Waves of protests around the world are reminder that voices of children and adolescents must be heard and their rights protected

Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore

17 December 2019

NEW YORK, 18 December 2019 – “Children and young people from around the world have taken to the streets in recent months to demand their rights.

“Although every context is unique, from the Middle East to Latin America to the Caribbean, and in Europe, Africa and Asia, young people are calling for action on the climate crisis, for an end to corruption and inequality, for better education and employment opportunities – and for a fairer world for everyone, everywhere.

“It is therefore a heartbreaking irony that, in standing up for their fundamental rights, many children and adolescents are simultaneously having their rights taken away.

“Many of these protests have left young protesters behind bars, injured and at times killed. Schools have been shuttered and public services interrupted.

“Children’s rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, including in peaceful protest, are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. It is incumbent on Member States to ensure that children can exercise this right in a safe and peaceful manner.

“All actors must refrain from violence, and fundamental guarantees for the protection of children must remain applicable everywhere, at all times, including where there is civil unrest or armed conflict.

“My plea is to please protect children from violence and respect their right to speak up and be heard. Give them opportunities to meaningfully voice their concerns and participate in matters that affect their futures. Listen to them and respond in a principled, constructive and supportive way.”

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CORRECTION: In a caption detailing the youth activists in this photo, UNICEF accidentally mis-captioned the photo by incorrectly identifying the girl addressing the crowd as Daphne Frias. Daphne is another powerful youth activist fighting for human rights, justice and an environment fit for everyone. UNICEF is working to identify the girl addressing the crowd.

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