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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

World Children's Day is a reminder of our promise to the young and vulnerable

Nearly 30 years after the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child, the need has never been more pressing

Children at Unicef's Holl-Holl refugee camp in Djibouti. Courtesy Unicef
Children at Unicef's Holl-Holl refugee camp in Djibouti. Courtesy Unicef

In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, apartheid was coming to an end in South Africa and the first commercial internet providers paved the way for our digital future – unwittingly opening up, for the truly nefarious, a whole new means to target the young and vulnerable. It is significant, then, that 1989 also marks the year that the Convention on the Rights of the Child was first conceived, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and signed by 196 countries. The world’s leaders gathered to acknowledge the importance of the right of every child to “grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”. They also recognised the need for children to live an independent and fulfilled life, with “special safeguards and care”, as well as legal protection.

Those born that year have long since grown up but tragically, the world has not outgrown the need to remember and respect its pledge to protect its young, millions of whom are still being failed on a daily basis. Twenty-nine years on, as we mark World Children’s Day tomorrow, it is worth recalling the wording of that promise to make every child feel safe and loved, with access to clean water, an education and a voice. It is to the world's shame that there are 262 million children not in school, 650 million girls who married before they turned 18, and that last year 5.4 million died from preventable diseases before their fifth birthday. Indeed, in our modern age, there are now even more ways children can be targeted and exploited, such as online grooming. As the risk increases, so should our ability to protect them from these dangers.

We can all do something to change the fate of children, whether it is sponsoring their education, being vigilant in terms of their welfare, giving direct aid where it is needed or supporting institutions and charities that do so on our behalf. Unicef will be marking the day by reminding world leaders of their obligations to protect young people, and giving children a platform to air their concerns. We should all take a moment to listen. Doing so could change their lives.