Twenty five years ago something wonderful happened for children of every nation and generation with the launch of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
193 countries –including every country in the Pacific — have acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, making it the most agreed global Convention in history.
Some of the important rights that were pledged for all children were the right to a name and nationality, a right to education, a right to be free from violence and a right to be healthy.
There has been good progress in the Pacific in fulfilling children’s rights– progress to be proud of, progress that is visible in the happy, healthy faces of children. More children live to their fifth birthday, more children go to school, more children are being registered at birth and more children have access to clean water and improved sanitation.
Sadly, though, data show us that far too many children are left behind. This marginalization is hidden by statistical averages, which show overall improvement but mask disparities within countries.
In the Pacific, the children not registered at birth, not accessing health care, dropping out of school, lacking sufficient clean water and toilets,, and even missing life- saving vaccinations and other essential health care, are more likely to be from low income households that are in urban informal settlements and on remote islands. Violence against children and women, by contrast, occurs in households of all income levels and locations.
This year – the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – UNICEF challenges the world to think differently about how to drive change for the world’s hardest to reach and most vulnerable children. The year the Convention was born;
- We promised that every girl and boy has the right to survive and be healthy: The Western Pacific region is now polio-free but too many children are left behind to get sick or even die because they do not get vaccinated against measles, hepatitis B, rotavirus and pneumonia
- We promised that every child should have a name and an identity: Birth registration rates have climbed high since 1989 in most Pacific countries — but some countries are still challenged. For example, nearly 80% of children under five in Solomon Islands are left behind because their births have never been registered.
- We promised that every girl and every boy has a right to an education: In the Pacific, primary school enrolment is typically high but in many schools the quality of education is not good enough, leaving too many primary school graduates unable to get into secondary school and ill equipped for jobs in today’s world.
- We promised that no child should be subjected to violence. In the Pacific as many as 7 out of 10 women and 8 out of 10 children experience violence and/or abuse at some point in their lives.
- We promised that all children should have access to safe water and sanitation: Two-thirds of the Pacific population has improved sanitation facilities.
Reaching all children means knowing how far we have come, and where we need to go. That requires solid, reliable evidence. UNICEF’s celebration of the CRC kicked off on 30 January with the release of the State of the World’s Children in Numbers.
This flagship publication is the premier source of data and information on child well-being around the world. Solid, reliable data show us how far we have come, and where we need to go. They make change possible by providing an evidence base for action, investment and accountability.
Let’s look at the data in SOWC for each country, and use it to guide investments to realize the rights of all children everywhere: let no child be left behind.
By Dr. Karen Allen
UNICEF Pacific Representative