As the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Children approaches, there is certainly progress to be proud of — fewer infants are dying from preventable causes and more kids are enrolled in school.
However, there is still much work to be done to ensure the pact is upheld and that children everywhere have a better future, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights News, Michelle Bachelet, urged during the opening remarks of the 80th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday.
Although the Convention received unprecedented support when it was ratified in 1990, many countries have since fallen short in their promise to protect children from extreme poverty, trafficking, and slavery, Bachelet said.
Globally, the mortality rate of children under 5 years old has dropped by more than half since 1990. But more than 60 countries are not on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal to reduce neonatal mortality to 12 per 1000 live births and under-5 mortality to 25 per 1000 births, according UNICEF. If progress does not improve, an estimated 60 million children under five will die from preventable causes between 2017 and 2030. The majority of these children will be born in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where extreme poverty is most prevalent.
The world's children also face threats of forced labor and abuse. Nearly one-third of all human trafficking victims are children — and refugee, migrant, and displaced children are most vulnerable to this kind of abuse, according to UNICEF. In particular, girls are at high risk of being forced into domestic slavery, sexual slavery, and child marriage. Every year, 12 million girls are married before they turn 18, according to nonprofit organization, Girls Not Brides.
Another 20,000 boys and girls around the world have been recruited by armed groups as fighters or slaves.
"These numbers are a calamity," Bachelet said. "Each of them stands for a precious individual, whose hopes and dreams are being dashed. Tragically, there is still much to be done before we realise the four core principles of the Convention: non-discrimination, the child's best interests; right to life, survival and development and right to be heard."
To get on track to ensuring the world's children have a brighter future by 2030, countries must make major investments in healthcare and education. But such an effort also demands that children have input on the issues that impact them.
"In almost every context, children are still viewed as passive recipients of care, their voices dismissed or ignored," she told the Committee.
"We need the power, the clarity, the foresight and the good sense of these children and adolescents to help us overturn many current trends," the UN Chief said. "Empowering them, respecting their dignity and upholding their rights benefits everyone."