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Children's rights at heart of Millennium Development Goals

UNICEF Marks Anniversary of Convention on the Rights of the Child

NEW YORK, 20 November 2003 - On the 14th anniversary today of the international adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy called on world leaders to put children at the heart of their development agendas.

“The generation of children being born today are the ones who need us to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves," Bellamy said, referring to the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the nations of the world in 2000.  “We’ve promised that by 2015, all girls and boys will be in school; that the spread of AIDS will be reversed; that poverty and hunger will no longer affect more than a billion people. The generation that will hold us accountable to these promises is already here.”

Bellamy called on governments to renew their commitments to ensuring that every child’s full rights are protected and fulfilled. She stressed that these rights are central to achieving all development goals.

“Although the world has made tremendous progress since 1989 to see that children’s rights are universally accepted and realized, we are not there yet,” said Bellamy.  “Children are still forced to serve as soldiers, children orphaned by AIDS are abandoned by society, millions of children die from preventable diseases -- as do their mothers. The rights of these marginalized and forgotten children need to be our highest priority if we really want to achieve the social and economic goals we’ve set.”

The Millennium Goals present a series of time-bound, quantifiable development targets.  If the world is to eradicate extreme poverty and eliminate hunger -- the first of the goals -- children now being born must get what previous generations of marginalized children have not gotten: a healthy start in life; a quality basic education; and a safe and loving environment in which to thrive.

UNICEF’s mission for children is central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Some examples of how UNICEF is working with governments to achieve the goals include:

  • Providing an expanded set of immunizations against childhood diseases, as well  as basic health care for children
  • Efforts to ensure that all boys and girls have a quality basic education
  • Raising awareness about HIV/AIDS to give young people the knowledge, skills  and support they need to protect themselves
  • Working to protect children from violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination
  • Providing children in their earliest years with services they need to survive and  thrive, including sound nutrition and clean water

At the heart of UNICEF’s mission is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by Member States of the United Nations in 1989.  The convention, the most widely ratified treaty in history, spells out the basic rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

Bellamy noted that with the global endorsement of the Millennium Development Goals, child rights must come to the forefront of long-term social and economic development thinking.

“The Convention is a sine qua non of the Millennium Development Goals,” said Bellamy. “If children’s rights to education, to protection and to survival and health are not fully realized, the world will not be on track to meet the goals. True development progress hinges on children.”
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For further information, please contact:

Erin Trowbridge, UNICEF Media,
New York: 212-326-7269 etrowbridge@unicef.org





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