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Conference on the 15th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
an article by Danielle Brauer

On December 2nd, 2004, UNICEF held a conference commemorating the 15th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child entitled, Integration and Implementation for Children and Adolescents Worldwide. The conference featured the movie Stolen Childhoods, a panel presentation and break-out sessions. The Panel Presentation featured six people with very different backgrounds. I focused on two who touched me the most.

The first speaker I focused on was His Excellency Mr. Crispin Grey-Johnson, Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Mission of Gambia to the United Nations. His Excellency focused on the Millennium Development Goals put out by the UN which include that every child in the world be provided with primary education by the year 2015. Unfortunately, Africa remains in a state where it cannot reach this goal until the year 3055. His Excellency then discussed the situation in his country of Gambia and the strides they have made to reach the Millennium Development Goals. “The President of Gambia remains committed, [accepting the slogan] the sky’s the limit.” With financial help from NGO’s, today primary education is free to all children and secondary education is free to girls. Today 80% of the children in Gambia are educated, and will monumentally reach the education goals in two years. “With leadership, determination, and focus even with resource shortages it is possible to do grand things,” concluded His Excellency.

The second was Michael Kuch, a Youth Rep., Global Education Motivators Network. Michael fled his home in Sudan at the age of five when his village was attacked, and he has not seen his parents since. He has lived in three different refugee camps and was featured in the film Lost Boys of Sudan. Michael views himself as lucky to have been placed in refugee camps such as one in Ethiopia and to attend the UN school for refugees in Kenya, where he was educated through the 8th grade. This is where he was offered the opportunity to study in America; he is now enrolled at a college in Philadelphia.

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Question(s) related to this article:

The Millennium Development Goals, How can we make them a reality, especially in Africa?

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It seems appropriate to me that the best critique of the UN's approach to the Millennium Development Goals comes from the first woman from East or Central Africa to earn a Ph.D. who is now the first specialist in development to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai.  In her speech at the UN she insists that development must be based on peace and democracy with human rights.  This issue of peace is completely missing from the UN's Millennium Development Goals, as described in the CPNN report I made on this year's NGO Conference at the UN.

Several years ago, when still working at the UN I had a long conversation with a man who had been the UN Resident Representative in about a dozen different African countries.  I asked him point blank, "In your experience has development aid increased or decreased the amount of war and violent conflict in Africa."  He did not hesitate to respond, "On balance it has increased violence."

Nor does development aid usually help bring democracy.  Instead, development aid, especially by the most powerful countries such as the US and France, tends to go to the "haves" rather than the "have-nots."  For example, when I was working for a culture of peace programme in Mozambique, I went to the US ambassador to ask for funding.  He replied that all their funding (tens of millions of dollars!) was already committed.  The money associated with the Republican Party was going to the Renamo Party and the money associated with the Democratic Party was going to the Frelimo Party. . ...more.

This report was posted on December 4, 2004.