Championing the children

Unicef’s global partnership has been launched to deliver on promises made in the Convention on the Rights of Children.

NELSON Mandela, his wife Graca Machel, and United Nations Children’s Fund’s (Unicef) executive director Carol Bellamy together launched Unicef’s global partnership to deliver on promises made in the Convention on the Rights of Children.

The programme was launched at the Afrika Cultural Centre, a children’s venue in Johannesburg that promotes expression and rights awareness. Beaming children performed traditional dances and songs, while others with painted faces and colourful banners showed Mandela, Machel and Bellamy their art works.

The initiative, led by Mandela and Machel, aims to build a partnership of global leaders with a new motive: ”to turn the world around for millions of children”. The initiative is the result of a summit held 10 years ago in New York, where governments promised to change the lives of children. It was here that the Convention on the Rights of the Children was ratified by the world, excluding Somalia and the United States.

The partnership will put pressure on leaders to honour their commitment to children. ”Leaders will be called on to turn their words to deeds,” said Mandela. He said his and Machel’s role in the partnership will be to act as catalysts, to persuade not only governments to help the world’s children but to call on all other sectors.

Machel, who wrote a report for the United Nations in 1996 on armed conflict and children, stressed that education was a first priority and that the proliferation of conflict in the world and its devastating consequences for children was cause for concern. ”This means pressing leaders to commit themselves to the concept of children as a zone of peace, instituting ceasefires and protected humanitarian corridors; and ensuring that schools, child centres, health facilities are treated as inviolate zones of peace,” said Machel.

While few details were spelt out as to how the partnership will operate, Bellamy did say that discussions were under way. Mandela explained how the partnership would work when it comes to the business world. He said, ”Business will use its distribution networks that deliver cola drinks to the most remote towns and get textbooks and vaccines there first. Share profits, share talent, share advertising space — all in the name of children”.

— The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, June 21, 2000.


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Luvuyo Kakaza
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