PED at the occasion of Universal Children’s Day

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H.E. Jean-François Cautain

The Universal Children’s Day is celebrated worldwide on November 20 every year to remind that children are our present and future. All children in the world have special rights and need particular protection to ensure their well-being, successful development and human rights. Not only parents, but governments and state institutions have the duty to create a child-friendly environment and to promote children’s rights in order to ensure their future.
Two key events anchored the worldwide commitment to promote children’s rights at the International agenda, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. The Convention on the rights of the child sets out a number of children’s rights including the right to life, to health, to education, and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard.
The promotion and protection of the rights of the child is one of the objectives of the European Union in Europe, as well as, around the world. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union enshrines the rights of the child and calls upon public authorities and private institutions to make the child’s best interests a primary consideration.
Child protection is one of our priorities in the European Union, outlined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy. We have launched a diplomatic outreach with a global focus on all forms of violence against children and women with an emphasis on ending child marriage.
Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 12, 1990, and successive Governments have renewed their commitments to create a living-friendly environment for all Pakistani children. Unfortunately, huge challenges remain for them in Pakistan. Child mortality is still high, and 44 percent of Pakistani children suffer from chronic malnutrition due to poverty, poor health services, illness and improper feeding practices.
Access to education, particularly in rural areas, is still insufficient. As a result, around 42 percent of Pakistanis are illiterate, whereby wide discrepancies persist in provinces, and rural and urban settings. In some areas of Balochistan, literacy rate is the lowest — at 20 percent. The quality of education and security of schools are another issue that must be tackled.
The National Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism’s provisions on madrassas should be fully implemented for the benefit of children enrolled in religious studies.
The Pakistani penal code still places the age of criminal responsibility at 10, with the result being that minors sit on death row and are executed.
Another aspect of concern is violence against children, which inevitably leads to a violent society in the future. The bold steps taken by provinces which includes passage of bills against under-age marriages, child labour, and bonded labour should be extended to the rest of the country.
The situation of the rights of the child in Pakistan was reviewed earlier this year by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, which formulated concrete recommendations and measures Pakistan should take on the way towards the creation of an environment for children that is in line with International standards.
The European Union reiterates its full support to assist Pakistan in the implementation of those commitments. Let’s work together and join our efforts to enable all children in Pakistan to learn and grow, have their voices heard, reach their full potential, and ensure prosperity for the present and future of Pakistan.