Message on the 25th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The 20th November 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Convention that became the most widely ratified human rights document in the world. The Convention does not only collects the rights of children – making countries that are parties to the convention accountable for ensuring them -, but also gives basic rights, duties and responsibilities to parents. The European Parents’ Association has worked in the past decades to support parents in this task, to call the attention of policy makers and other stakeholder groups to the need to help parents in carrying out their duties. We have also raised the voice of responsible parents in discussions that are about children and linked to their rights.

The 25th Anniversary gives us the opportunity to take stock of what has been done in the past quarter of a century and also to highlight at least some of the biggest challenges ahead of us. An important event by the European Platform against Poverty held today in Brussels is underlining one of the most depriving problem large numbers of children suffer in most of Europe (and all over the world): child poverty. Another event also in Brussels today, the ‘Making Schools Matter for All’ conference of the Sirius network is focusing on another main concern of parents and professionals: the need for the formal education system to change and informal and non-formal education to be valued more. Parents all over Europe are aware of the urge to change our practices and mind-sets to make it possible for our children to have a long and healthy life. For that not only an improvement of health care systems is necessary, but also to have an economy that ensures sustainability. Recent flagship initiatives of the European Union give us the opportunity to reflect on challenges of our times especially in the fields of early childhood education and care, the digital age and investing in children for the future in general.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations emphasises in his message for the anniversary that “While accountability for the rights enshrined in the Convention lies with governments, we all have a common responsibility to uphold and protect those rights”. Parents have an especially important role in rights protection, but a large majority of them also need support to be as good parents as possible. This support is also ensured – theoretically – by the Convention, including financial support and offering institutions that complement the parenting role carried out at home, but it also means the provision of professional and training support as well as structures and regulations that help the reconciliation of work and family life. However it is the parents of the most vulnerable children, being in a vulnerable state themselves lack this support most, they are the least involved and least educated for parenting in many cases.

The 20th November has been Universal Children’s Day, observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. The Day has also been observed also as a day of activity devoted to promoting the Rights of the Child and the welfare of the children of the world.

“25 years ago, the world made a promise to children – states the UN website – that we would do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential. In spite of the overall gains, there are many children who have fallen even further behind. Old challenges have combined with new problems to deprive many children of their rights and the benefits of development. To meet these challenges, and to reach those children who are hardest to reach, we need new ways of thinking and new ways of doing – for adults and children. There is much to celebrate as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention, from declining infant mortality to rising school enrolment, but this historic milestone must also serve as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. Too many children still do not enjoy their full rights on par with their peers.”

When celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Convention as President of the European Parents’ Association I am calling all parents to reflect on what they have done to protect the rights of their children, to take stock of areas where they need help and support and demand it, but also to look at fellow parents and professionals whose hands we are trusting our children in as allies and act together for the best interest of children.

Eszter Salamon