Today we celebrate an important anniversary — the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC.
Three decades ago, the world was in the midst of great change.
The fall of Berlin Wall. The decline of apartheid. The birth of the world wide web.
Against this backdrop of change, the leaders of the world gathered to make a promise to the world’s children.
You have rights to health, education and protection.
You have the right to make your voice heard.
You have the right to a future.
As the Secretary-General reminded us, the world has made great progress since then.
Governments have invested in children.
Around the world, children’s rights have been translated into results.
But what about the changes that children are facing today, in 2019?
Changes that were unimaginable to the children of 1989?
A changing climate. Rapid urbanization. Increasing inequality. Protracted conflicts. More children on the move than at any time in history — seeking safety and a better life.
And the rapid rise of information technology, which is simultaneously uniting us and dividing us…giving children information about the world and a voice, while also threatening their safety.
Childhood is changing. And so must we.
So as we celebrate 30 years of the CRC, let’s also look ahead to what we must do to continue translating rights into results.
As governments continue seeking ways to live up to their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goals, we urge them to put children first.
Invest in children’s health. Children’s education. Children’s protection. Children’s access to clean water and sanitation.
And invest in young people — give them the skills and training they need to be ready for the world of work.
We cannot build a more sustainable future without investing in those who will carry that future forward.
We commend those Member States who continue to commit to this future for children, including the governments who authored, launched and aligned to the global pledge, in front of you now: For every child, every right.
The pledge is a new opportunity for every country to demonstrate its commitment to children’s rights once again.
Let the world know — let children know — that your dedication to their futures remains strong.
Finally — let’s make another pledge: to not only listen to what children and young people are telling us, but to work with them to achieve the change they want to see.
Around the world, young leaders are raising their voices like never before.
In fact, we’re seeing a rise in youth activism around the world. Climate strikes. Students marching. Campaigns to end conflicts. And the young people who have joined our Generation Unlimited partnership, calling for governments and businesses to support education and skills development.
Two weeks ago, for the first time ever, UNICEF’s Executive Board invited two young activists to open our meeting.
They told us about their work to end child labour — and to fight climate change, and leave behind a healthy planet for generations to come.
As inspiring as they were, the adults in the room knew that inspiration is not enough. That listening was not enough.
So as we celebrate 30 years of the CRC, let us also commit not only to listening to children and young people.
Let’s support them.
Let’s take action with them.
Let’s follow their lead.
And 30 years from now, let’s look back on this time as a time when the world committed, once again, to keeping our promises to children. Thank you. ***
UNICEF New York
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