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Children share with presidential candidates in Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, 20 November 2009.- As part of the celebration for the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, more than 70 children representing every region of Costa Rica met and spoke with the presidential candidates and political representatives for the 2010 elections. The topic of the discussions was government plans related to child rights. The activity was organized by the Costa Rican Coalition of NGO’s working for Child Rights and UNICEF.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child has transformed the way in which we perceive and treat children all over the world. With the approval of the Convention, all adults, from Heads of State to parents, we have accepted the responsibility of fulfilling all child rights for all children. We have the obligation to assure child rights, and children have the right to demand fulfillment. As said by an expert on child rights, children are not mini citizens with mini rights, they are citizens with rights,” emphasized Seija Toro, Representative of UNICEF in Costa Rica during the inauguration.

Candidates and representatives from five Costa Rican political parties participated and shared their proposals and plans in regard with policies to benefit children, and replied children’s questions related to education, health, security, migration, drugs, sport and recreation, among other topics.

The candidates and representatives emphasized the need for more and better opportunities for child participation in both the central and local governments, as well as improving education quality and infrastructure, opportunities and infrastructure for recreation, cultural and sporting activities. The children also asked and received explanations on issues involving migration and discrimination, especially regarding indigenous peoples, violence, poverty, government budgeting in youth programmes and other topics related to their rights.

Children propose…
During the two days prior to the forum, 70 children from all over Costa Rica met in a workshop in order to formulate and agree upon the questions to the candidates. The children also drafted a letter of commitment for the candidates to sign.

The letter makes a series of proposals regarding education, health, family, recreation, freedom of expression, participation and security. Each of the candidates signed the letter while party representatives committed to sharing it with their candidates for consideration.

After the forum, children spoke of their experience during the three day session and of the dialogue with the presidential candidates.

Juan Daniel from Upala, 12:
“The workshop and the forum were really fun. We learned a lot about our rights and responsibilities and that helps us protect ourselves…Most of the time people, and especially the government does not listen to us, they don’t let us express our ideas. That is not fair, but today they really listened and I think they will use our ideas.”

Maria José from Santa Cruz, 16:
“During the workshop the organizers really helped, I learned a lot about rights and what I can do to protect them. We really understood what we wanted to do with the candidates. They need to listen to us. Most of the candidates said that they wanted to work with children, listen to our ideas and put them into action in their governments. I hope they do, we have some really good ideas to make Costa Rica better. I want to keep participating in these activities.”

Ruth Zamora from Los Guido, 13:
“We usually feel bad because there are not many ways that we can participate. We want to be involved in the decisions that affect us.”

Cristofer Gamboa, Guanacaste 13:
“Usually politicians say whatever and they do not listen to us, but today, I don’t know, they really listened, we talked more than they did. We were talking about important stuff and they took it in. I was surprised when we talked about our right to participate and express ourselves, and they listened.”

Mileidy Mena Hernández from Upala, 15:
“In the workshop I met a bunch of new people and learned a lot about my rights and responsibilities. I hope whichever candidate wins the election that they really do what they told us they would.”

Ciara Miranda López from Upala, 17  (18 before the election in February 2010):
“This was great we really got to know each other and share opinions. It is important that we get a chance to tell the candidates what we think, especially about things that affect us. That is how we defend our rights. For the first time they really listened to us.

“For me the most important thing in a candidate when I vote is that he or she supports, really supports, children regarding opportunities in education and freedom of expression and participation in the governments. The government has to improve education, which is the future of Costa Rica.”


For further information, please contact:

Michael Martin, Communication and Partnerships,
Tel + 506 8875 6359,
E-mail: mimartin@unicef.org




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