Keeping children and their rights alive
UNICEF marks Universal Children’s Day with a call to scale up all efforts to protect the rights of every child in Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR, 6 November 2008 – A child is not the property of his or her school, community or state. A child is not even the property of his or her parents. A child is a human being and subject of his or her own rights.
This vision of the child is reflected in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989 and ratified by the Government of Malaysia in 1995.
“Nineteen years ago on 20 November, the world came together to say yes to children; that children have the same general human rights as adults,” says the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Malaysia Mr Youssouf Oomar.
“The Convention believes that every child – regardless of where they are born, the race or ethnic group they belong to, whether they are a boy or girl, rich or poor – must have every opportunity to become a productive member of society, as well as the right to speak up and be heard,” Mr Youssouf stresses.
The 54 articles of the CRC rest on four foundation principles of: non-discrimination; best interests of the child; the child's right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.
More importantly, the CRC spells out the obligations of governments and adults – including families, schools and communities – to ensure that the rights of all children are respected.
“Many countries, especially middle income countries like Malaysia, have experienced an increasing emphasis on the realisation of a full package of child rights that extend way beyond the basic rights to survival,” commends Mr. Youssouf of Malaysia’s efforts in upholding the nation’s promise to children, creating impressive achievements in child survival, health, education and development.
Still, where pockets of disparities exist, the most vulnerable children fall through the gaps. Four percent of Malaysian children aged six to 12 are not in schools , where they belong, while some 7,000 children under five continue to die each year from preventable and treatable diseases . Cases of violence and abuse remain hidden behind closed doors.
Recognising that specific measures need to be taken to ensure that children achieve their fundamental human rights, UNICEF has been working with the Government of Malaysia for the past 54 years to bring national legislation, policy and practice into accordance with the standards in the CRC.
Amongst others, efforts are being made to ensure that children with disabilities can claim equal rights as all other children. Article 23 of the CRC urges governments to provide special care and support to children with any kind of disability, so that they can lead full and independent lives.
“A child with disabilities is still a child with possibilities and potential, with unique abilities and capacities that embody the promise of our future,” says Mr Youssouf. “For this child to realise his or her potential, there needs to be a special attention on ensuring equal access to education, as well as providing protection from violence, neglect and institutionalisation.”
Malaysia has taken a step in the right direction, having signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 8 April 2008. The Convention entitles people with disabilities to the full enjoyment of all human rights and ensures full and effective participation as well as inclusion in society, on an equal basis with others.
Yet, more has to be done. Conscious efforts have to be made to put children in the spotlight so that their needs and rights are not forgotten in national laws and policies.
“As the guardian of children’s rights, UNICEF is committed to supporting the implementation of national plans of actions that will comply with the CRC, as well as the concluding observations and recommendations made by the Committee on the Rights of the Child to the Government in January 2007,” adds Mr. Youssouf.
“We will have to work upstream now, to ensure that the Government puts in place a solid legal framework to protect the rights of all children, particularly vulnerable children who face disparities or have special needs,” he concludes.
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