Earlier in November 2019, two of the most influential international organizations of the world met in Bangkok to discuss improving the lives of children across countries — a noble and paramount task.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on this occasion a new publication called “Children in ASEAN: 30 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
The attendees commented on the progress made so far in protecting children’s wellbeing but also agreed on cross-border actions that can be taken in the future to ensure that children’s rights are fully enforced.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
The event took place in Bangkok during the 35th summit of ASEAN countries and celebrated the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
In 1989, world leaders convened to ratify a human rights treaty that defined the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children as well as officially recognizing the age of a minor at under 18 years of age. Signing this treaty is legally binding and ratifying countries need to follow it or face consequences set by international law.
By 1995, all ASEAN member nations had signed and ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Ever since, they have made great efforts to respect its 54 articles covering a wide range of issues such as child marriage and slavery, parental responsibilities, and the children’s right to an opinion.
Improving the Life of Children in the ASEAN Region
Southeast Asia is a varied region with 642 million citizens. 30% of them are children. Ever since ratifying the CRC, important moves forward have been made in supporting children’s wellbeing in the area.
Life expectancy has been significantly improved thanks to the fact that poverty in the region has been halved.
Efforts have been focused on the following fields:
- Access to healthcare
- Access to education
- Creation of better opportunities also thanks to the Internet
- Protection of children from violence and exploitation
- Increased investment in state institutions and services.
Thai Minister of Special Development and Human Security Chuti Krairiksh said: “Thailand recognizes children as ‘agent of change’, we strongly commit to putting children first, to invest in children who will carry future forward, to fulfill the right of every child.”
Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, H.E. Kung Phoak added:
“ASEAN is committed to the promotion and the protection of the rights of children. We have been working concertedly to create an enabling environment in which our children can thrive and be empowered and to ensure that their voices are heard, and their participation is integral to all efforts affecting their lives.”
What Can Be Done to Support ASEAN Children?
Although all parties agreed that the past 30 years have had a great positive impact on the life of children in the ASEAN countries, there is still work to do. Minister Krairiksh commented:
“It is an occasion for the ASEAN Member States to reflect on implementation gaps and to undertake additional measures to ensure that the rights of children are fully realized […] Let’s make child-friendly ASEAN happen.”
Challenges in the life of children have changed in 3 decades and they’re expected to continue doing so.
With The Reaffirmation of Commitment to Advancing the Rights of the Child, ASEAN governments agreed on 10 actions which include accelerating efforts to remove barriers that pose child rights at risk, protecting the rights of children to express themselves, and increasing social investments to lift children out of poverty.
Children and the Internet: Possibilities and Risks
If the Internet has opened a world of possibilities for children to learn and connect online, it has also exposed them to a range of new risks and infringements of their privacy.
The new Declaration on the Protection of Children from All Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse intends to tackle the issue by encouraging ASEAN countries to strengthen laws to protect children and ensure systems are in place so that child victims can access help. At the same time, it supports digital literacy for both children and their caregivers to mitigate risks.
Protecting Children in a Dynamic World
We live in a world that has dramatically changed the way we see international movement. Traveling is now easier than ever (as the new unified visa for ASEAN countries can prove) and many people in the region decide to relocate.
However, migration and displacement have had a significant impact on children and their families. In the Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration, ASEAN nations confirm their commitment to ensuring that they’ll keep children’s rights and wellbeing at the center of their legislations in the context of migration.