Children’s Advocate, Mary Clarke, has called on Jamaicans to play their part in helping the country achieve the goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Speaking at a forum commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Convention at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Friday (November 20), Mrs. Clarke suggested that persons could help the process by speaking out on issues affecting children, such as abuse and neglect.
She also suggested that persons could help by making reports to the Office of the Children’s Registry on child abandonment, abuse and neglect. Mrs. Clarke proposed that persons also become witnesses in court and serve as members of the jury.
The Convention is the first legally binding international convention to affirm human rights for all children. Since 1989, the CRC has achieved near-universal acceptance, having now been ratified by 193 states. Jamaica ratified the Convention 18 years ago.
The highlight of the forum, jointly hosted by the Office of the Children’s Advocate and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica, was the launch of two reports – ‘Jamaican Children: Twenty Years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child’, which focusses on the status of Jamaican children; and the special edition of UNICEF’s ‘State of the World’s Children’ report, which reflects on the CRC’s impact on children’s rights, globally.
Since ratifying the CRC, the report on the status of the nation’s children stated, Jamaica has made a number of significant steps to improve the policy, legislative, institutional and strategic planning framework affecting children.
Children’s Advocate, Mrs. Mary Clarke (centre), peruses a report on the status of Jamaican children, entitled: ‘Jamaican Children: Twenty Years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child’. She is flanked by representative from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Mr. Robert Fuderich (left) and upper sixth form student of Meadowbrook High School, Sophia Bryan. Occasion was a forum to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, in New Kingston, on November 20.
Representative for UNICEF, Robert Fuderich, said that some positive trends have emerged in Jamaica, due to the Convention, and that the Government of Jamaica should be commended for embarking on several initiatives relating to children’s rights.
These initiatives include the establishment of key institutions such as the Early Childhood Commission in 2003, the Office of the Children’s Advocate in 2004, the Child Development Agency in 2004 and the Office of the Children’s Registry in 2007. He also pointed to the drafting of key policies, such as the National Youth Policy, and laws such as the Child Care and Protection Act.
But, the UNICEF representative said that there were some major challenges facing Jamaica, in the areas of crime, education and health. He pointed out that violence is by far, the most devastating threat to Jamaican childhood today.
In terms of education, he said that despite universal access to primary education, there are serious challenges in providing quality education for children up to the age of 18.
On health, he said that the immunisation rate in the country lags behind, in terms of the national goal of coverage which was set at 95 per cent. He also pointed out that maternal and infant mortality rates have not changed significantly in the last decade, and much work needed to be done to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal.
The special edition of the ‘State of the World’s Children’ report, shows some of the progress made over the last 20 years, globally, including the reduction in the annual number of deaths of children under five, from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008.
In addition, the report stressed that more needs to be done to prevent the deaths of children from preventable causes, such as pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition; to ensure more children get a quality education; and that they are protected against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect.