20th November 2012 Posted in: Press Releases
As the world celebrates today 23 years since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund) is calling for greater government recognition of the importance of children’s physical, emotional and social well-being. UNICEF NZ and other groups are increasingly concerned about the gap between children who are doing well and the 270,000 children getting left behind because of poverty.
In a statement issued today to mark the agreement reached in Geneva on 20th November 1989 to adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ, commented that most children in New Zealand are doing well, but he remains very concerned about the large number of children living in poverty, a view supported by many reports and submissions that have gone to our government over the last five years.
Dennis McKinlay said, “In New Zealand children are high on the national agenda right now and that’s a good thing, but we need to do more. Children’s best interests should be at the heart of all legislation, policy and operations in both central and local government. Every decision made about how we progress as a nation impacts our children, but because they don’t vote, they are not a priority for political attention.
“Rights are not negotiable – a child’s right to education, optimal health, adequate nourishment, to play, be valued and well cared for in a warm home, ideally with a supportive family, are binding on governments.
“Children’s rights are not just a “nice to have,” said Dennis McKinlay, “they are the foundation for a healthy, well-educated and productive society.
“The 270,000 children at risk of a poor start in life need the support of all parties in Parliament to realise their rights through a sustained plan to reduce child poverty.
“We mark today as an important day, and urge people in New Zealand to remember children, their rights, needs and the urgency for government action and leadership to keep our promise to children that each and every one of them has the best opportunity to thrive, belong and achieve.”
Dennis McKinlay noted that there is a very real risk that many children will grow to adulthood without the essential foundations for good health, education and constructive participation in society. It is well evidenced that circumstances of childhood, and particularly the very early years, lays down the blueprint for achievements as an adult. He looks forward to reports from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the Ministerial Committee on Poverty presenting strong cases for making an adequate standard of living for all children a priority for investment and government responding with real commitment to tackle poverty.
The UNCROC is an agreement signed by almost every country around the world making it the most universally supported human rights treaty in history. It speaks to the importance of children as active citizens now and inheritors of the world that adults shape for them. It defines a set of rights that all countries are obliged to recognise and implement in the best interests of children.