By resolution 836(IX) of 14 December 1954, the General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. It recommended that the Day was to be observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the ideals and objectives of the Charter and the welfare of the children of the world. The Assembly suggested to governments that the Day be observed on the date and in the way which each considers appropriate. The date 20 November, marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.
In 2000 world leaders outlined the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. Though the Goals are for all humankind, they are primarily about children. UNICEF notes that six of the eight goals relate directly to children and meeting the last two will also make critical improvements in their lives.
Despite this worldwide consensus on the importance of our children, 70% of the approximately 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six potentially preventable causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. These deaths occur mainly in the developing world. An Ethiopian child is 30 times more likely to die by his or her fifth birthday than a child in Western Europe. Among deaths of children, South-central Asia has the highest number of newborn deaths, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is taking a huge toll on children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is projected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, 18 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. This, along with only modest progress fighting malaria, means the threats facing child survival are as grave as ever.
Sources: UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library, UNICEF
Selected learning materials
Children’s Rights Here and Now (Amnesty International-USA)
“How to Protect Human Rights?” Lesson Plan: Children’s Rights in the UN System of Human Rights Protection (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland)
International treaties on children’s rights: