#ParentsFirst – the way to better child rights protection now and in the future

Our message for World Children Day 2020

We observe World Children Day on 20 November since 1989, the birth of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2020 we have little to celebrate, but observing the day means we need to raise our voice and help raise all parents to do the same for the rights of our children. UNICEF had highlighted that this year, COVID-19-related regulations and restrictions have resulted in a child rights crisis. They call your attention to the fact that the costs of the pandemic for children are immediate and, if unaddressed, may last a lifetime. Their call for action states it is time for generations to come together to reimagine the type of world we want to create. Parents International has advocated for this when we say #ParentsFirst: to empower the primary caregivers, the parents and guardians who are the protagonists of ensuring and protecting child rights. The current child rights crisis is as much a result of a dramatic change for the worse in the lives of parents as that of governments stopping service provisions. This is what needs to change and now. Today’s children and youth, be them young children or even university students, are losing the only chance in many ways if these trends are not stopped and reversed.

UNICEF published the Six-Point Plan to Protect our Children calling governments to take action in various fields. The first of these is “to ensure all children learn, including by closing the digital divide”. The first part doesn’t need any action, all children do learn, the real question is what, when and how. In a recent conference about the Sustainable Development Goals, it has been acknowledged that SDG4 on quality, inclusive education is the overarching SDG. Lifelong learning of both children and adults, especially that of parents is the key to achieving all other action points on the UNCEF agenda.

Universal access to health care and nutrition as well as informed, free choice of vaccination is on the one hand a basic obligation of the state, but on the other hand the most fundamental job of any parent. While access to clean water and sanitation is again mainly a government’s obligation, parents educated in this field play a crucial role in hygiene regardless financial or physical circumstances.  Abuse, violence and neglect are also best prevented by empowering and educating parents, but it needs to be kept in mind that the overwhelming majority of parents actually protect their children from such traumatic experiences. This is an element that child rights activists tend to forget about. We can only applaud the wish to redouble efforts to protect and support families and children within them living through conflict, disaster and displacement. In the current dystopic world nearly all families are living through conflict and disaster – of different proportions depending on the country they live in and their personal situation. The detrimental effect of government regulations on interpersonal contacts must be stopped and – if it is still possible – reversed.

Last but not least, we can only repeat what we have already said several times: child poverty and inclusive recovery is only possible if the primary target of any action is the family raising the child. Programmes directed at the child and only them are deemed to fail the test of sustainability.

Organisations and experts gathered in Parents International are grateful for the support of some governments in making our #ParentsFirst and #NewEducationDeal initiatives a reality, and we can only hope putting parents in the focus of child and child rights protection will become as universal as the observation of 20 November.

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