Skopje, 20 November 2019: Over 80 children and young people joined the Government at High-Level Government Meeting “For Children, By Children” where six young advocates took over the discussion, calling for more action to protect and promote child rights.
The children and young people met with the President of the Government, Zoran Zaev together with the Ministers of Labour and Social Policy, Environment and Physical Planning, Justice, Health, General Secretaries from the Ministry of Education and Science and Foreign Affairs and other officials including the Head of the Delegation of the European Union and UNICEF Representative.
“We want to hear and take note of the issues that you [young people] are concerned about,” said Zoran Zaev, President of the Government. “It will help direct the executive branch of the Government to focus on the most important issues children and young people face.”
“We see recently in Europe and all across the world how the young generations are increasing their voice, how they are coming together to push adults to deal with the real issues, how they are asking adults to do everything possible not to waste their future,” said Samuel Zbogar, Head of the Delegation of the European Union.
"Today we are reminded that it is no longer enough to say ‘children are our future’ because children are here and now - they have great potential and carry the promise of a better future for themselves and future generations. It is up to us to hear what they have to say,” said UNICEF Representative, Patricia Di Giovanni.
Six young advocates – representing their peers – took over the discussion, speaking with passion and conviction on issues they care about including: quality education, inclusion of children and youth, youth (un)employment and brain-drain, participation and engagement, violence and mental health and the climate crisis.
- We need more concrete measures to prevent air pollution, still too many institutions are using the most polluting fossil fuel for heating, there are alternative solutions - Stefan Mitikj, youth advocate called for more action to address the climate crisis.
- My biggest dilemma is whether to pursue a career close to my family and friends or to go abroad because of the limited opportunities for employment. Young people need skills for employability and opportunities for jobs - Mihela Trajkoska, youth advocate called for more action to address youth unemployment and brain-drain.
- Young people need to be involved in decision-making at home, in schools and in the community - Isra Zekiri, youth advocate emphasised the need for mechanisms for meaningful youth participation.
- Quality education is not about learning theory, we need an education that helps develop practical skills, with updated curricular and textbooks and teachers support - Bisera Shegmanovikj, youth advocate called for accelerated education reforms.
- Not all children go to school feeling safe to learn. Society accepts violence and that impacts children - Luka Pavikjevikj, youth advocate called for greater attention to address bulling and adolescent mental health
- Not having audio books in all languages and not having lifts to get to the second floor, prevent children with disabilities from learning - Eliza Abdija, youth advocate called for action to remove barriers to inclusion.
In the discussion that followed, Government officials confirmed that they will work to address the ideas and suggestions made and that additional meetings and debates would be organized with young people to further explore the proposed solutions.
“After everything I’ve heard today, I truly believe that if we gave young people the chance to rule the world for just one day, they would make the world a better place to live,” said Mila Carovska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
“I urge you [young people] be loud, stand up, be united, voice yourself - we have to listen to you - the louder you are the more active we will become,” said Naser Nuredini, Minister of Environment and Physical Planning.
The event was also an opportunity to celebrate childhood and gave children the chance to express their vision of the future they want. An exhibition featured ten creative works produced by children during World Largest Lesson classes, children also gave a presentation and recited a rap song to remind audiences of the essence of the rights of the child.
Every year on 20 November – to mark the signing of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child - the world celebrates World Children’s Day. This year – the 30th anniversary of the Convention – is extra special and a time to make commitments that confront some of the new challenges children and young people face, and take advantage of new opportunities in the modern world. North Macedonia joined other United Nations Member States to align to a Global Pledge promising to renew their commitment to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and implement child rights fit for the 21st century.
The High-Level Government Meeting “For Children, By Children” organised by the Government in partnership with UNICEF and the EU Delegation and the Youth Education Forum. It was part of a series of UNICEF and EU supported initiatives to mark the 30th anniversary:
- Over 120 schools from 35 cities in North Macedonia held World Largest Lesson classes dedicated to “The future of childhood”. More than 1300 children submitted their creative works - videos, essays, poetry, drawings and painting, rap songs – and the top ten entries were featured during the High-level Government Meeting “For Children, By Children”.
- Jane Velkovski, 11-year-old disability advocate from North Macedonia joined UNICEF and other children and young people at the global summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York where he delivered a strong message to world leaders calling for more action to remove the environmental barriers that prevent children with disabilities from taking up their rightful place in society.
- To mark World Children’s Day, over 13 buildings and landmarks in Skopje turned up blue as a symbolic gesture of their commitment to advance the rights of children – the Government, Parliament, EU Delegation, UNICEF, TAV Macedonia with Skopje International Airport, Ministry of Education and Science, Archaeological Museum, Museum of the Macedonian struggle, Halkbank, Chevahir Towers, the British and Italian Embassies, UNHCR and others were among those who joined the initiative.
- Eight respected community members together with the Head of the EU Delegation and UNICEF Representative kicked off a “Future We Want for Children” Social Media Activation Campaign with video messages on the future they want for children and calling on the public to do the same. The campaign has triggered 10 local Instagram influencers to join the campaign, challenging each other to post a photo other themselves as a child together with their own hopes for the future of childhood and triggering others to do the same.
- Local activation of the EU and UNICEF #TheRealChallenge campaign on Tik-Tok was used to empower young audiences to speak up and participate, share and increase awareness around their rights by producing their own videos.
- Three videos produced by three youth reporters capture children and youth perspectives on quality education, violence and youth participation and will be used to continue the discussion in the lead up to the next parliamentary elections scheduled in early 2020.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.mk.