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 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
More about the surveys
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.