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Policy advocacy and partnerships for children's rights

Convention on the Rights of the Child’s 20th anniversary is commemorated with events around the world

© UNICEF Senegal/2009/Shryock
A girl dances at the official commemoration of the CRC at a school in the neighborhood of Point E in Dakar, Senegal on 20 November 2009.

NEW YORK, USA, 4  December 2009 – The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the ground-breaking human rights covenant that codifies rights for all children, everywhere, marked its 20th anniversary on 20 November. The milestone was commemorated with events across the globe.

What follows are just some of the many events that took place..

The United Nations officially commemorated the 20th anniversary with an event attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UNICEF’s Executive Board President, Ambassador Oumar Daou, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, and moderated by UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah.

Parliaments and top government officials in countries around the world, including Angola, Azerbaijan, Lesotho and Myanmar, also joined in the global commemoration.

Many parliaments took another step by launching new initiatives to further children's rights. The Parliament of Georgia - together with UNICEF - created a Child Rights’ Council to monitor the implementation of the CRC.

The Turkish Parliament launched a child rights interactive monitoring website where citizens will be able to make confidential reports to the one-year-old parliamentary Child Rights Monitoring Committee, which was formed to ensure the rights of the child. Mongolia opened a Child Rights Centre to facilitate and sensitize parliamentarians to the child rights issues, and revitalized the Parliamentary Group on Child Development, Protection and Participation to create child-friendly legal reforms.

The Somali Transitional Federal Government announced that it intends to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The launch of a Special Edition of the State of the World’s Children report  was also held in many countries, and was attended by many high-level participants, including the First Lady Janet K. Museveni in Uganda; the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities in South Africa; the State Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection in Indonesia; and the State Minister of Women’s Affairs in Ethiopia, Frenesh Mekuria,

Additionally, two days before the CRC anniversary, the first World Day of Prayer and Action for Children took place. Religious leaders came together to discuss children’s rights. In Fiji, leaders met to discuss the theme, "Combating HIV and AIDS: What puts young people most at risk?"

Children participating

The CRC events also gave children the chance to talk directly to parliamentarians. More than 70 Costa Rican children met and spoke with presidential candidates and political representatives for the 2010 elections to discuss government plans related to child rights. Young participants in Angola voiced their concerns about violence against children and the right to quality health and education during a special session of Parliament. And a Children’s Parliaments convened in Malawi and Uganda.

© UNICEF Mozambique/2009
Cecilia Dimande, a journalist from a child-to-child radio programme, speaks at the CRC anniversary event in Maputo, Mozambique.

Young people also took to the streets to raise awareness of children’s rights. Lesotho’s young people carried messages of children’s protection and rights as they marched to parliament, as did over 500 Sierra Leonean children who paraded through the streets of Freetown, all the way to Victoria Park, where they presented messages to Vice President Alhaji Samuel Sam-Sumana.

School children wearing bright yellow t-shirts marched through the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a marching band to draw attention to the 20th anniversary. Tanzanian children also paraded through the streets to the CRC@20 commemoration event.

Children were joined by government officials and other adults for a commemorative walk up Bujumbura, Burundi’s steepest hilltop, as part of the CRC@20 activities.

Hundreds of children gathered in Dakar, Senegal, to perform skits about the right of children to be protected from violence and abuse. The audience included Senegal's Minister of Education, Kalidou Diallo. Children from 37 schools in Karachi, Pakistan, expressed their views to their parents, teachers and policymakers.

The power of art

Art, writing and music are all good ways to spread the word about the CRC and to give children an opportunity to express themselves, one of their basic rights.

© UNICEF Liberia/2009/Gordon
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tours the Samuel K. Doe Stadium in Monrovia, Liberia where children gathered for the first Children's Festival to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the CRC.

Art by children was on display in a number of locations, including the photography exhibition ‘Art in All of Us’ at the UNICEF Headquarters in New York, and at photography exhibitions in Ramallah, Gaza, Senegal, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Twelve Myanmar children - from varied socioeconomic backgrounds - contributed essays to a short anthology titled ‘Stories by Children’  after participating in a four-day writing workshop in October, which was led by an experienced facilitator, a reporter from ‘The Myanmar Times’.

Youth filmmakers around the world produced minute-long videos on child rights through the oneminutejr’s workshop. The workshop travelled to 12 countries, including Niger, Ukraine and Viet Nam.

UNICEF in Mozambique paid tribute to a diverse group of artists whose work has helped advance the rights of children - including the painter Malangatana, who 20 years ago, at the adoption of the CRC, painted a large mural in the UNICEF Maputo office - and other painters, musicians and actors who have mobilised people across the country through their work on children’s issues.

The International Children’s Rights Film Festival, a festival of over 20 documentaries that present the stories and voices of children, played around the world in over 20 countries, including Croatia, the Gambia, India, Jordan, the Maldives, Nigeria, and the Ukraine.

UNICEF Canada Ambassador Steve Barakatt composed a child rights anthem that was played at the commemoration event at the United Nations. Barakatt also performed with the Edward Said National Conservatory Student’s Orchestra and Maqamat Ensemble in Ramallah Cultural Palace, OPT on 21 November.

The Young Indonesian Writers Award was presented to two young writers picked from more than 1,500 entries in a nationwide search for the best essays on the fulfilment of rights of the child.

Using play to achieve rights

UNICEF and the Zambia Volleyball Association organized a three-day volleyball training and tournament event for children with disabilities. The event was attended by the Deputy Minister of Sports, Youth, and Child Development, Christopher Kalila.


© UNICEF Austria/2009
A tram of Line 1 in Vienna, Austria, adorned with posters calling attention to the CRC.

UNICEF and Right to Play Palestine supported sports and recreational activities for hundreds of children across the West Bank, beginning with a central activity in Ramallah. They did the same with four adolescent-focused NGOs in Gaza. Activities included a marathon, games for children, theatre performances and folkloric dance.

Over 40,000 Liberian children took part in the country’s first Children’s Festival, which including music, dance, literary and sports competitions, workshops and performances.

More than 300 Kenyan children sprinted through the busy streets of downtown Nairobi as part of the ‘Run for our Rights’ race. Following the run, the children presented their vision for a better Kenya to the country’s Minister of Justice, Mutula Kilonzo.

Media & Awareness

The CRC received widespread media coverage around the world.

Xinhua News Agency launched a special CRC@20 edition and also launched the Global News Day for Children, a 24-hour TV broadcast on Xinhua TV.

In South Africa, a special child rights supplement ran in one of South Africa’s leading newspapers, The Mail & Guardian, as did a four-part radio series for children on a national radio station.

Widespread media coverage of the CRC in Mongolia included a series of newspaper articles on juvenile justice, alternative care and the 20th anniversary, a 15-minute TV programme on the Convention’s impact on the lives of children, and an hour-long broadcast done by children for children.

In tandem with CRC events in Ethiopia, a press conference for the Great Ethiopia Run was being held in advance of the race on November 22nd, where Ethiopian running star Haile Gebrselassie and British female marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe were in attendance to promote the event.  Richard Nerurkar, chief coordinator for the race thanked UNICEF for being one of the main sponsors for the Great Ethiopian Run. 

“Today is a very special day for UNICEF because it is the day when all countries across the world are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The ‘I’m running for a child’ campaign could not have fallen at a better time,” he said.

Young people, civil society members and Government officials in both Lesotho and Ethiopia participated in a live TV debate on the importance of child rights.

The Media Council of Malawi, supported by UNICEF, ran a media training on child rights, codes of conduct and editorial guidelines, reporting on children in conflict with the law, and interviewing children.

UNICEF Thailand organized a Chid Rights Media Award ceremony and awards were given to the best news reports that promoted children's rights.

Public awareness about the CRC was raised done through billboards, TV and radio spots in many countries.

Some countries took a more creative approach. For a month, a tram of Line 1 in Vienna, Austria will be adorned with six huge posters calling attention to the CRC@20 and the work of UNICEF. In Ethiopia, a cross country tour of a local circus group created public awareness on the CRC.



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