SCO Secretary-General: “Children’s rights are of universal value”
World Children’s Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954. It is celebrated on November 20 as a day of world brotherhood and understanding of children, dedicated to activities aimed at ensuring the welfare of children around the world.
November 20 is an important milestone in the formation of children’s rights. On this day in 1959 the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and in 1989 – the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since 1990, World Children’s Day marks the anniversary of the adoption of these fundamental documents in the field of child rights protection.
Ensuring the rights of the child is one of the global issues of our time, in which the entire world community is interested. Each state is guided by the understanding that human progress and general development are impossible without improving the status of women and children and ensuring their rights. It is in the family that a child receives the physical and spiritual development that allows him or her to become a full member of society, capable of an independent life.
Today, more children and adolescents are enrolled in preschool, primary and secondary education than ever before. At the same time, according to the UN, about 113 million children in the world do not attend school for one reason or another. 97% (about 110 million) of them live in the so called “third world” countries: 48.5 million people – in countries of South and South-East Asia; 42.3 million people – in countries of Africa.
Shortages of qualified teachers, poor quality teaching materials, ad-hoc classrooms, and poor sanitation make it difficult for many children to learn. An estimated 617 million children and adolescents around the world are unable to achieve minimum levels of proficiency in reading and mathematics, although two-thirds of them are in school. Children in rural areas are more than twice as likely not to attend elementary school as their urban peers. In conflict zones, 27 million children are out of school. Without life-long learning skills, children face greater obstacles to potential employment at a later age. They are more likely to suffer adverse health outcomes and less likely to participate in decisions that affect them, compromising their ability to build a better future.
In addition, in the current situation, the closure of schools and universities due to coronavirus has disrupted the full educational process for approximately 1 billion students and schoolchildren in 160 countries. COVID-19 has also caused major disruption to child health services. According to UNICEF, a study in 77 countries found that in 68% of them, the pandemic affected the organization of regular child health checkups and immunization services.
SCO member states attach great importance to ensuring the rights of children and youth, and work is focused on ensuring the rights of young people, their self-expression, disclosure of their creative potential, as well as creating favorable social conditions and opportunities for education and employment.
Within the framework of relevant state programs, initiatives are launched to familiarize young people with modern knowledge, promote their interest in science and technology, art and literature, as well as legal education.
Close attention is paid to the development of children’s sport and physical activities, culture, increasing spirituality, education and upbringing of youth in the spirit of respect for such invariable values as patriotism, high morality and mutual respect.
The SCO countries are actively cooperating with international organizations such as UNESCO, UNICEF and civil society institutions in the field of child rights.
In the SCO member-states the issues of social protection and ensuring children’s rights are regulated by laws and other legal acts. In India, for example, the Constitution reflects the prohibition of all forms of discrimination and a separate emphasis on children’s rights and freedoms. Children’s organizations, both public and private, effectively carry out their activities to ensure that children have access to primary and secondary education, health care, and that they are not subjected to violence or forced to work. One of the main organizations is the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, which has expanded its activities to all states of India.
Kazakhstan continues to improve legislation to protect children’s rights, including children with mental and physical disabilities, children in vulnerable situations, and children in conflict with the law. In 2016, the institution of the Commissioner for Children’s Rights was established by presidential decree. In 2019, the President signed a law “On introducing amendments and additions” to some legislative acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on issues related to the activities of organizations that perform functions to protect the rights of the child. In particular, the law provides for the establishment and operation of centers to support children in difficult situations, as well as the inclusion of these centers in the list of organizations that carry out functions to protect the rights of the child.
The practical implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has contributed to positive changes in the lives of several generations of Kazakh children, namely, a more than fivefold decline in child mortality, the development of inclusive education, and improvements to the social protection system.
In 2011, the State Council of China approved the Child Development Plan for 2011-2020, which sets new goals and new measures for the development of children’s affairs by the Chinese government, marking a new stage in China’s work on child protection.
The Plan sets goals to be achieved in five areas: child health, education, welfare, social environment and legal protection. Under this document, focused work is being done to improve the basic medical and health system, improve children’s physical health, provide children with quality education, and expand child welfare.
Kyrgyz legislation on children’s rights and interests consists of the Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and other normative legal acts. In 2006, Kyrgyzstan was the first country in Central Asia to adopt a Children’s Code. The code consolidated children’s rights and established principles and mechanisms to protect children. Kyrgyzstan is one of 62 countries which achieved the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by more than two thirds. Its early childhood development rate exceeded 72 percent. Pre-school education reaches 64 percent of children under 5. The rate of participation in organized pre-primary education programs reached 91 percent.
Pakistan’s existing legislative and policy framework for child protection includes commitments of the country that is a signatory to various international treaties and conventions, provisions of the national constitution, federal and provincial laws, including criminal and sharia law, and national policies and action plans related to children.
Pakistan has ratified a number of international treaties providing special protection for children, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, the International Labour Organization’s Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention of 1999, the SAARC Convention on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Women and Children for Prostitution of 2002 and others.
Russian legislation enshrines child rights at the federal level. All relations between children and parents are set out in the Family Code and a number of other legal acts. In 2009, a presidential decree established the post of the Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights. At the time of signing the decree, children’s ombudsmen were already functioning in 18 regions of the country. Exactly one year later there were 48 of them, and by the end of 2010 there were 62. Significant work was done to ensure that each region of Russia had a person in charge of children’s issues. And by the beginning of 2015 the establishment of the institute was almost completed in all 85 regions. The most important result of the Commissioner’s activity is real assistance provided to applicants in protecting the rights and legal interests of minors.
Children’s rights are also regulated by the country’s Constitution and other laws and regulations.
In Tajikistan the National Commission on the Rights of the Child was established, which coordinates the implementation of international obligations of the Republic in the field of children’s rights and within its authority implements the state policy to ensure the rights and interests of the child and regulates issues related to the education and upbringing of children.
Foundations and non-governmental organizations that provide social assistance to children are active in the country. One such foundation is the Lona Charitable Foundation, established in 2009, and throughout its activities provides practical assistance to sick children with cancer and children with body burns. The Foundation also provides material assistance to poor families, boarding schools, nursing homes and orphanages.
In the legal system of the Republic of Uzbekistan, more than 100 legal acts have been adopted related to rights and protection of children. In particular, the Law “On guarantees of children’s rights” reflects guarantees of children’s rights to life, freedom and personal inviolability, state support to families raising children, as well as to rest and leisure, health care, education and others.
Under the Constitution, the rights of minors are protected by the state. The post of Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Ombudsman) – Commissioner for the Rights of the Child – has been introduced in the country. A single system of continuous education has been introduced in the country, aimed at radical reform of the education sector. In addition, Uzbekistan pays close attention to the development of children’s sports and creativity.
At the Bishkek summit of SCO in 2019, the SCO heads of state expressed their support to the initiative of the Uzbek side to prepare a draft UN Convention on the Rights of Young People and expressed their intention to conduct coordinated work on this issue.
According to experts, the significance of this UN Convention for the SCO countries is that it takes into account international and national experience in regulating current aspects of the protection of youth rights and aims to increase efforts at international, regional and national levels to meet the needs of young people, strengthen capacity and guarantees of rights, freedoms and support the interests of young people in all their diversity around the world.
The Convention will be a timely and effective response to the challenges and opportunities faced by states and the world community as a whole in harmonious development of young people, realization of their enormous potential for the well-being and sustainable development of the SCO countries.
As for the work carried out within the SCO, I would like to note that one of the main tasks of the SCO, according to its Charter, is to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the international obligations of member states and their national legislation.
In this regard, through the SCO Youth Council and other relevant mechanisms, extensive work has been initiated to develop youth cooperation aimed at promoting physical, mental and spiritual development of the young generation, involving them in large-scale plans for joint development.
On October 30, 2020 the Youth Council held its regular meeting, during which deep attention was paid to the prospects of development of volunteer movement in the SCO region, exchange of experience on the development of new formats of educational programs, including in the conditions of influence on these processes of pandemic.
Regular discussions, conferences, cultural and sporting events, as well as youth forums are held, aimed at revealing the creative, social, educational, spiritual and moral potential of the young generation, strengthening friendship and mutual understanding, as well as the development of good neighborly relations, strengthening interethnic and interfaith cooperation.
The project of the International Service “SCO Youth Map” is successfully implemented, international festivals “Student Spring of SCO and BRICS countries” and SCO Marathons are held annually. Within the “SCO Our Common Home” project the SCO Secretariat works with young people by providing them with technical support, as well as a platform for organizing various events, such as interactive games “Model SCO” and intellectual contests “Leader of the 21st Century”. Every year the SCO Secretariat organizes an “Open Doors Day” for students and schoolchildren.
For 15 years, “Children Fairy Tales” art exhibitions of children’s drawings on the themes of folk tales of SCO member states have been held. By holding such events, we introduce our young generation to the diversity of cultures in the SCO countries; encourage their interest in the history of classical and folk art.
I would like to emphasize the importance of the Exhibition of Children’s Paintings of the SCO countries held in June 2020 on the theme “Unity in the fight against the epidemic, protection of the common home”. In their works the participants not only revealed the theme of fighting the virus, but also reflected the ideas of peace, friendship, joint support and aspiration for development – the ideas of “the Shanghai spirit”. It is gratifying that the young generation of SCO shares the principles of mutual support from an early age and calls for solidarity.
The leaders of our countries also approved the Action Plan for the implementation of the SCO Development Strategy 2025, according to which the member states will consider the establishment of a mechanism of meetings of heads of agencies of the SCO member states responsible for the implementation of youth policy, as well as continue to develop youth exchanges and programs in the SCO region.
In addition, the SCO is taking measures aimed at counteracting the involvement of young people in terrorist, separatist and extremist structures. In particular, as a result of the SCO summit in Qingdao in 2018, the heads of state adopted a Joint Appeal to youth and the Program of Action for its implementation, which are focused on active involvement of young people in creating a decent future, promoting physical, mental and spiritual development of the younger generation. The documents emphasize the utmost importance of ensuring favorable social and economic conditions, availability of opportunities for education, self-expression, disclosure of creative potential and realization of work for young people.
I express confidence that the young generation of SCO member states will make a worthy contribution to the development and prosperity of their countries, strengthening regional and global stability and security, dialogue between peoples, cultures and religions.
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