Children's rights: central thread through Belgian policy

Marie-Paule Duquesnoy & Valérie Carlier
16 March 2018
Children and young people make up more than half of the population in developing countries. Because of their age and dependency, they often find themselves in a vulnerable position, aggravated by poverty, inequality and humanitarian crises. Children therefore need special attention in protecting and defending their rights.

According to UNICEF, one in 12 children worldwide lives in a country where his/her future prospects are now more negative than those of their parents. Moreover, 180 million children live in 37 countries where the probability of extreme poverty, school dropout or violent death is higher than it was 20 years ago.

The Belgian Development Cooperation is firmly committed to defending and promoting children’s rights and strives for improvement of the situation of children and young people in the poorest countries. Overview of some actions taken recently:

  • In 2017, the Belgian Development Cooperation renewed its support to UNICEF with a commitment of 15 million euros per year for 4 years. The unique and fundamental role of UNICEF in the well-being and Rights of the Child on a global scale makes it the main partner of the Belgian Development Cooperation for the Rights of the Child.
    Both have many common priorities, including the fight against poverty and inequality and gender equality. Belgium also supports UNICEF's involvement in the protection of children against forced marriage, female genital mutilations and violence.
  • Belgium pays particular attention to the protection of children in situations of armed conflict. Ongoing support has been provided since 2010 to a specific monitoring and reporting mechanism established ten years ago within the United Nations Security Council. Through this support, our country has contributed to the protection of children in the Central African Republic, DR Congo, Mali, Palestine, southern Sudan, Syria and Iraq.
  • Among children’s rights, the right to education is paramount. It is no coincidence that it is ranked high on the list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4). Through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), Belgium is actively involved in providing quality education for as many children as possible. Belgium’s contribution to GPE amounts to 6.5 million euros per year for the period 2017-2020.
    Building schools is not enough. We must not only ensure the quality of learning and teaching, but also pay particular attention to vulnerable populations and girls' education and support initiatives that offer qualifying training.  Whether in partner countries where the Belgian Development Cooperation supports projects in the field of education (DRC, Burundi, Uganda and Palestine) or via the GPE, Belgium remains attentive to promoting this right.
  • The Belgian Development Cooperation also supports programmes run by non-governmental actors targeting children's rights. For example, initiatives that provide street children with a safe environment, access to education and future prospects.

The efforts of Belgium regarding children’s rights are therefore constant. However, major challenges remain: too many children and young people still suffer from poverty, too many children are still victims and suffer the consequences of conflicts such as displacement and migration.

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