Teenagers celebrate 20th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with Minister and Children’s Rights Executives
Friday, 20 November 2009
Government Press Centre, Government Buildings, Dublin
Teenagers from the Children and Young People’s Forum (CYPF) of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (OMCYA) and The Base in Ballyfermot, joined other schoolchildren from Dublin in Government Buildings today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As well as representing Ireland’s children when signing the Irish State’s birthday card to the UN in Geneva, the teenagers questioned the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD; Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance; and Melanie Verwoerd, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland, on progress in implementing the UN Convention in Ireland and globally.
The young people also spoke about their own work on the UN Convention and highlighted the fair fares 4 teenz campaign that is lobbying public transport providers to stop charging adult rates for tickets to young people aged 16 and 17. This campaign demonstrates the way in which the UN Convention is a powerful instrument to advocate for appropriate services for children. The teenagers also drew attention to the rights that matter most to them and the rights they are being denied.
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews TD, said: “Today is an opportunity to highlight the good work that has been done in Ireland to safeguard the rights of our children, since we ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. I am proud of our work in listening to the voice of children and in developing the participation of young people in decision-making and policy formation. There is much more to do in this area, particularly in response to the Ryan Report and in developing a new National Children’s Strategy to bring about joined up services for children across Ireland.”
In commenting on the fair fares 4 teenz campaign, Ali Jack (16) of the OMCYA Children and Young People’s Forum (a reference panel of young people that advises and works with the Minister) said: “CYPF picked discrimination as our top issue in 2008. Young people from all parts of Ireland are discriminated against by having to pay adult fares on public transport from the age of 16. We made a vox pop dvd and did a survey of over 1,500 young people on this issue in May 2009. Minister Andrews invited all public transport providers to meet us on 13 November and we told them that under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we have the right to be classified as children until our 18th birthday. We asked them to charge child fares for everyone up to the age of 18. We pointed out that our survey showed that 60% of teenagers avoid using public transport because it is too expensive. We also highlighted the damage to the environment by too many teenagers getting lifts in cars. We asked the public transport providers to cost reducing fares for 16 and 17 year-olds and we are meeting them again in December.”
Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said: “Most of our children have grown up cloaked and protected by the rights enshrined in the UN Convention, however challenges remain. There remains a very real gap between the rhetoric and the reality of children’s rights In Ireland. We have good policy, but our ability to implement it lags shamefully behind. To make children’s rights a reality we must make children visible in the Irish Constitution and work to improve the supports and services for children and their families. We want an Ireland where children in need of protection are listened to, where separated children are supported to keep them safe from traffickers, where child with mental health difficulties are cared for appropriately – and not placed in an adult psychiatric unit. As a society, we must tackle the ills of childhood poverty, homelessness and illiteracy, which continue to plague children in Ireland. We must all work together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child.”
Melanie Verwoerd, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland, said: “UNICEF has seen many positive changes across the Globe since the creation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. It gives us a common platform to work together with governments and civil society to ensure that every child has the basics in life: clean water, food, shelter, healthcare and education. But children continue to face life-threatening problems: 24,000 children are still dying every day from preventable causes, like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition. Many of the world’s children will never see the inside of a schoolroom, and millions of children lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect. The real challenge for the UN Convention on its 20th anniversary is to achieve these rights for all children.”
CONTACT DETAILS FOR MEDIA QUERIES:
Mairead O’Hora - Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs – 087 4158288
Carys Thomas – Children’s Rights Alliance – 087 7702845
Anne O’Donnell – Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs – 086 3837320
Notes to Editor:
• Government Press Centre, Government Buildings 12-2pm
• Photographer present, Derek Speirs