November 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the most widely ratified international instrument and perhaps the most important: the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Indonesia was among the first countries to ratify the document in September 1990. Enormous progress has been witnessed in the country since then, but challenges remain especially for the poorer segments of the population.
Already at birth the differences between children become evident; 42% of all births among the poorest population are not attended by a skilled health worker and only 30 % of all poor children are registered. Reality is even harder if you happen to be born in the eastern part of Indonesia; in the six eastern provinces of the country 1 in 14 children die before the age of 5, while every second child is stunted. Sanitation is generally inadequate and the risk of not attending school is also significant.
The anniversary of the rights of the child is an occasion for all of us to be reminded that children hold the key to our future. The closer they are to enjoying their full rights, the closer we are to meeting our goals of sustainable development, prosperity and democracy. There are 2.25 billion children in the world, making up just slightly less than one third of the world’s population. We would all agree that children are our most precious resource, at the same time they are often the most affected by poverty, inadequate living conditions and insufficient access to health and education facilities. Too many children in this world are still denied the opportunity to “grow up in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding” as provided in the Preamble of the CRC.
Every policy affects children, recognising this, the EU has been working hand in hand with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to issue a Child Rights Toolkit providing guidelines on the integration of the CRC provisions into development cooperation. The toolkit is published to mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and will support everyone working in Development on questions related to the incorporation on the rights of the child into each and every policy area we work in, be it education, health or labour regulations.
Children’s Rights are Human Rights and therefore not an isolated issue but cut across every policy area imaginable. In the toolkit the EU and UNICEF take practitioners on a journey from analysing child rights in country contexts to child participation, child impact assessment, and child responsive budgeting. It’s no small task, not for most European nations and not for Indonesia.
The European Union is a key provider of development assistance in support of children in Indonesia and has been working with the Government since 1988 to improve the rights of children, to improve their chances of surviving birth, increasing the number of children registered, limit the cases of stunting across the country and improve the opportunity of attending school.
Malnutrition still affects two million children in Indonesia. The European Union works with UNICEF and the Government of Indonesia in the Maternal and Young Child Nutrition Security Initiative in Asia (MYCNSIA) to provide support for local governments in the adoption of specific policies targeting infants, children and mothers, as well as in the implementation of these regulations so that access to a diversified diet can be ensured. We also focus on the enhancement of capacities at the community, district and central levels, helping to create networks able to address malnutrition. Finally with MYCNSIA we aim to develop data collection and analysis systems to improve food security planning in a multi-sectorial approach.
Feeding the stomach goes in pair with feeding the brain. The Right to Education is insured in the Convention and thus legally binding. The European Union spends 80% of its development aid budget for Indonesia on education. In 2013 this amounted to 52 million euro being disbursed by the European Union and its Member States. We strongly believe education is the driver to growth, prosperity and a strengthened democracy.
The Government of Indonesia is also prioritising education. 20% of the Indonesian state budget is allocated to education and this is highly commendable. For a country of 250 million people – with varied cultures and local languages – living on thousands of islands and representing one of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies, engaged in an ongoing decentralisation project of dimensions that most countries cannot begin to comprehend, quality education remain challenging. Over the last decade, literacy rates have risen, school enrolment rates have increased and there is an ongoing effort at just about every facet of the education system.
The European Union in Indonesia is also working on improving access to education for children with special needs. Today, 75% of children with special needs do not attend school. The EU has established a partnership with Handicap International to tackle this problem and funded the programme “Support to the Development of a Quality Inclusive Education System”, which supports children with special needs to attend school, train teachers to address special needs, support their parents and encourage officials to include this particular question in budgets and policies.
Improvements are happening every day, I, as Ambassador, am proud to see that the European Union has played a part in this trend, and it is my hope that the new EU-UNICEF Toolkit will help the children of Indonesia even further.
If you want to learn more about the EUs work on education and children’s rights please visit the website dedicated to the toolkit: http://uni.cf/1sPEMRv