Let’s do the best for PH kids
This month we are remembering the first anniversary of Typhoon “Yolanda,” the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and also the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child—three globally important events that will continue to have lasting effects on the Philippines.
Why should we remember these events together? Yolanda, wars, natural disasters, large and small, continue to remind us of the universal vulnerability of children.
Every time a war is fought, or a disaster hits, children almost always die and are injured in the largest numbers.
Therefore, it is essential that we remember the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the landmark human rights treaty. We should remember that children’s rights and the ensuing international agreements were stimulated by the horrors of World War I.
It was 92 years ago that the “Charter for Children” was drafted by the founder of Save the Children, Eglantyne Jebb. Eglantyne wrote to her sister in 1922, “We should evoke a cooperative effort of the nations to safeguard their own children … I believe we should claim certain rights for the children and labour for their universal recognition.” This simple note was a turning point in the conceptualization of children’s rights.
So Eglantyne drafted the Charter for Children, the first major statement of children’s universal human rights and the forerunner of all subsequent international children’s rights treaties. It later became the Declaration of Geneva adopted by the League of Nations, and, much later on Nov. 20, 1989, the basis for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Why is this important for us today in the Philippines? Simply put, the raw and enduring reminders of children’s vulnerability during Yolanda have inspired the proposed Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, bills for which have been filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Susan Yap and Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Teofisto Guingona III. If these bills are passed into law, it will be the national policy of the Philippines to protect and respond to the particular needs of children before, during and after natural and other disasters. These bills propose comprehensive disaster planning for children, improved surveillance against child trafficking, systems for restoring civil documents for families, improved participation of children, less disruption of education, and improved care for separated children, among other policy changes.
Yolanda reminded us all of the specific vulnerabilities of children during crisis, and that they require specific and defined legal protection. Let’s do the best for children in the Philippines. Let’s all help get the proposed Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act passed.
Ned Olney is country director of Save the Children Philippines.
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