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Concluding Message to the Geneva commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and handover to the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

20 November 2019

My greetings to all the representatives of States, civil society, experts and practioners, UN colleagues – and above all, children – who are present here in Geneva in this symbolic Room XX of the Human Rights Council; who are with us online; and those present at the High-level meeting of the General Assembly, in New York.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols constitute a vital, living body of law. It has been a powerful force guiding the world to better fulfill the rights of children, and today, its 30th anniversary compels us to action.

We need to take action to ensure respect for children's rights to raise their voices and participate in decisions about their lives and future.

We need to take action to protect children from exploitation and harm.

We need action to ensure that children are empowered to raise their voices - and to protect from physical attacks and other forms of abuse the children who stand up to defend human rights and the rights of the child.

We need to advance accountability for the perpetrators of violations and abuses of children's rights.

When they ratified the Convention, the Governments of almost every country in the world promised action, to uphold its principles and advance children's rights. And in the past three decades States, institutions, civil society groups and many other actors have indeed taken steps to ensure that more children can thrive, enjoy access to fundamental goods and services, and participate in decisions.

But childhood, for many millions of children, is still a time of deprivation, misery, exploitation and violence.

And new challenges to the rights of the child have surged forward.

The vast shifts driven by digital technology have promoted important freedoms for some – but for many others, they have been a vehicle for continuous abuse, including intolerable forms of bullying and intimidation online – often by adults, and even some people in power. Digital tools also enable the exploitation of children, including harmful images of children, and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes.

Thirty years ago, climate change was a faint, theoretical possibility. Today it is generating immense harm to communities around the world. With an admirable grasp of principles of justice and human rights, many children are standing up to demand the right to participate in shaping solutions.

Our discussions in Geneva have called for much stronger action to protect children from harm, and to empower them to take their rightful seat at the table, as human rights defenders and agents of change.

The world must take action to end the violence and devastation of today's conflicts, which indiscriminately harm millions of children and force so many into lives of destitution and abuse.

We have to end the discrimination that impedes millions of girls and boys from fulfilling their right to quality education and health, so they can form the foundation for adult lives of dignity and equality.

We must get back on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda, which is a promise to advance the rights of today's children -- and succeeding generations.

In handing over this discussion to the UN General Assembly, I hope to symbolise a firm bridge between the work of UN organisations all over the world. The rights of the child are a priority for all of us. Achieving a more peaceful, more equal, more inclusive and more empowering world is the point of everything we do.

I am heartened by the pledges by dozens of States to mark this anniversary year of the Convention by pledging specific actions for children’s rights. And as High Commissioner for Human Rights, I, too, make a pledge: to strive always to protect and promote the indivisible and inalienable rights of every child, in every circumstance and every State.

I wish you impactful discussions.