By: Elena Pivanti

Each year, on the 20th of November, the world celebrates Universal Children’s Day, to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide and improving children’s welfare.

This day was established back in 1954, with Resolution No. 836 of the UN General Assembly; it is celebrated on the 20th of November because this is the day in which the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959. Always on November 20th, 1989, the UN General Assembly also adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of most widely ratified international human rights treaties, with 191 state parties to the convention. It sets out a number of children’s rights including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be discriminated, and to have their views heard.

Despite the fact that Universal Children’s Day is generally held on the 20th of November, there are also some countries which celebrate this day on different dates; for example, Australia celebrates it on the fourth Wednesday of October, and India on the 14th of November. The United States do not celebrate this day, even though they have a similar observance, which is National Child’s Day, held in June.

In establishing this day, the General Assembly recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, so that all Governments could devote one day to promoting the ideals and objectives of the Charter concerning the welfare of children around the world, and to stimulate interest in the media. Countries are encouraged to start nationwide campaigns on this day, for instance on the importance of immunizations or breastfeeding.

Thus, on this day, everyone comes together to celebrate children’s rights, to take action to build a better world for all children.

In particular, children are encouraged to live healthy lives, and should be made aware of how to eat healthy and to exercise; this also includes understanding how important a doctor can be for their needs. One critical goal of this day is to help children get the educational support that they demand. This also entails helping them by providing educational resources and affordable education experiences.

Moreover, this day subjects everyone to issues related to child labor and military service, to put an end to such problem. Finally, on this day the world celebrates the respect for children; they can only go so far in society if they are given enough support and respect, especially if they are orphaned children.

This year’s theme is “Kids take over”; UNICEF has invited children from around the world to take on key roles in media, politics, business, sport and entertainment, to voice their support for the millions of children who do not benefit from education, who are unprotected or have been uprooted from their homes.

Children campaign to save other children’s lives in their schools and their communities, to fight for their peer’s rights.

Universal Children’s Day is a day to celebrate children, and at the same time to bring awareness on the issue of children still being subject to violence, abuses, exploitation and discrimination. It is important to keep in mind that children are the ones suffering most from the ongoing wars, and find themselves displaced and suffering physical and psychological traumas due to armed conflict.

Another pressing issue is that currently, around 153 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced into child labor, and many more are recruited as child soldiers.

In September 2012, the former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban-Ki Moon, led an initiative on the education of children; through this initiative, he wanted every child to be able to go to school, and to be given the necessary equipment and means to get an education.

GICJ’s position and recommendations

On this day, GICJ recognizes the urgent need to support and assist children, to improve their livelihoods and lives. They must be given all the help needed to ensure their healthy upbringing and development, and to be empowered to become active members of society. Parents’ role in the development of their children is extremely important, and this day has to raise awareness on good practices on raising children in an environment that is as safe as it can be under e.g. conditions of armed conflict.

While children are the first victims of armed conflict, GICJ would like to highlight that children are remarkably resilient and that the negative impacts of conflict can be mitigated when children are provided with the needed support, notably through the provision of adequate psychological care and safe facilities or support for home-based learning activities and safe spaces to play. Children’s healthy development is also vital as they can become the driving force for post-conflict recovery and sustainable peace and development in their countries. Even under circumstances of war and conflict, Governments, communities and families must take all necessary measures to ensure that children are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to become active parts in their societies, notably through education.

GICJ is also concerned about children who are exploited and abused, and calls on the international community to protect them and shelter them in a responsible manner. Exploitation in any form, such as child prostitution, child labor and child soldiers, are still very common around the world, and GICJ presses that these issues are radically eliminated.

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