> International Children’s Rights Day - 20 November 2002 - Updated: 2003-03-07 9:19 am
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education’s Message
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations on 20 November 1989, affirms that a child is not only a fragile being that needs to be protected, but also a person that has a right to be educated, cared for, protected, wherever in the world he/she is born. And also that a child is person who has the right to have fun, learn and express himself!
UNESCO has always accorded a special place to children in its programmes and activities which seek, in particular, to safeguard optimal personality development from early childhood, to enhance the social, moral, cultural and economic progress of communities, to promote an appreciation of cultural identities and values, and to raise awareness of the need to respect fundamental rights and freedoms.
To contribute to promoting the rights of the child within the framework of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010), and « to involve children in the reconstruction of the world and building peace» as suggested by Maria Montessori*, UNESCO organized a world drawing and painting contest for children aged 4 to 7 : " Draw me Peace - Children colour the world". The 18 winners selected by a Jury of artists and children will be announced today.
The some 680 artworks received were drawn and painted by young children in daycare centres, schools, orphanages, slums, art institutes, villages, in the street – in other words, in a diversity of settings where these young children were in a position to create a collective work of art. Through these, of great quality and diversity, illustrating graphically and visually their opinions, the young children from the 80 countries participating in the Contest have addressed many messages and spontaneous suggestions about self-respect and respect for others, sharing, solidarity, tolerance, war and peace, reconciliation, protection of the planet … These messages remind us all that a child is a person, and that we have to respect children as such.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a very important text. Important, but not sufficient: much remains to be done to make the rights of children a reality. Rights only become real when they are implemented, for children as well as for adults. Promoting children’s rights is first and foremost creating the social, economic and cultural conditions that will ensure that all can attain those rights. It is at this cost that the rights of children will be truly respected.
Today, at the beginning of the XXIst century, promotion and respect of the Rights of the Child must not simply remain an ideal, but must become a daily reality. This is a long-term challenge for every country, every institution, every community and every individual. We must respond to this challenge and ensure that the essential rights of the child are finally recognized: the right to protection, the right to health, the right to harmonious development, the right to culture, the right to education. Essential rights that are, unfortunately, still out of reach for millions of children. Thus, all of us must act every day in favour of the Rights of the Child, so that the Convention becomes the wherewithal for modifying attitudes, for awareness raising, and for preventing the abuse of children, enabling us together to build and promote a culture of peace.