Today the world celebrates International Children’s Day. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Protocols urge countries around the world to make policy changes and align legislation with the rights of the child, to invest in specific areas such as education, to take measures against the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and child labor, and to protect children in armed conflicts.
Nevertheless, keeping children’s rights on the radar worldwide remains a challenge, not least in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is taking a particularly heavy toll on children. The socio-economic crisis, school closures and other restrictive measures have a disproportionate impact on children, especially those who are already in a vulnerable situation today. For example, the right to education and the right to food are under further pressure and the risk of abuse and exploitation of children is increasing. Millions of children still have no or insufficient access to basic care, nutrition, education and protection against violence. In addition, new challenges such as mass migration, digital technology and climate change have a specific impact on children.
Minister Wilmès: “The importance of children’s rights can hardly be overestimated. Children have the right to a dignified life in a safe environment, with opportunities to learn and play. What we do for our children today will directly determine how safe, prosperous and sustainable our future will be. True to the core principle of sustainable development objectives, ‘leave no one behind’, Belgium will continue to work towards the implementation of these rights for every child, wherever they are born.”
As chairman of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict in the UN Security Council, Belgium promotes the fight against violations of children’s rights in conflict situations. In addition, our country is committed to the implementation of the European Union Guidelines on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child. Belgium gives political and financial support to the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (the so-called Lanzarote Convention). Children’s rights are also a priority for Belgian development cooperation, with UNICEF as the main partner organization and support to various other projects, both bilateral and multilateral.
Minister Kitir: “Investing in our youth is the best investment in the future. Children’s rights are therefore a priority for Belgian Development Cooperation. And we do this on many fronts such as education, equal opportunities for girls, protection against child labor, child marriages and the reintegration of child soldiers into our society. Over the past four years, for example, we have supported girls in Niger in obtaining their secondary school diploma. In Niger, a country where barely 13% of girls complete the first cycle of secondary education, Belgian expertise is badly needed and of great added value”.