (Cambodia)
- What is being done to address the issue of corporal punishment, and what other ways do you have to educate us? (Norway)
- What are governments doing to eliminate discrimination in the education system against children with HIV and AIDS, orphans, minorities and working children? (Togo)
- What are governments doing to help children who are not in school? (Philippines)
- Why do governments sign treaties and make laws protecting children, but then fail to implement them? (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
In response to the questions on education, the Finish ombudsman emphasised school should not just be about the acquisition of knowledge, but about play and the emotional development of the child too.
Yanghee Lee, chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed the question of why more is not being done about universal primary education.
She said: “Education is the answer to a lot of problems facing children in the world. The Committee thinks that universal primary education not enough, but that the quality of the education is also important. There needs to be better teaching training, and they need to be paid properly.”
She noted there could also be a lot of hidden costs in schooling which need to be discarded.
Sara Austin, of World Vision, asked: “Why does the vast majority of violence against children remain state authorised and socially condoned. Would the State be willing to enact legislation which forbids all violence against children?”
In response, the Swedish delegate said: “Violence never creates confident and happy children.”
Child labour link
A representative from the MV Foundation, in India, urged delegates to consider the link between child labour and universal education.
“We cannot achieve universal education unless all forms of child labour are banned. We cannot employ false arguments about cultural relativism or economics to excuse child labour.”
A representative from SOS Children's Villages asked: “Why do governments spend so much money on arms and not on education? If you think education is expensive, try ignorance?”
A young person from Norway who asked delegates to act on corporal punishment said: “Our value is more than being future adults. We are humans today. Being hit is not a good way to grow up. Being afraid does not promote learning. If you want to know what our best interests were, you should listen to us.”
Dr. Balwant Singh from Save the Children in India said he was disappointed that children and NGOs were tucked away in a corner.
“I hope you hear what children and we have to say. But I also noticed many member states’ seats are empty. Do they not take a World Fit for Children seriously? My hope is they are back in their countries creating a world fit for children.
“If we were in a different setting I would actually ask all member states who have allocated the minimum recommended by the UN on education to stand up – but because of protocol I cannot do that.”
Dr Singh went on to welcome the establishment of the Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, and called for the role to be a “truly independent one.”
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, noted all questions asked concerned human rights. “There is no international provision that says that these rights do not apply to children.
She said they would soon be launching a campaign against corporal punishment. She said: “Hitting adults is called assault. Hitting animals is called cruelty. But hitting children is for their own good”.
The representative of Brazil echoed some of the complaints from children and NGOs regarding the format of the discussion which he felt did not provide for a real interactive dialogue, but he urged all present to try to work within the existing format.
Meanwhile, Ana Georgina Ramos de Villalta from the NGO Red para la Infancia y la Adolescencia, El Salvador reiterated the request from NGOs and children to be listened to properly, “NGOs, girls and boys are struggling to get the floor. This is not participation.”
Side event on children and religion
A presentation by the Global Network of Religions for Children, at a side event, outlined some of the efforts currently underway to bridge child rights, religion and education.
The aim of the Network is to create a global forum using the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a central framework.
Helene Gosselin, a director of UNESCO, spoke about the draft Toolkit for Ethics Education Through Interfaith Learning which is currently being developed through the Interfaith Council on Ethics Education for Children.
It is hoped the toolkit will empower children to develop a strong sense of ethics through the principles of respect, empathy, responsibility and reconciliation.
Helene said: “Guidance on ethics and spiritual education is very much needed. In a multicultural society, we need to look at what and how we teach children.”
The joint objectives of the toolkit are:
- to build a culture of peace
- nonviolent resolution of conflicts
- respect for the other
- interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
Rima Salah, Special Advisor to UNICEF, spoke about a study called 'The Child in World Religions', which is being prepared by UNICEF and the Network.
The project aims to research and document resources on teachings, approaches, perspectives and practices in world religions in relation to children.
Rima said she discovered the value of religion in promoting children's rights while working for UNICEF as a regional director in West and Central Africa.
“We met with more than 200 religious leaders to help solve the problem of polio. We realised that religious leaders have assets, moral and social. They can mobilise people from the pulpit and from the mosques.
“Religion is being hijacked, now more than ever, due to stereotypes and a lack of knowledge. That is why I believe this book is so important.
“A lack of knowledge is a real problem, and children need to have pride in what they believe in.”
Helene added it was important not to single out problems between Muslims and the West.
She said: “This goes against our whole philosophy. We do not target specific religions. It is important to prepare teachers so that they can be inclusive of all religions.”
For more information, visit: http://www.gnrc.net/en/ and www.ethicseducationforchildren.org
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