Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the General Assembly high-level meeting on the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in New York on 20 November:
Thirty years ago, nations joined together to make a promise to the children of the world. For the first time in history, the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognized that children have the same rights as adults — and additional rights because of their special status as dependents.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child set out the rights of every child. It is the most widely adopted international treaty in history, and we look forward to the day when all United Nations Member States give it their full backing.
It recognizes the right to health care, to nutritious food and clean water. The right to education, to protection and safety from violence, and to peaceful assembly. The right to a voice, and to a future. These rights apply to all children, in all countries, regardless of religion, ethnicity, disability, language or ethnicity. All rights, for all children.
Thirty years later, more children are in school. More are surviving past their fifth birthdays (with under-5 mortality rate declining by over half between 1990 and 2016). More are getting the food, water and sanitation they need.
But our work is far from done. We have not kept our promises to all the world’s children, and many are at risk of being left behind. They are sometimes hidden from view, but we know who these children are. They are children who have been forced from their homes by conflict or natural hazards like floods or droughts, living in temporary settlements that cause permanent damage.
The children left behind are living in slums and isolated villages without health clinics; going to bed hungry and without clean water to drink. Stunting and wasting affect more than 200 million children in our world.
They may be recruited as child soldiers. They may be labelled as terrorists. They may be sexually abused, imprisoned, or forced to work as slaves. An estimated 10 million children are in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage and other forms of forced labour worldwide. Girls are at particular risk of being taken out of school and forced to marry and have children while they are still children themselves.
The future belongs to children. But unless we act now, many of today’s children face a bleak future. The next 30 years will pose very serious challenges to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. A climate in crisis. Deepening inequality. Technology that is transforming our world. Record numbers of families and children on the move.
With 10 years to go, we are not on track to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Secretary-General has called for a decade of action to raise ambition and accelerate action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Children must be at the heart of all our efforts.
We will continue working with Governments to develop new programmes that can keep all children safe, healthy and in school. We will work with businesses to uphold children’s rights; to find new ways of delivering health care; to raise more resources to invest in children; and to use technology to reach children with education and training and prepare them for the opportunities of the future.
We will work with the global community to build trust, prevent and end wars, and lay the groundwork for lasting, sustainable peace. We will gather the world around the urgent need to address climate change and take action to slow the warming of our planet. And most of all, we will work with children, to hear your ideas and dreams for the future.
The most important leaders of our time are children. Passionate, engaged child activists from all regions of the world are sending a wake-up call to older generations. They are rightly demanding action on the climate crisis, on gender inequality, on human rights and on economic systems that prioritize short-term gains over the health of our planet and its people.
Thirty years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is time to listen to the voices of our children and hear their pleas for the broken promises to be fulfilled. Are we listening? Are we ready to work hand in hand with and for children and young people for a better, fairer, safer, healthier, more sustainable world? As we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of this landmark Convention on World Children’s Day, let’s match young people’s aspirations with our action. Let’s commit to putting children first, every day. Let’s build a brighter future together. For every child, every right. Thank you.