ALMATY, Kazakhstan, 22 November 2010 – UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Sir Roger Moore wrapped up his first visit to Kazakhstan by calling on the country and all other states to uphold the rights of all children, including the most vulnerable and those children with disabilities.
During the five day trip, Sir Roger - the British actor perhaps best known for his role as James Bond - and his wife Lady Kristina, met and spoke with children, parents, local officials and members of civil society to raise awareness about the importance of inclusion for all children.
Back in school
Sir Roger, Lady Kristina, and UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer joined hundreds of children in an earthquake and fire emergency preparedness drill at a school in Almaty Region’s Karasay District as part of a joint program on disaster risk reduction between UNICEF and the European Union’s Disaster Preparedness Humanitarian Aid Department (DIPECHO). “You have demonstrated the high level of your preparedness for disasters, but I hope you will never have to use your skills in real life,” Sir Roger told the schoolchildren following the drill.
According to the UN, the frequency, scale and impact of disasters around the world are increasing, with often devastating and long term impact on the lives of children and their families. Kazakhstan is located in a geographic area prone to earthquakes and flooding.
Sir Roger also visited a baby home in Almaty, where he stressed the importance of ensuring that all children are raised in a loving family environment. He was moved by twin brothers, one of whom is blind, and noted that he feared that the chances of them being adopted by one family could be low. According to Kazakh law, brothers and sisters cannot be adopted by different families, and would-be foster parents prefer adopting healthy children. Kazakhstan has 75,000 children placed in state-run institutions who are deprived of their right to be raised in a family environment. The country ranks highest in terms of numbers of children in state establishments per capita in Eastern and Central Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Call for inclusion
On the third day of the trip, Sir Roger and Lady Kristina were joined by UNICEF National Ambassador for Kazakhstan, Batyrkhan Shukenov and Ms. Singer, at an event by Special Olympics Kazakhstan in Almaty.
UNICEF works closely with Special Olympics International and other organisations to advocate for health-care, education, recreation and employment policies benefiting all children with disabilities. There are over 150,000 children with disabilities in Kazakhstan, and only a third of them have access to educational and developmental programmes. The UN Convention on the Persons with Disabilities, which was also signed by Kazakhstan, has increased the status and visibility of disability as a human rights issue. Building on this platform, UNICEF currently partners with the Government and civil society in the preparation for the ratification and implementation of the Convention in the country.
Sir Roger and Batyrkhan Shukenov spoke with children and their parents to learn more about the challenges that they face in everyday life. He also urged all states – including Kazakhstan - to protect the rights of every child, including the right to health, education and to grow up in a family environment. “Kazakhstan has been a leader on economic reform,” said Sir Roger. “We now look forward to Kazakhstan also taking an equally strong leadership on social reform.”
During a press conference later in the day, Sir Roger stressed that when it comes to fulfilling children’s rights – everyone has a role to play. “We all have a responsibility of doing our duties as a human being and help the man next door – especially the child.”
“We have to draw more often the Government’s attention to social inclusion, and more resources should be channeled to the programmes on inclusion of the most vulnerable children, including those who are HIV-positive or abandoned by their parents” said Batyrkhan Shukenov, a hugely popular singer and performer.
Both UNICEF Ambassadors stressed the importance of changing society’s attitude towards vulnerable children, including those with disabilities and those living with HIV, to ensure inclusion and avoid stigmatisation.
More space for youth
Towards the end of the trip, Sir Roger and his wife visited the Youth Friendly Services (YFS) Centre at Almaty Student Hospital, which was initiated as part of a UNICEF project. At the YFS centre, Sir Roger, Lady Kristina and Ms. Singer spoke with a group of young people who shared some of their personal stories about the problems that young people face, including a lack of youth participation in decision making and lack of information about issues that impact their lives, including HIV/AIDS. Unemployment is also an issue for young people, including those who have completed school and graduated from University.
Sir Roger urged the young people to keep speaking out to help make positive changes in the lives of children and youth and promote tolerance. “You have to talk long enough and loud enough and eventually you will be heard,” said Sir Roger Moore.
The famous British actor noted that there is also a role for local media and television to play in raising awareness of everyday issues that youth face. “They must make space for programming for youth and the problems of youth so it gets spoken about,” he said.
On 20th November Sir Roger attended the Charity Ball organized by Eventica Group in support of UNICEF’s programme on children disabilities.
Sir Roger Moore reminded the audience of the importance of upholding the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to education, health and a protective environment for all children. The event coincided with the 21st anniversary of the adoption of the Convention and marked the one year date of Batyrkhan Shukenov’s appointment as the first UNICEF National Ambassador for Kazakhstan. The Ball, which included representatives of the corporate sector, Government officials and public figures, was a first of its kind in Kazakhstan to support UNICEF in the country.
“The promotion of awareness starts close to home and those small places that you will not be able to find on the global map. These are the places where every man, every woman and every child seek equal justice, equal opportunity and equal dignity without discrimination,” Ms. Singer told the some 1,000 people attending the Ball.
While in Kazakhstan, Sir Roger also taped two video messages and provided extensive media interviews to stress the importance of inclusion for all children and prevention of child abandonment.
UNICEF in Kazakhstan
UNICEF is supporting the Government of Kazakhstan, in the piloting of several local and national projects. Kazakhstan is a middle-income country but there are serious challenges in terms of narrowing the gap between the wellbeing of children of urban and rural areas, as nearly 40 per cent of the population live in rural areas. Kazakhstan has been doing well in economic reforms, but social reform is lagging behind and there are poor outreach social programmes. UNICEF support to Kazakhstan is delivered over a wide spectrum, through four central programme areas: Child Health and Development; Child Protection; Young People’s Health and Development, HIV/AIDS; and, Social Policy Development and Participatory Governance.
For further information, please contact: John Budd, UNICEF Geneva, Tel +41794311537, firstname.lastname@example.org