Global findings

The children's thoughts and opinions and their assessment of themselves and their peers give us insights into the minds and hearts of the 500 million children who live in the regions polled.

What do some of the young people tell us about how the world is performing when measured against the 10 imperatives for children-- a set of overarching principles supported by millions of people who have pledged their support in the Say Yes for Children campaign?

1. Leave no child out

Children themselves are very aware of discrimination against themselves as well as against their peers. In East Asia and the Pacific, over half the respondents say that some children are not well accepted in their country, and a quarter say they themselves are not accepted.

Forty-six per cent of the children UNICEF polled in European and Central Asian countries think that disabled children are treated unfairly. Close to half those interviewed in Western Europe (44 %) and Central Europe (45%) feel that children of different ethnic groups were treated unfairly in their country. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, about 15 per cent of the children polled want to create a law to protect children and adolescents from di

2. Put children first

All people must take responsibility for ensuring that the rights of children are respected, and all governments must meet their obligations to children and young people.

While children may not always know their rights in detail, those polled by UNICEF spontaneously mentioned the right to express ideas, the right to play or amusement, and the right not to be hurt. Children in all three regions polled referred to the "right to be loved."

Children also want their government to fulfil its promises, protect the poor and show greater concern for youth. And yet, only 30 per cent of the children polled by UNICEF in Europe and Central Asia feel they can trust their government. Pessimism is high: nearly 20 per cent of the children polled in this region feel that voting in elections is ineffective.

A minority of children indicate that they are aware of their right not be hurt, even though the Convention on the Rights of the Child includes an explicit provision on protection against all forms of physical and mental violence, injury or abuse. Awareness is just 21 per cent in East Asia and the Pacific. Barely one third brought this up as a right in the UNICEF polls in Europe and Central Asia and in Latin America and the Caribbean.

3. Care for every child

Children have the right to grow to adulthood in good health and with proper nutrition. It's an essential foundation of human development. No child should go hungry, and every effort should be made to ensure that children get the best possible start in life. The family is central in ensuring that all children have the best possible start in life.

In East Asia and the Pacific, a quarter or more respondents explained an average/bad relationship with their father or mother in terms of the absence of good communication. When children in Latin America and the Caribbean were asked to spontaneously mention situations that concerned them the most, the family came top of the list: when something bad happens in the family (27 %) and when there are fights or family quarrels (17%).

4. Fight HIV/AIDS

The lack of information about HIV/AIDS contributes to the vulnerability of children. In East Asia and the Pacific, only 15 per cent of the 14-to-17-year-olds interviewed claim to know "a lot" about HIV/AIDS. Only 28 per cent overall know how to tell if someone is HIV-positive (through a blood test).

UNICEF found that 53 per cent of those interviewed in the CEE/CIS and Baltic States, and 40 per cent in Western Europe, say they have very little or no information on HIV/AIDS. One third of children and adolescents interviewed in Latin America and the Caribbean, representing 33 million children, feel uninformed about sex education, AIDS and drug abuse prevention.

In the East Asia and Pacific region, about 5 per cent of the respondents in the 14-to-17 age group say that HIV can be transmitted by touching someone infected with the virus and in Thailand the percentage rises to 10 per cent. Forty per cent of the respondents in the East Asia and Pacific region did not know what a condom is and less than half the respondents believe they could get a condom if they wanted to.

Close to 10 per cent of the polling sample in Latin America and the Caribbean think they could become infected with AIDS by going near an infected person. In Ecuador, Guatemala and Panama, more than 20 per cent share this belief.

5. Stop harming and exploiting children

An appallingly high percentage of the children polled by UNICEF say they witnessed or personally experienced violence or aggressive behaviour in their home.

In East Asia and the Pacific, 23 per cent of the children who spoke to UNICEF say they are beaten by parents at home, with even higher rates in East Timor (53%), Cambodia (44%) and Myanmar (40%).

In Europe and Central Asia, the statistics are also alarming. The proportion of children reporting violent or aggressive behaviour at home averaged 60 per cent across the region. Sixteen per cent of all children polled - rising to 21 per cent in some regions - report witnessing or experiencing physical violence.

The 26 per cent response level in Latin America and the Caribbean represents 28 million children and adolescents who complain of a high level of aggressive behaviour, including shouting and beatings, in their household. Rates of children being beaten at home are even higher in some countries, such as Haiti (40%).

The child's immediate environment can threaten survival and well-being. In East Asia and the Pacific, nearly 30 per cent report that their home communities at night are always or sometimes unsafe. Ten per cent in this regional poll report having been assaulted; and the same percentage have been robbed. Tewnty per cent - representing nearly 16 million children - interviewed in Europe and Central Asia feel that their neighbourhood is unsafe to walk around in. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the feeling of insecurity is even higher (43%) and approximately 15 per cent of the children interviewed have been victims of a robbery.

6. Listen to children

In the East Asia and the Pacific region, less than half the respondents feel that their opinion, and their friends' opinions, matter in decisions in their local community. When asked what their government should do to help children, most responses related to school or education. More than 60 per cent of children polled in Europe and Central Asia feel their opinion is not sufficiently taken into account by their government, and more than half the children in the Latin America and Caribbean region feel unheard at home and in school.

7. Educate every child

Children are very aware of the value of education. In the East Asia and Pacific region, 51 per cent spontaneously mentioned education as a child's right, and also that school was the main topic of children's conversations with friends.

About half the children polled in Europe and Central Asia (52%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (46%), say they go to school in order to learn. Almost 60 per cent interviewed in Latin America and the Caribbean spontaneously brought up the right to education when asked about children's rights in general. More than 40 per cent wanted laws that will protect the right to education.

In all regions polled, children are clearly aware of the need for a mutually respectful and attentive relationship between teacher and pupil. Where communication with teachers was perceived to be difficult in the East Asia and Pacific region, "they don't listen" was one of the major reasons mentioned by survey respondents. When children in Europe and Central Asia were asked what they would tell their teachers about their school if they could say what they thought, 20 per cent say they would ask for better teacher-student relations. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, the children blame the negative relationship with their teachers on authoritarian attitudes and the lack of space for children to express themselves.

8. Protect children from war

In Europe and Central Asia, almost 40 per cent of the children polled by UNICEF say they would like their country to be a place in which there is peace - indeed, their wish for a country without crime or violence, and a country where there would be peace, scores higher than their wish for a country with full employment and a better economic situation. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, 20 per cent of children emphasize that they wish for a country of peace, which rises to 50 per cent in the Andean countries.

9. Protect the Earth for children

When asked to name the rights they knew, about 7 per cent of the children in East Asia and the Pacific spontaneously came up with the right to a clean environment. In Europe and Central Asia, 26 per cent of the children polled would like their country to be a place in which there is no pollution, rising to almost a third in Western Europe. Environmental issues such as poor lighting and high levels of traffic were cited by 20 per cent of European and Central Asian children who feel unsafe in their neighbourhood. When asked about their ideal country, one tenth of the children polled in Latin America and the Caribbean dreamed of a society without pollution.

10. Fight poverty: Invest in children

Awareness of the plight of the poor is very high among children themselves. For example, more than half of the interviewees (52%) in Europe and Central Asia believe that children from poor families are discriminated against. When asked how they saw the future, almost half the children polled in CEE/CIS and Baltic States say they would like their country to be a place where there is a better economic situation and where everybody has a job.

Children in the Latin America and the Caribbean region listed helping the poor and needy as one of their top two concerns, when they were polled on what they would ask of their social institutions such as the Church, their mayor, government and laws. Indeed, when asked about the first thing they would do if they were president of their country, they say they would help the most needy, especially the poor and unemployed.

Listening to change the world

In listening to what these children and young people have to say, it becomes clear what changes are needed in the world to realize their basic rights and thereby ensuring that each child everywhere - without discrimination - has the right to survive; to develop to the fullest; to be protected from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

More about the surveys

How and why the polls were conducted

This information is provided as a contribution to discussion on important issues affecting children. UNICEF Regional offices conducted the polls, analysis and interpretations of the findings. For more information, please contact the regional poll contact person directly.

 

Copyright UNICEF/HQ93-0198/ ROGER LEMOYNE
Copyright UNICEF/HQ95-0399/ DAVID BARBOUR