BRAZZAVILLE, 31 December, 2010 – UNICEF today hailed a groundbreaking new law that gives Congolese children belonging to indigenous populations – until now the most vulnerable amongst the vulnerable – a legal basis to access health, education and protection.
“This law is unique in the region and sets an example for all other countries having indigenous populations similar to the ones in Congo,” said Marianne Flach, UNICEF Country Representative, in Congo. “This is a great step forward for the children of the Congo, and represents a milestone in Congolese history.”
The Senate adopted the law protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous populations after the National Assembly ratified it and as a response to the recommendations made by the International Committee on the Rights of the Child and as way to consolidate of Congo’s engagement in the Convention on the Rights of the Child which the nation ratified in 1993.
“This law is the beginning of a long road to ensure that discrimination and exploitation of our indigenous brothers and sisters finally ends,” said Mr Aimé-Emmanuel Yoka the Minister of Justice and Human Rights. “It is also the opportunity for them to gain equitable access to basic social services so they can attain a dignified way of living, always respecting their cultures and traditions.”
Addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and the most isolated population is a cornerstone of UNICEF’s strategy to accelerate toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
In the Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world, indigenous populations are precariously balanced on the bottom rung of the society, the poorest of the poor.
A vast majority of them live under the poverty line, 50 per cent of the children have no birth certificate, one out five children dies before reaching the age of five (in the rest of the population, one in eight children die before five); 40 per cent of children suffer chronic malnourishment and where 75 per cent of young people lack any schooling.
The law is the result of a wide group of partners, including the Government, the Parliament, civil society organizations, in particular the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), the National Network of Indigenous Populations of Congo (RENAPAC) as well as the UN Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, the UN system, the European Union and donor governments.
The next step is the enactment of the law by the President. “This is the beginning of a long road leading to diffusion and application of the law by the authorities” said Mrs Flach, “This is the only way to ensure this law becomes a reality for the most vulnerable in the Congo”.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For further information and interview requests please contact:
Marianne Flach, UNICEF Country Representative, Congo, Brazzaville
Tel + 242 06 666 3566
Marius Biyekele, UNICEF Protection Head of Section, Congo, Brazzaville
Tel + 242 06 661 0006