Parliamentarians from around the world Recommit to Child Rights at the 141st IPU Assembly
Over 1,800 parliamentarians from 149 countries, representatives of UN agencies and civil society in Belgrade
Belgrade, Serbia, 25 October 2019 - “The Convention is the biggest step, but only a first step. Our goal is now to make these rights a reality,” said Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, Secretary-General of the United Nations, thirty years ago in New York, following the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Thirty years on, over 1,800 parliamentarians from 149 countries, representatives of UN agencies and civil society came together for the 141st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Belgrade, Serbia.
The Convention was the focus of a workshop organized in partnership with UNICEF. Panellists of the workshop took stock of the overall situation of children’s rights and the global framework that is in place, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to protect children’s rights. They looked at the remaining challenges, focusing on the challenges facing children on the move and the actions that parliaments can take to protect vulnerable children.
"You need to remember my words when you draft laws and take decision that can affect my life, my rights and those of all other children who have the right to live free and safe from violence.”
Addressing the panel, Spozhmai Aqtash, a 16-year-old refugee from Afghanistan, who now lives in Serbia, reminded parliamentarians about the importance of giving children a voice and taking their interests into account.
“In front of you, you have a child, a girl. Not only a refugee. You need to remember my words when you draft laws and take decision that can affect my life, my rights and those of all other children who have the right to live free and safe from violence,” Spozhmai urged parliamentarians.
Young people are looking to leaders from government, business and communities to take decisive action for child rights.
“We know the great importance of children at the IPU. We look at children not as the future, but as the present. And when we hear the voices of children, it is those girls and boys who are giving us, parliamentarians, a mandate. We have to respond with solutions,” said Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the IPU.
UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Afshan Khan reminded that “not only is it our legal duty to promote and protect the rights of all children – including those children who are disadvantaged, excluded and marginalized – in the spirit of the 2030 Agenda and the CRC; it is our collective moral responsibility to guard the rights of every child from all emerging threats”.
“We know the great importance of children at the IPU. We look at children not as the future, but as the present."
The children of today are facing a new set of challenges. Childhood is changing, and leaders need to look ahead to find equitable solutions.
“As we remember the historic moment of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we have to ask ourselves about what has been achieved thus far and what we have to do in the future,” said Maja Gojkovic, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Serbia and Chairwoman of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in the Serbian National Assembly.
The challenges and threats to children’s rights are too great for UNICEF or Governments to tackle alone. World-renowned musician Goran Bregovic lent his voice in support to UNICEF’s efforts to promote the rights of every child.
“As I begin my work with UNICEF, I am proud that I have committed to using my voice to advocate for the most vulnerable children. I am here to encourage you to do even more to achieve what was promised 30 years ago - for every child, including the most vulnerable ones, to realize their rights,” Goran Bregovic, High Profile Supporter for UNICEF in Europe and Central Asia, said to parliamentarians.
Two days after inspiring and powerful discussions and a field visit to a social care institution in Belgrade, IPU Member Parliaments reaffirmed their commitment to upholding and protecting the rights and guiding principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
They adopted a declaration to mark the Convention’s anniversary, recognizing that, in the 30 years since its adoption, the lives of millions of children had been improved through its implementation, but that the 21st century presents new challenges and opportunities for child rights and that there is a pressing need for parliamentary diplomacy to act and refresh the relevance and urgency around implementing the CRC.