November 18 2002
Universal children's day: it's everyone's concern
18/11/2002 - The rights and well-being of children are everyone's concern. Universal Children's Day is an occasion for countries, societies and every one of us to think about the state of the world's children. And the state of the world's future if we refuse to act.
20 November is Universal Children's Day. First proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1954, it was established to encourage all countries to institute a day, firstly to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and secondly to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of the world's children. 20 November is the anniversary of the day when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was then signed on the same day in 1989, which has since been ratified by 191 states.
During the last decade, some progress has been made in building a better world for children. According to UNICEF, deaths of young children from diarrhoeal diseases decreased by 50% and high and sustained levels of child immunization in most regions of the world have continued to save millions of children. Polio is on the brink of eradication, and worldwide, there are more children in school than ever before.
In May 2002, the UN Special Session on Children brought the situation of the world's children to the top of the political agenda and marked a step forward for child rights. Governments agreed on twenty-one goals to improve the lives of children worldwide, goals which place a strong emphasis on protecting children from abuse, violence and exploitation which were virtually ignored at the 1990 World Summit for Children. National action plans will translate the global policy guidelines of the outcome document "A World fit for children" into national key priorities and incorporate them in national legislation.
However, there is still much to be done. The statistics speak for themselves: more than ten million children under the age of five die every year of preventable diseases; more than 13 million children under the age of 15 have lost their mothers or both parents to AIDS; more than 100 million children are not in school (60% of them girls); and an estimated 300,000 child soldiers are fighting in armies and militias around the world (UNICEF).
In this context, the work SOS Children's Villages continues to be vital. SOS Children's Villages aims to give children, who normally would have grown up in extremely difficult circumstances, the opportunity to enjoy what should be every child's rights: the loving care of a family, an education, access to medical services, and the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
That's why 20 November is an occasion to highlight the plight of millions of children worldwide and emphasize the absolute need for every country, every society and every individual to take responsibility and act on their behalf. 20 November is a day which belongs to the world's children. A day which should be everyone's concern.