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30 years of child rights: Children in the Pacific islands join with governments on World Children’s Day

SUVA, 20 November 2019 – Today, children in the Pacific region will join millions more around the world to celebrate World Children’s Day, together with Prime Ministers, Presidents, parliamentarians, schools and communities, as part of UNICEF’s global day of action for children, by children.

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC30), the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Thirty years ago, world leaders united around a common cause and adopted the CRC, an international agreement on childhood, that helped transform children’s lives.

Today, child rights have not changed, they have no expiry date. But childhood has changed. Urgent, concrete action is needed to protect and promote the rights of every child, now, and for future generations.

“We are proud to be working with many governments across the Pacific region who have signed the global pledge to re-commit to the CRC this year and are demonstrating the importance of children having a voice in the development of their countries. We acknowledge the support and commitment of the governments in protecting, promoting and fulfilling the rights of children on this momentous occasion,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett.

Across the Pacific Region, there are several events taking place to commemorate CRC30 on World Children’s Day:

  • In the Federated States of Micronesia, a National Youth Summit and launch of the U-Report programme, a youth-led project utilising digital technology, is currently underway this week with the President, H.E. David W. Panuelo, as key guest. The College of Micronesia is partnering with UNICEF for this event and students will produce films and photos to document the youth summit;

  • In Fiji, Ba Muslim Primary School kicked World Children’s Day off in the region by ‘taking over’ the school assembly and emergency evacuation on 14 November as part of the UNICEF-supported disaster preparedness in schools programme. Today, the Prime Minister, Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, signed the global pledge to re-commit to the CRC at a signing ceremony held with children at his Office;

  • In Kiribati, there is the launch of U-Report programme with President and youth will launch this new innovative programme utilising digital technology;

  • In Nauru, the government is holding a national event on the occasion of CRC30 together with children and communities;

  • In Samoa, there is a youth-led media campaign on the occasion of CRC30;

  • In the Solomon Islands, the Prime Minister, Honourable Manasseh Sogavare, will be presenting a speech on child rights and there will be child rights activities on the CRC to be held in schools;

  • In Tonga, a youth parliament will take place over the coming weeks, with guidance, supervision and support from the Office of the Legislative Assembly. A steering committee has been commissioned by the Lord Speaker to take the lead of the youth parliamentarians participating;

  • In Vanuatu, youth reporters visited communities to learn more about early childhood development programmes to improve the lives of children in the country, and hosted a talkback show with the Government of Vanuatu, UNICEF and Save the Children. A live talkback show on early childhood development will also be aired today.

There have been historic gains overall for the world’s children since the CRC was adopted. However, many of the poorest children are yet to feel the impact, according to The Convention on the Rights of the Child at a Crossroads, a new report released this week.

Part of commemorations marking CRC30, the report looks at the undeniable achievements of the past three decades, proof that where there is political will and determination, children’s lives improve.  

Citing progress in child rights over the past three decades, the report notes that:

  • The global under-five mortality rate has fallen by about 60 per cent. There has been a decrease in the rate in majority of Pacific Island countries. The highest decrease has been recorded in Kiribati with almost 50 per cent in the under-five mortality rate.

  • 2.6 billion more people have cleaner drinking water today than in 1990. Kiribati has had an increased number of schools with improved access to clean water from four per cent to 30 per cent.

  • The guiding principles of the CRC – non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to protection – have influenced numerous constitutions, laws, policies and practices in the region.

However, this progress has not been even.

  • Children from the poorest households are twice as likely to die from preventable causes before their fifth birthday than children from the richest households.

The report also addresses age-old and new threats affecting children in the Pacific:

  • Children are physically, physiologically and epidemiologically most at risk of the impacts of the climate crisis: Rapid changes in climate are spreading disease, increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, and creating food and water insecurity. Unless urgent action is taken, the worst for many children is yet to come.

To accelerate progress in advancing child rights, and to address stagnation and backsliding in some of these rights, the report calls for more data and evidence. It calls for more involvement of young people in co-creating solutions along with parents, caregivers, education and social workers, communities and governments, civil society, academia, the private sector and the media.

See by the numbers how we are engaging youth voices for positive social change.