Opinion Editorial - Time to put children high on everybody’s agenda, 1 June 2012
TBILISI, Georgia, 1 June 2012
1 June is Child Protection day in Georgia as in most other countries in the region. There are good reasons to celebrate. The situation of children is far better now than it was a decade ago. Child mortality has reduced significantly. Access to pre-school is increasing, although there is still room for improvement. Almost all primary school age children are attending school. And more children are being registered at birth.
In recent years, the Government of Georgia has actively sought to put children at the center of its reform efforts. A new national strategy on juvenile justice is yielding results. The education reform process is modernizing the education system. The Child Care Reform is resulting in the closure of the remaining large-scale institutions for children and supporting reintegration of children into their families.
Many will mark the day with various special events for children, organize concerts, games and entertaining shows. I would like to use this opportunity to draw public attention to the excluded children, those children who live in poverty, who are deprived of the opportunity to fully realize their rights.
More than a quarter of families with children in Georgia continue to live in poverty. This, in turn, perpetuates the cycle of poverty across generations. Child poverty often persists throughout the life cycle, meaning that a child born into poverty will likely remain poor for his or her entire life. Poverty in early childhood can cause lifelong cognitive and physical impairments and put children at permanent disadvantage.
Children are more likely to be poor, but less likely to receive social assistance. That is why ongoing reforms of the social protection system is so critical. Children are the future of this country and they must be prioritized in all social protection and poverty reduction programmes.
UNICEF is working closely with the Government and other partners to focus on ‘equity’. There is growing evidence that investing in the health, education, and protection of society’s most disadvantaged citizens – addressing inequity – is more likely to lead to sustained growth and stability.
In anticipation of the Parliamentary election this year and the presidential election next year I would like to call on all decision-makers, politicians, civil society partners and media to put children high on their agenda. It is time for Georgia to further increase investments in Children with a focus on reducing Child Poverty.