November 20th is Universal Children’s Day. A bit of history about this day: it was established by the United Nations 65 years ago in 1954 as a day to encourage understanding between children. On the same day, in 1959, the UN adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and, in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child was significant because it changed the way the international community perceived children, from receivers of care and charity to human beings with a distinct set of rights. These rights include the right to a name and a nationality, to freedom of expression and thought, and to the right to not be separated from their parents unless it is in the best interest of the child.
The Convention was also ratified more quickly and broadly than any other international human rights treaty in history.
This was also around the same time that iconic actress Audrey Hepburn famously became a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador for children, travelling the world to bring light to international plights like starvation and famine that affected children. “A child is a child in any country, whatever the politics,” said Hepburn. “Nothing else much matters, there is no complicated diplomacy, when a child is starving. It’s simple. And we’d better do something about it. For our sakes, too. That is, if we want to continue to call ourselves human.”
Today, organizations worldwide continue to advocate and implement programs on behalf of children. The UN is working towards meeting its Sustainable Development Goals, which include eliminating global poverty and ending violence against children by 2030.
A few facts on issues affecting children globally today:
- One in five children live in poverty, according to UN estimates
- Approximately 262 million children are out of school, according to 2017 estimates.
- About 1 in 200 children is a refugee.
- About half of all children endure some form of violence, with one-third of students saying they had been bullied by peers in the past month.
International advocates for children have said, that despite some progress, there is still much more to be done to achieve the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.
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