UNICEF Aotearoa launches first Parliamentary Forum for Children’s Rights

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The inaugural session of a new Parliamentary Forum for Children’s Rights, held at the Beehive last week, drew an engaged audience of MPs, advocacy experts and youth representatives to the capital.

The newly established, non-partisan forum was launched by UNICEF Aotearoa to provide young people with the chance to speak directly to New Zealand’s decision-makers.

Led by UNICEF Aotearoa Young Ambassadors and hosted by MP sponsor Camilla Belich, the event focused on New Zealand’s ongoing obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The forum was attended by MPs Lan Pham, Celia Wade-Brown, Lemauga Lydia Sosene, Helen White and Tangi Utikere, as well as Chief Children's Commissioner, Dr Claire Achmad and youth advocacy representatives from groups including Save The Children, World Vision and VOYCE - Whakarongo Mai.

UNICEF Aotearoa Young Ambassador Ngārita Mackenzie says the forum is the opportunity for a new chapter of youth engagement in Government decision-making.

"We’re bringing youth perspectives - our own lived experience - to Members of Parliament through this forum, but we’re also seeking broader, systemic change," she says.

"We want to demonstrate the value of listening to and engaging with child and youth perspectives on issues that affect their rights and to bring our ideas together to identify actions we can take. It’s important to us that this kōrero isn’t something that’s frozen inside the walls of the forum".

UNICEF Aotearoa CEO Michelle Sharp says that as well as raising funds for emergencies and development work to help children around the world, an important part of the organisation’s work involves advocating for children’s rights in New Zealand.

"We look at children’s rights through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals - these were adopted in 2015 by all UN Member States, including Aotearoa New Zealand, to end poverty, reduce inequality and build more peaceful, prosperous societies by 2030. This begins by upholding the UNCRC and children and young people’s right to be heard, which is why we have launched this unique forum".

The forum, which is the first of its kind in New Zealand, will be held quarterly at the Beehive with all MPs invited to attend. Each session will have a different focus for discussion.  

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