We're failing children by not investing in them, say rights chiefs

“Empty promises” from governments are failing children, human rights experts told the UN meeting in Geneva. Photo: OCHA

Putting children at the heart of policy-making and government spending is the only way to protect their rights, experts at the UN said Thursday.

A radical policy shift is required because of persistent reports of child neglect, Human Rights Council president Joachim Ruecker told delegates in Geneva.

He said that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history and yet children still lack suitable protection.

Daniel Johnson has the details.

Investing in children has a political and economic justification, not just an ethical one, rights experts told the Human Rights Council.

Be that as it may, the funds just aren't getting through, they said.

Save The Children's Bob Muchabaiwa insisted that a lack of public spending was the biggest barrier to children's rights.

An estimated 17,000 children die every day from malnutrition and preventable disease, he said, while 58 million children of primary school age do not go to lessons.

"Investment in the rights of the child will require co-ordination among ministries and between different levels of government…unless states allocate sufficient resources in their budgets towards their implementation, they will remain empty promises."

Shaamela Cassiem from the International Budget Partnership insisted there's enough resources to turn the situation around.

But she criticized a lack of state accountability, transparency and public participation in government decision-making.

"Globally we have enough resources to invest in children and to realize the rights of the child. The problem is how to raise, allocate and spend these resources to achieve this. In other problem, we have a budget problem."

That message was echoed by Jingqing Chai from the UN children’s fund (UNICEF), who said a budgetary "myopia" was hampering child rights.

She cited a UNICEF report on government spending in almost 200 countries which showed that funding was unplanned and "unacceptable".

"Ensuring the rights of every child, a society is making arguably the most important long-term investment to secure its future prosperity, yet key budgetary decisions are made in a new cycle or at best medium-term, but governments can do something about this tyranny of myopia."

Underlining the economic value of promoting children's rights, delegates heard how malnourished children face a seven-month delay in starting school and a 70 per cent drop in lifetime earnings, according to a World Bank report.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 2'14"


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