30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Three decades ago, on 20 November 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted, not only to protect children but also to recognise them as holders of rights. It has been almost as long since Slovenia’s foreign policy efforts have been focused on the promotion of children’s rights and the enhancement of their wellbeing. This significant anniversary is also in the focus of this year’s European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which is marked on 18 November at the initiative of Slovenia.
Almost all states are parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is a binding instrument of international human rights law. Besides recognising children as holders of rights, the Convention is also unique for its guiding principles, including the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration, non-discrimination, the life, survival and development of the child, and the participation of children in the decision-making processes that affect them. The implementation of the Convention and its guiding principles has radically changed the way children are treated around the world, which is why International Children’s Day is celebrated on 20 November, the date on which the Convention was adopted.
UNICEF reports that over the past 30 years the mortality rate of children under five has declined by more than half, the proportion of malnourished children has almost halved and children's access to clean drinking water has significantly improved (2.6 billion more people worldwide have access to clean drinking water today). However, UNICEF points out that urgent action is needed to ensure that every child enjoys all rights, underlining that 262 million children and young people do not attend school, 650 million girls and women around the world married before they were 18, and by 2040, one in four children will live in areas with extremely limited water resources.
The promotion of rights and wellbeing of children have had an important place in Slovenia’s foreign policy since its independence. They are both enshrined in the fundamental documents of its foreign policy and development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Slovenia is one of the most active countries in international organisations in terms of supporting the protection of children and their rights, and it was also one of the main initiators of the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (on a communications procedure), which entered into force five years ago. Slovenia was also a leading supporter of the establishment of mandate of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children and co-initiator of the debate within NATO on the protection of children affected by armed conflict.
In the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid, Slovenia supports numerous activities to improve the wellbeing of children around the world. In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs financed eight projects aimed at helping children from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Belarus, Palestine, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, these focusing on various areas, from medical and psychosocial rehabilitation of children from conflict areas to education on children’s rights (the "Our Rights" project), educating children about the dangers of landmines, and school and peer mediation. By providing regular humanitarian aid, Slovenia also supports UNICEF’s work for children in humanitarian crises around the world. In 2017–2021, the amount of humanitarian assistance provided to children in Yemen totalled EUR 180,000. As a partner of the Call for Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, Slovenia will contribute EUR 100,000 for the elimination of sexual violence (for all age groups) in the humanitarian crisis in the DRC through the International Committee of the Red Cross in the 2019-2021 period.
In 2015, on the initiative of Slovenia, the Council of Europe launched the materials on the European Day for the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, which is being marked today. In light of the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2019 fifth edition of the European Day focuses on the empowerment of children to stop sexual violence. Also this year, Slovenia, together with Luxembourg, Andorra, Monaco and Belgium, issued a joint statement in the Council of Europe to reassert that children must also have the means, space, opportunity and support to participate in the design and implementation of measures, strategies, programmes and other activities aimed at preventing and responding to sexual exploitation and abuse. As in previous years, many other Council of Europe members have joined the statement.