UNICEF Executive Director Launches Regional
Campaign to Combat Exclusion of Children
- Over 18 million children are excluded by poverty\
- More than 1 million live in institutions instead of
- Minority children bear the brunt of discrimination
ISTANBUL, 16 June 2003 Arguing that the exclusion
of millions of children in the countries of Eastern Europe
and the Commonwealth of Independent States is undermining
the development of those nations, UNICEF Executive Director
Carol Bellamy joined civil society representatives from
27 countries at the launch of a major regional campaign
to Leave No Child Out ».
Speaking to representatives of hundreds of non-profit
groups from across the region, Bellamy declared that exclusion
from basic services and a dignified start in life creates
a vicious cycle of disadvantage, with harm passed from
one generation to the next in a legacy of poverty, ill
health, lack of education, and lack of prospects. It undermines
stability and democracy and holds societies back economically
due to over-burdened public services and lost productivity.
A world fit for children, she said, recalling
the vision that emerged from last years UN Special
Session on Children, is a world in which no child
is discriminated against or excluded. The enormous challenges
emerging in this region can only be overcome by investment
in the well-being of children all children.
The year-long advocacy campaign is being spearheaded
by the Regional Network for Children (RNC) in Central
and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States
and the Baltic States an association of non-governmental
organizations that work with children in partnership with
UNICEF. The campaign follows on the heels of the Say Yes
for Children initiative that gathered 26 million pledges
in the region in 2001-2002, identifying Leave No
Child Out as the number one priority from among
ten key issues facing children globally.
Organizers said the campaign is based on the non-discrimination
principle of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the
Child. It targets seven main forms of discrimination and
exclusion: poverty, ethnicity, institutionalisation, disability,
the impact of conflict, gender discrimination, and the
stigma of HIV/AIDS.
Noting that these factors often work in combination to
create layer upon layer of exclusion, RNC Secretary-General
Diana Nistorescu said they slow progress being made
on other fronts and undermine the original goals of democratic
transition that began with the fall of the Berlin
Wall in 1989.
Research conducted by UNICEFs Innocenti Research
Centre See .www.unicef-icdc.org puts numbers to the problem
of discrimination in the region:
- · Of the regions 117 million children,
nearly 18 million are living in poverty, often denied
basic services and opportunities to which they are entitled.
- Children belonging to minority groups such
as the Roma population of some 9 million receive
second-class education in many countries,
often suffer from ill-health and face prejudice and
violence in their communities.
- Around 1.5 million children are living in public care
instead of with their families, an increase of 150,000
since 1989. Around 1 million of them live in Soviet-style
- In the one-third of the countries of the region where
armed conflicts have taken place since 1989, there were
approximately 2.2 million internally displaced people
and almost 1 million refugees in 2000 most of
them women and children.
- And now the region faces the fastest growing rates
of HIV infection in the world, with over a million cases
estimated by UNAIDS most of them young people
who face stigma and exclusion.
UNICEF added that excluded children are particularly
vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and abuse, and noted
that trafficking of women and children is a large and
growing trend in the region. One of the keys to
leaving no child out is ensuring that all children are
raised in a protective environment; in other words, that
the adults around them in school, at home, in law
enforcement, and at work understand childrens
unique vulnerabilities and act together to protect them
Emphasizing that all of this exclusion is preventable,
Bellamy said that the return of economic growth and the
consolidation of democracy in nearly all countries in
the region mean that the resources and the basic policies
are in place to turn things around.
The Leave No Child Out campaign will include
year-long efforts to raise the issues of exclusion in
the media; roundtable symposiums at the university as
wel las community levels ; research into the impact of
exlusionary policies on progress for children in the region
; and advocacy with governments and other key institutions.
The ultimate goals, said organizers, is to remind the
regions governments of the commitments they have
made to ensure the rights of all children including
the obligation to uphold the Convention on the Rights
of the Child and agreement to achieve the Millennium Development
Goals. The NGOs participating in the 3-day conference
in Istanbul are drafting an Open Letter that will appeal
to governments to honour the promises they have made to
UNICEF Regional Director Philip OBrien stressed,
however, that the campaign does not only seek improved
policies, laws and services as important as these
are. It must also address the deep-seated prejudices
that fuel exclusion and intolerance, while celebrating
the diversity that represents the regions richness
and potential, he said.
For further information, please contact:
Robert Cohen, UNICEF Media, Geneva (4122) 909-5631