Message by, Paul Hulshoff, UNICEF Representative in Iran on Children’s Day 2010
Let’s Make Sure No Child is Left Behind!
Given the deeply rooted significance of the care and protection of children in Iran’s social, cultural, historic and religious heritage and values, I am sure that, as in the past, Iran Children’s Day will be celebrated with much joy and many reminders of the great treasure that children are, in our families, in our communities and for the nation as a whole.
This is an important part of the Children’s Day legacy and its purpose, to be sure. But there must be more to it than that alone. Children’s Day is also the occasion where for one moment every year, we pause and reflect if our actions as adults truly are in the best interest of our children, if we truly do the best we can to help them realize their full potential. These are serious questions, deserving of serious reflection and debate that go beyond mere celebrations.
This year Children’s Day carries a message that requires strong commitment, effective implementation and intensified collective action; ”Children at the heart of Millennium Development Goals, Let’s work together to improve Child Safety.”
In UNICEF’s closing event for the UN Millennium Development Summit on Sep 22-2010, experts and world leaders pledged for action and highlighted the importance of reaching the world’s most disadvantaged and hardest-to-reach children in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with equity by 2015.
Meeting the Millennium Development Goals is equal to fulfilling the rights of children, because ultimately children are at the heart of the MDGs. Each child is born with the right to survival, life and development. Each child is born with the right to food and nutrition, health and shelter and an education. And each child is born with the right to equality, protection and the right to participate and be heard in the decisions that affect his or her life. These rights have been most explicitly agreed to in the 1989 international Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by 192 states, including the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has made considerable progress in a number of areas. Others require accelerated efforts and action to meet the 2015 MDG deadline.
For example, significant progress has been made towards meeting the MDG target to reduce the Under Five Child Mortality Rate (U5MR). Although the trend of U5M reduction has slowed down following the decade of rapid progress during the 1990’s, a further reduction from 31 to 24 is achievable which means that Iran is on track to meet MDG4 (total U5M reduction of 2/3 by 2015 compared to 1990).
But of course, the ultimate aim is to prevent all preventable deaths of children, including of those who are the most disadvantaged, or the hardest to reach. This would require more efforts to accelerate progress in the area of infant mortality (deaths of children between 0 and 12 months), reduction of disparities, use of gender disaggregated data and an increased focus on children dying from non-communicable diseases, in particular accidents and injuries.
There is now clear evidence that for nations to reach the MDGs, they are best advised to design and execute their development plans with a specific focus on remaining inequities and target their interventions on those who are at the bottom of the ladder and who least benefited from the progress made to date. Reducing disparities between the best and the worst off is a challenge for all Middle Income Countries and requires special attention. In line with priorities set by the draft Islamic Republic of Iran’s 5th National Development Plan to reduce poverty and disparity gaps, it is recommended that Iran continues to target children, girls and boys, affected by poverty in disparity areas as well as vulnerable children in the fast growing cities in the country.
Improving Child Safety, the theme of this year’s Iran Children’s Day, can make a significant contribution to this effort. As mentioned before, accidents and injuries are one of the main causes of death of children in Iran. Any actions in this area need to take existing inequities into account as well, as more often than not, it is the most disadvantaged children who face the highest risks.
The main aim of UNICEF Iran is to assist Iran in its efforts to meet these challenges. UNICEF does not, and does not seek, to pursue programmes for children independently. We work solely in collaboration with our many partners, as ultimately the responsibility for improving the lives of Iranian children rests with the Iranian Government and the Iranian people, and they alone. In this spirit, UNICEF Iran looks forward to a continuation of our joint efforts, based on a holistic consideration of a child’s well-being, and with the participation of all relevant stakeholders.
So in conclusion, I return to where I started – the purpose of Iran Children’s Day. I firmly believe we will do full justice to this year’s celebrations, if we use the occasion not only to celebrate in joy, but also pause, reflect and debate what we as parents, teachers, officials, religious leaders, media professionals or community workers, in short, we as adults, can do more to make sure that all children, regardless of their background or conditions, have equal access to their basic rights and can live a life in prosperity and dignity. May this day serve as an occasion to renew our commitment, to make sure not even a single child is left behind.
I wish a happy Children’s Day to all of you!