This year is the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which is the most ratified human rights treaty in history of this world. We look back to significant improvement across the globe, increasing regulations and support by states to ensure that children in any circumstances have the best opportunities possible to grow up and reach their fullest potential. Especially the global study conducted by Mister Nowak that was introduced to the Third Committee at the United Nations Headquarters on October 8th, 2019, provides valuable insight that even just recently established measures already show that states´ regulations have improved several aspects of some of the most vulnerable groups of children across the world. The number of children kept in state institutions has dropped by 2.6 million (more than 32 %) since 2006 while there are more than 50 % less imprisoned. Mister Nowak explains those significant changes by referring to several regulations implemented more effectively by several states that adhere to human rights treaties. As this year´s theme of the International Day of Eradication of Poverty indicates, it is vital to view children not as objects that need to be dealt with but part of a community, moreover of families that are the key supporters to ensure a protected and healthy child development. When we talk about ending poverty, we have to break down this issue to the smallest communities to fight and solve the root causes. Children are often forgotten in the fight against poverty, but as stated multiple times by several experts at the UN Third Committee Meeting on October 8th, 2019, they have to be put at the forefront of this fight. The consequences of children growing up in a broken and unstable environment are detrimental for the whole society. The economic costs alone – 7 trillion dollars per year according to the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children – are beyond imagination. How much worse are the negative consequences on a child´s development, heart and health.
Indeed, there has been significant progress, but a lot more needs to be done. The issue of poverty as well as providing stable and safe circumstances for children to grow up in remains to be a pressing one. As the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF reported to the Third Committee at the United Nations Headquarters on October 8th, 2019, 15,000 children die every day of treatable causes. Furthermore, poverty is the main driver of child labor while every year one billion children – half of the world´s children – experience violence. Those statistics are a horrifying reality for children around the world. As this year´s theme of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty shows – Acting together to empower children, their families and communities to end poverty – it requires a joined effort to end poverty, especially at the smallest level of society. As Vincentians, our commitment to serve the poor doesn´t exclude children, but rather should be primarily focused on them. They are the future of this world! In order to create lasting, systemic change, promote peace and dignity – as our core Vincentian beliefs state – we need to start with those who suffer of a system and circumstances that they neither created nor chose to live in.
Along the goal of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to leave no one behind, as Vincentians we ought to take a leading role in serving the world´s poor and most vulnerable ones, those who are the future of this very planet. Lasting change starts by supporting and influencing the smallest communities which is the family. Parental care is a key element to prevent early exclusion, neglect and discrimination of children. As the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF stated repeatedly, stable and protected circumstances are vital for children to grow up and reach their fullest potential. Ending poverty requires a systemic change of our society´s behavior that protects the most vulnerable groups on this earth to develop and grow in a healthy way. In St. Vincent de Paul´s example, we as Vincentians ought to serve the poor with relentless effort. The poor in the context of economic resources but also the ones who are poor in spirit. Those who had no choice but grow up in a broken and unjust system that prevents them from reaching their fullest potential and support a lasting, systemic change. Serving the poor starts with serving the most vulnerable to maintain this unfair distribution in this world, not because they choose that deliberately, moreover as they don´t have a different choice. It is our responsibility to serve them first and foremost to create lasting change.
Lastly, since this is the 30th anniversary of one of the most influential human rights treaties in human history, it is a great opportunity as Vincentians to look back on our efforts and evaluate what we can do better or more effectively. As countries and organizations around the world remember this historic ratification, we as Vincentians should keep in mind that it is a joined effort to fight poverty. As this year is an ideal time to review the past three decades, it allows us to strengthen our partnerships, create new allies and build more effective strategies for our service to the world´s poor to ultimately end poverty on this earth!