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Children's rights

Eglantyne Jebb, children’s rights pioneer, honored in Geneva, Switzerland

07 February 2024

Ceremony for Eglantyne Jebb. © Magali Girardin

“Every generation of children offers mankind the possibility of rebuilding his ruin of a world,” said Eglantyne Jebb, founder of the NGO, Save the Children, and the original drafter of the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which turns 100 this year.

The Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child is an international document promoting children’s rights that was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. It culminated in the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, which is a legally binding convention ratified by almost every country in the world.

Buried in 1928 in Geneva, Jebb's remains were transferred from Saint-Georges to the Cimetière des rois (Cemetery of Kings), an emblematic move that demonstrates City of Geneva’s gratitude for the strength of her actions in the field of children's rights.

On 7 February, an official ceremony took place to mark Jebb’s reburial next to former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, who was tragically killed in a bombing in Iraq that took his life and the lives of 21 human rights colleagues in 2003. The event was co-hosted by the City of Geneva, Save the Children, and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“Over the past decades, the world has taken considerable steps in children’s rights. I pay tribute to Eglantyne Jebb for spearheading this progress,” said Laura Dolci, UN Human Rights’ Secretary of the UN Universal Periodic Review, on behalf of Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “Save the Children, the organization she founded and built, is today one of the world’s leading voices on the rights of the child. And the Geneva Declaration, a text she drafted, has powerfully guided humanity to give children “the best that it has to give.”

We cannot underestimate the key role that Eglantyne Jebb played in Geneva in the early 1920s in promoting children's rights and their universality.

Philip Jaffé, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

While there has been progress in children’s rights, many challenges remain, Türk said. According to UNICEF, 64 million children of primary school age are not in school, while only one in 26 children reach only their fifth birthday, most of the deaths are preventable.

“As we honour her life today, we remain inspired — and bound — by her commitment to rise from the ruin, and to build a world where all children, no matter where they live, go to school, are healthy and are safe from harm,” Dolci said.

Photo Credit: Magali Girardin