UNICEF focuses on the rights of indigenous children
NEW YORK, - UNICEF today reiterated its commitment to promote the rights of indigenous children during a Comprehensive Dialogue with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). Led by Mr. Richard Morgan, UNICEF Director of Policy and Practice, staff from UNICEF Headquarters, the Latin America and Caribbean as well as the Africa region took stock of UNICEF’s progress and identified gaps in regards to the organization’s work on indigenous peoples’ issues. The dialogue was held with members of UNPFII, which consists of government and indigenous group representatives.
Indigenous peoples, particularly children, face glaring disparities in all areas of life. They experience significantly higher mortality and school dropout rates compared to other groups of children. This is compounded by a range of child protection issues, such as forced and bonded labour, sexual exploitation, trafficking and the limited capacity of agencies to provide them with appropriate treatment as juveniles.
A number of studies by UNICEF (e.g. http://www.unicef-irc.org/media-centre/press-kit/digest11/) demonstrate high rates of suicide, alcohol, substance and solvent abuse among indigenous children. Obstacles – such as discrimination, marginalization and exclusion often prevent the realization and fulfilment of their rights- both are children and members of the indigenous community.
UNICEF’s work on indigenous issues is guided by a rights- and equity-based approach, seeking to understand and address the root causes of the inequity which indigenous children experience in their struggle to access education, health care, sanitation, clean water, protection and other services necessary for their survival, growth and development.
UNICEF has been active at the country level, with various programmes and activities specifically designed to advance the rights of indigenous peoples, and with projects ranging from bilingual and intercultural education to culturally sensitive health services, birth registration and the fight against violence, abuse and exploitation.
Based on its strong commitment to equity, UNICEF is refocusing on its work with and for indigenous children. As a result the first strategic framework on indigenous and minority children is currently being developed and will to support UNICEF Country Offices in their programming efforts for indigenous children.
The Comprehensive Dialogue with UNPFII, which lasted two hours, covered a range of issues such as UNICEF’s role in the provision and promotion of multicultural and bilingual education, culturally appropriate health services, research and data collection, birth registration and child protection. It represented an important step towards gaining a greater appreciation of indigenous issues and translating knowledge gained into concrete policies and practices affecting the rights of indigenous children.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
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