All hands on deck to advance children’s rights

What you need to know:

Children have the fundamental right to be heard and participate in decisions that directly affect their lives

We are living through daunting times that could jeopardise the progress made in the last decades to advance the well-being and rights of all children and young people. Today, the world looks more frightening, unstable and uncertain for children and their future.

Multiple and compounding crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters intensified due to climate change, armed conflicts, forced migration, economic hardship, poverty, inequality and widespread hunger have exacerbated the breakdown of families and left many more children to grow up alone.

An estimated 240 million children and young people around the world are now without parental care or at the risk of losing it. Even if these challenges might appear overwhelming, what I have witnessed has made me believe that we can make a bigger impact and transform even more lives when we listen to what children are saying and forge strong multisector partnerships.

Children have the fundamental right to be heard and participate in decisions that directly affect their lives. Children from all corners of the world tell me stories of their journeys, their struggles, their fears, their aspirations and their big dreams. They not only want to succeed in their personal lives, but they also believe in paying it forward for others who face similar challenges. These are humbling and inspirational stories for all who stand for the wellbeing and rights of children.

In spite of past adversities, these children were able to turn their lives around when they received the support and the care they needed. With strong, trusting relationships and a community standing behind them, children can unleash the power they have within them and build incredible resilience. This community of support must be built around children’s specific needs and rights: from the nurturing of devoted caregivers who listen to and believe in them, to access to quality care, education and health services – including mental health and psychosocial support – to opportunities to succeed as they transition into adulthood.

Regardless of their background, gender, immigration status, family circumstances or location, all children have the right to grow in secure, safe and nurturing environments where they can develop to their fullest potential.

We need an ‘all hands on deck’ approach to address today’s challenges to advancing children’s rights. Governments, civil society, academia, the private sector - the international community as a whole must work together towards our shared purpose. We must build on each other’s comparative advantages to make children’s rights a lived reality for all children.

We renew our promise to children without parental care, or who are at risk of losing it, by working to strengthen families and communities to prevent family breakdown, by providing and encouraging others to provide suitable and individualised quality care solutions, and by persuading governments and international bodies to uphold care standards enshrined in universal children’s rights.

Let us not feel discouraged by the magnitude of the obstructions and catastrophes, but rather be inspired by the voices of children and their stories of opportunity and hope.

Dr. Dereje Wordofa

President of SOS Children’s Villages International

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