|A young woman and her niece stand arm-in-arm on a hillside overlooking their neighbourhood in a poor area of Colombia, where UNICEF and the government are making progress on ensuring children's fundamental rights.|
By Roshni Karwal
NEW YORK, USA, 18 September 2008 – Child rights took centre stage on the third day of UNICEF’s Executive Board meeting at United Nations headquarters yesterday. At a special-focus session on policy and advocacy, board members examined and discussed the status of children’s rights in Malawi, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Colombia.
As Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted at the session, UNICEF’s mission encompasses advocating for the protection of children’s rights, helping to meet their basic needs and expanding their opportunities to reach their full potential.
In all of this work, UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Besides enumerating those rights, the Convention protects children by setting universal standards for them regarding health care, education, and legal, civil and social services.
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman addresses the Executive Board’s session on policy and advocacy for children's rights. At left, Colombia’s Inspector General, Edgardo José Maya Villazón; at right, Board President Anders Lidén.|
Focus on Colombia
Colombia’s Inspector General and Public Ministry Chief, Edgardo José Maya Villazón, appeared at the special-focus session to discuss the challenges facing his country’s 16 million children and adolescents. For the most vulnerable children, these challenges include poverty, violence and drug trafficking.
“Being a child in Colombia today means, for many children, facing obstacles and risks associated with the lack of opportunities, the absence of protective environments that guarantee children’s development and integral protection, and the problems related to poverty,” said Maya. “Six out of 10 boys and girls under the age of six live in poverty,” he added.
To address these issues, Colombia has put into action a national strategy on child rights, Maya explained. With technical and financial support from UNICEF, the strategy has improved the quality of life for children from early childhood through school age and adolescence.
‘Facts and Rights’
The Colombian programme, known as ‘Facts and Rights’, focuses on nine policy priorities: maternal health, infant health, sexual and reproductive health, education, nutrition, safe drinking water and basic sanitation, civil birth registration, participation and protection.
And the initiative has delivered results. For example, Maya told the board, some 23,700 children have been registered as a result of a national birth-registration campaign. During the campaign, more than 300 birth registry stations were set up at clinics and hospitals in the public system, helping children get off to the right start in life.
Birth registration is critical because it helps provide children with access to the services and protection to which they are entitled.
Such positive changes are facilitated by “UNICEF’s vast knowledge regarding human rights, in particular children’s rights, its capacity to build partnerships around a common purpose and its impartiality, timeliness and effectiveness,” Maya concluded.