Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, 20 November 2019
Madam State Councillor,
President of the University of Geneva,
Children, Colleagues and Friends,
This celebration of the three decades of our most widely ratified human rights treaty constitutes a compelling and inspiring demonstration of the importance of children’s inalienable human rights.
As the Convention on the Rights of the Child spells out, children have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
They have a right to be protected against all forms of violence, discrimination and neglect – wherever they are, regardless of their sex, ethnic or social origin, wealth, disability, migration status or other characteristic.
They have the right to be heard. And I find it very appropriate that in this year of the Convention's 30th anniversary, young people around the world are rising up to demand climate justice, social justice and political freedoms.
For although children do have rights here and now, they also have a strong stake in the future – and today, we need transformative change to ensure a better future for our world.
This anniversary event brings together States, civil society, UN bodies, local and international actors, and a number of very impressive and articulate children. Through webcasting, we are joined by many others from around the world.
There have been many calls for States to provide concrete global and national pledges to fulfill and renew their commitment to the Convention.
Moreover, even as this event in Geneva comes to an end, the General Assembly will open a day-long high-level meeting to celebrate the anniversary in New York. In a short while, I will “pass the torch” to the Secretary-General, to ensure that our call for greater engagement by States resonates across the UN family, and around the world.
It is time – it is well past time – to implement the Convention for every child.
In almost every country, children are likely to form the group at highest risk of poverty, malnourishment and abuse. Girls; children with disabilities; and those already marginalised because of their migration status, caste or ethnic, religious or national origin are especially likely to suffer structural discrimination and deprivation.
In every region, children who are caught up in conflict situations – or forced to flee their homes – are exposed to being sold or trafficked, often for sexual exploitation or child labour.
Nelson Mandela called the Convention a "luminous, living document”. He also told us, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
I thank all those who have organised and supported this event– and all of you who are participating in it, in this room and across the digital landscape.
Thank you for standing up for the rights of each and every child, now and in future generations.