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UNICEF: “Progress for Children” report

In the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched its new report Progress for Children: A Report Card on Child Protection, which aims to draw attention to the continuing violation of children’s basic rights in many countries across the world, despite the existence of the Convention on the Rights of the Child or of internationally agreed goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

According to report, “Children worldwide experience violence, exploitation and abuse. They are forced to fight in wars or labour in intolerable conditions; they are sexually abused or subjected to violence as a punishment; they are forced into child marriage or trafficked into exploitative conditions of work; they are needlessly placed in prisons, detention facilities and institutions.” Progress for Children stresses that these conditions are not providing them with opportunities for a healthy childhood, as has been described in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rather, it argues that “the world is failing to provide children the protection to which they are entitled”.

While often accurate data is lacking, the report tries to give a global and regional overview of the prevalence of violations of children’s rights, such as the lack of birth registration, violence against children, child marriage, female genital mutilation or cutting, child labour, and sexual exploitation. It notes, for example, that in 2007 around 51 million children were not registered; a worrisome fact as these children might not have any rights as citizens in the future, nor access to State services. Worldwide 150 million children in the age of 5-14 years old are estimated to be engaged in child labour, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa. And “1 billion children live in countries or territories affected by armed conflict, and of these, around 300 million are under 5 years old.”

As the way forward, Progress for Children proposes that the factors that contribute to the violation of children’s rights are systematically and holistically addressed and that sufficient resources are made available to develop and to create a better understanding of consistent data and standardized measurement instruments. It also calls for urgent action, underlining that “every year that passes without that action is another year in which children are subjected to intolerable violence, exploitation and abuse.”

The report is available online.