CRC must address family's role in child care

Guyana Chronicle
July 23, 1999

ACTING Prime Minister Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo has called on those at a National Consultation forum on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to address the family's role which determines the type of adult a child will become.

Speaking at the opening of the forum yesterday, Jagdeo said that they should also focus on the role of educators at schools where the child spends much time.

Participants must also examine programmes implemented by the Government at various levels under the CRC, to see whether they have had the desired impact.

The two day consultation is intended to examine Guyana's draft CRC report.

Jagdeo, in his address, said government has embraced the CRC. However, much more has to be done before it is fully implemented.

Minister Jagdeo said Guyana's commitment to the Rights of the Child is demonstrated by its involvement and support for global, regional and national programmes which have targeted the protection and development of children.

Government ratified the CRC in 1991 but prior to this, Guyana had participated in the 1990 World Summit for children at which a a Declaration on the Survival, Protection, and Development of Children and a Plan of Action for its implementation were adopted.

Guyana's National Plan of Action for children was drafted in 1993 and finalised in 1995 by the National Commission for the Survival, Protection, and Development of Children, and was approved by the Government in 1996.

This document established a framework which gave direction to the formulation of policies and programmes aimed at addressing the rights of children.

Jagdeo said there is an ongoing implementation strategy which focuses on health, education and critical children's issues.

The government also has a legislative programme which includes several proposals for amendments to some of the existing laws relating to children.

Considerable attention is being given to the promotion of public awareness of the Convention and the recently constituted National Commission for the Rights of the Child has started a promotion campaign.

Part of this campaign was the Children's Festival of Art and Poetry which took the form of two competitions with the theme "Children, their Rights and the Environment".

Participants came from the 10 administrative regions and prizes were awarded on a regional basis.

Minister Jagdeo said that the response was overwhelming.

There was also "Creative Day for the Child" which Jagdeo said was aimed at enriching the lives of children through their involvement in creative activities, mainly art and poetry.

A children parliament is also part of the programme, he said.

As part of its response to the CRC and in accordance with the National Plan of Action for Children, education programmes have focused on the provision of improved primary and secondary education to all Guyana's children through increasing the training of teachers; providing school books; introducing management of social and sensitive issues in the learning environment; improved attendance; and reducing dropouts in school attendance.

Recently, there was a programme for rebuilding schools and generally improving the standard of education, Jagdeo said.

A recent development has been the introduction of a rights-based curriculum in the school system.

Health has also been targeted for development and a national health programme is aimed at reducing infant mortality, maternal mortality and malnutrition.

Countrywide immunisation programmes have been reinforced. And several initiatives to improve prenatal care and further reduce infant mortality rates have been introduced by government with the assistance of the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation, Jagdeo said.

United Nations Assistant Representative Mr. Juan Carlos Espinola observed that ratification of an international human rights treaty is little more than "a stroke of a pen".

However, this convention is different, with Guyana being among the first 20 countries to ratify it.

To date, 189 countries have joined the consensus and have committed themselves to its full implementation, starting with the legal obligation of ensuring that their national legislation upholds the minimum standards set by the convention, Espinola said.

By recognising that children have human rights that are distinct from those of adults, the Convention establishes that they are subjects of human rights, Espinola said.

The Convention therefore highlights the principle of childhood as a "civil status" in society and obliges states to act at all times in the best interest of children.

Espinola said that UNICEF recognises that access of all people to basic education opportunities and health services is not only key to sustained human development and poverty alleviation, but is also normative issue of human rights.

Investment in such services is therefore central to reducing the worst manifestations of poverty and breaking its vicious cycle, Espinola said.

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