Day of the African Child: Protecting all children's rights and investing in children is paramount for Africa

16/06/2016

Conflict and crisis in Africa have a devastating impact on children’s right to life, the right to live in a family environment, the right to protection from violence, the right to health and education and the right to survival and development.

Regardless of whether in times of conflict or in times of peace, children have the right to protection from violence wherever they may be and to grow up in a safe and supportive environment in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

However, as the African Report on Violence against Children shows, boys and girls continue to suffer at the hands of those responsible for their care and protection. Sexual, physical and emotional violence takes place at alarming rates within the home, in schools and communities and child trafficking is on the increase, with Sub-Saharan Africa reporting the highest share of child trafficking in the world. Harmful practices continue to blight the life of millions of children each year. And the consequences are dire.

Children’s exposure to violence goes hand-in-hand with deprivation, high risks of poor health and poor school performance and can have irreversible consequences on opportunities to thrive later in life. Research shows that continued exposure to violence, as a victim or a witness, has significant detrimental effects on the development of a child.

Violence against children is also associated with poor rule of law and a culture of impunity; it has far-reaching costs for society, slowing economic development and eroding nations’ human and social capital. In fact, violence against children costs sub-Saharan Africa an estimated US $ 440 billion each year. 

Children’s right to freedom from violence, in all its forms and manifestations and in all contexts, is therefore indispensable for the sustainable social and economic development of African nations and for a more peaceful, stable and prosperous region.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development envisages a world of “universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination” and “a world which invests in all its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation”. On the year of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Study on Violence against Children and of the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities, the SDG’s commitment to leave no one behind represents a great opportunity to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, enjoy their right to freedom from all forms of violence.

This vision is reiterated in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and African Agenda for Children 2040.
Indeed a commitment to eliminate violence against children is rooted in pan-African efforts to progressively realize children’s rights and improve the wellbeing of the region’s most precious resource – African children. More than any other continent of the world, Africa’s children lie at the heart of its demographic and social transition.

Investing in children is therefore paramount for Africa to realize the rights of its burgeoning child population and reap the potential demographic dividend. However, current trends and prevalence in the rates of violence affecting the continent’s children have far-reaching costs for society, beyond the negative impact on individual child victims and their families. 

As the great Nelson Mandela once said “safety and security don’t just happen. They are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”

The destiny of Africa is in their hands. I welcome the theme for this year’s Day of the African Child and look forward to working closely with the AU and all partners to creating and maintaining safe and conducive environments for African children to grow and develop to their full potential.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar endorses SRSG Santos Pais message on the Day of the African Child.

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Ms. Catalina Devandas-Aguilar (Costa Rica) was designated as the first Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in June 2014 by the UN Human Rights Council. Ms. Devandas-Aguilar has worked extensively on disability issues at the national, regional and international level with the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund, the UN unit responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the World Bank. Her work has focused on the rights of women with disabilities and the rights of indigenous peoples with disabilities. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disability/SRDisabilities/Pages/SRDisabil...