During the world-wide public awareness campaign Say Yes for Children, 26 million people from Central and Eastern Europe, Commonwealth of Independent States and Baltics have pledged, contributing more than one quarter of the 95 million global Pledges. From the ten priorities for children, Leave No Child Out topped the poll. The message transmitted by this vote is an anti-discrimination, anti-exclusion message. For many children in our Region, the exclusion is part of their life. A large number of children have failed to benefit from new opportunities and are disproportionately represented amongst the new poor and marginalised. One of the underlying causes of this situation, if not the most important, is the widesspread ignorance of child rights. Every country in the Region has ratified UN Convention on the Right of the Child.
The Convention recognises that every child is born with the fundamental rights of all human beings – civic, political, economic, social and cultural. Exclusion, for any reason, is a denial of child rights. While there are fewer children in the Region (15 million less in 2001 than in 1989), more of them are facing exclusion and discrimination. By late 1990s, around 18 million children in the Region were living in poverty, by 2000, 2.2 million people were internally displaced and almost 1 million were refugees, the number of children in institutions for the disabled has risen in many countries in the Region, almost 1 million children live in residential institutions, by the end of 2001, there were an estimated 1 Million people with HIV/AIDS.
Exclusion has huge costs for society in terms of direct public services and lost potential. The best reason to focus on exclusion is it is entirely preventable.
Amongst the new opportunities and increased freedom emerging over the last decade is the rise of civil society including the establishment of NGOs and their networks, concentrating on children’s issues. Most of them are still focused on service delivery.
The challenge now is for these NGOs to adopt a rights-based approach to their advocacy, programmes and monitoring efforts, and for governments to fulfil their responsibilities as primary duty bearers for the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in co-operation with all actors involved.
The NGO/UNICEF Regional Network for Children in CEE/CIS and Baltics, is caarying out two projects: a training in children’s rights and a public awareness campaign, both entitled Leave No Child Out. The aims of these projects are to build the capacities and skills of governments and civil society organisations to promote rights – based development and child focused policy. By these projects, an active partnership between the existing civil society networks, government actors and intergovernmental organisation will be established in order to reduce children’s exclusion and discrimination in the Region and to fulfil their rights.