Youth:Present offers young people the possibility to discuss global problems, participate in political decision making and provide solutions.
Children need to be protected from Hazardous Chemicals – the topic of our this year’s Future Policy Award.
It’s time to announce: Youth:Present. We are exciting to establish a global youth forum.
Sharing best practice and policy on child protection, justice and participation
Realising every child’s right to freedom from violence and to participation is a fundamental element of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Recent estimates show that at least one billion children are victims of violence every year. Violence against girls and boys in all its forms compromises all children’s rights and leaves not only long-lasting scars on children’s lives but also weakens social and economic progress.
In 2009, Tanzania and its semi-autonomous island region of Zanzibar was one of the first countries in Africa to undertake a national study on violence against children. In response to its findings, and to streamline national child rights legislation, the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar introduced a comprehensive children’s rights law. Zanzibar’s ‘Children’s Act’ was awarded the gold prize at our 2015 Future Policy Awards for its effective response to child abuse and violence and for its promotion and protection of child rights.
Following up on the awarding, the World Future Council is now organizing an international child rights conference in November in Zanzibar, offering participants, nominated by their ministries, from across Africa and internationally a platform to learn from the Zanzibar example and exchange best practice examples from their home countries.
Aims of the conference:
… to offer insights from Zanzibar’s Child Protection System and the Children’s Act to policy makers and technical experts from other jurisdictions
… to exchange best practice examples from countries across Africa and internationally on topics such as child rights, participation, child justice, protection and positive discipline
… to provide a platform and learn from each other and to mutually improve policies, practices and impacts for the benefit of children and young people, particularly those that are vulnerable
… to strengthen synergies and networks for multi-stakeholder dialogue and promote the ongoing improvement of child rights laws and policies through cross-border learning.
… to identify opportunities, trends and success factors for policy reform and progress in the child rights arena
Context of the conference:
With its specific target (16.2) on ending all forms of violence against children, ensuring their safety and protection as well as reiterating their rights to access justice and information, the 2030 Agenda adds further strong international impetus to ending violence against children. Good child rights laws, policies and practices and their effective implementation play a crucial role in meeting these aims and targets.
In the recent years, Zanzibar is increasingly working on the implementation of empowerment of children and women. A pioneering feature of the drafting phase of Zanzibar’s ‘Children’s Act’ was a child consultation process which provided young people with a strong role in the law’s development and led to a greater societal understanding of children’s rights. Another successful feature was the involvement of a wide range of relevant stakeholders (ministries, religious leaders, civil society groups etc) in the drafting phase and thereafter.
To promote a conducive policy environment to address child protection in Zanzibar a National Plan of Action to end violence against women and children (NAPVAC) (2011-2015), a national campaign and a child justice reform process were also undertaken. A very recent (2017) National Plan of Action to end Violence Against Women and Children (2017-2022) has also been introduced. Zanzibar’s Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUZIII) stresses the importance of empowering women, protecting children, promoting gender equality and equity; all critical factors for Zanzibar’s economic and social transformation.
WFC Project Manager Samia Kassid and Tina Stridde from Cotton made in Africa talk to students about child rights, child labour and sustainable shopping
If we talk about future generations, we must talk about young people. They are the decision-makers of the future – but what is oftentimes forgotten, they are decision-makers today as well: For most children, teenagers and young adults, the way they dress is an important form of self-expression, and therefore a vital part of their identity. But due to lack of awareness – and, very possibly, lack of funding – affordable clothes are most often the first choice. So how is a young person, who is not familiar with the production chain of the textile industry, and the various forms of exploitation within this chain, able to make sustainable decisions as a consumer?
Given the many challenges our societies and environment are facing, children and young people across the globe must be equipped to positively shape their future and be empowered to learn and live in an increasingly sustainable manner. Practical environmental education that is integrated across the curriculum has been shown to be a key solution offering a wide variety of benefits both for students, teachers, the environment and wider society.
In 2011 the U.S. State of Maryland introduced a pioneering Environmental Literacy Standard which mandates that all Maryland students are environmentally literate by graduation. Environmental literacy is now taught in very diverse and holistic methods throughout the school curriculum (often in great hands-on outdoor experiences such as restoring reefs and wetlands, planting trees and learning at outdoor environmental education centres). Maryland’s Environmental Literacy Standards was the 2015 winner of the WFC’s silver Future Policy Award, as it provides an excellent holistic model of sustainable and environmental education that has been implemented with the support of a broad coalition of partners.
The World Future Council’s Rights of Children (RoC) team is now bringing together Ministries and legislators who are interested in learning first-hand about this pioneering model in an international workshop in Maryland (12-14 October 2016). The legislators will learn about Maryland’s successful implementation of environmental literacy legislation, exchange best practice and identify potential policy reforms for their own countries and regions.
Promoting, Protecting and Realising the Rights of Children: A Matter of Political Will
Every child has the same human rights as adults. These include the right to life, food, health, education, development, a clean environment and the right to be heard. However, despite recent advances, many children today still suffer from poverty, gender inequality, homelessness, abuse, preventable diseases, and unequal access to education. Their rights are forgotten or ignored. Approximately 300 million children go to bed hungry every night. Environmental degradation and conflicts are forcing children to flee their familiar surroundings and live as refugees. Others are forced into exploitative work and cannot exercise their right to education, robbing them of the chance to create a better future.
Good laws and policies – and their effective implementation – are the foundation for protecting the rights of girls and boys that were enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Children in 1989. However, children’s rights are not brought to life through pronouncements; they require resolve from our leaders and most importantly practical implementation on the ground.
It is now up to national governments to show the political will to ramp up actions at home and lead the response against the violation of children’s rights by ensuring such international commitments are adhered to through laws. Civil society must also play its part to ensure that ignorance and inaction are no longer an option! Instead of asking why things need to change, we have to finally start focusing on the how and highlight solutions that work!
The good news is solutions exist
This year, the World Future Council is celebrating the best laws and policies to secure children’s rights, with its ‘Future Policy Award’, to raise global awareness of those solutions that successfully overcome the barriers preventing children from enjoying their rights to a clean and healthy environment, to education, to protection (from child labour, child trafficking, child marriage) and to participation. Only by highlighting these solutions can we speed up policy action towards just, sustainable and peaceful societies for future generations.
From America, to Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, we have already seen significant changes in policies and attitudes towards children and their rights that provide hope for the future. We are in a unique position to learn from pioneers who have shown us how it can be done. Now it is up to us to replicate and build on their success stories. Fortunately, we do not have to start from scratch.
In Zanzibar, the “Children’s Act” which won this year’s Future Policy ‘Gold Award’has proven to be an effective response to child abuse and violence, while promoting and protecting child rights at the same time. The law has led to a marked societal change in attitudes towards children in the country. Alongside a revamped child protection system, many schools are now piloting alternatives to the previously widespread use of corporal punishment and thousands of children have been assisted in returning to school from harmful work. A pioneering feature of the law was a village-level child consultation process which provided young people with an understanding of the law and their rights, giving them the opportunity to voice their priorities and feed into the law’s drafting process. Their views are now represented by over 200 active Children’s Councils.
The state of Maryland in the US was the first to require students to be environmentally literate as a high school graduation requirement. The results point to positive school-wide impacts in knowledge, behaviour and local action projects as well as broad improvements in student’s learning outcomes across a range of subjects. Other states, such as Kentucky and Utah have since developed education plans based on Maryland’s “Environmental Literacy Standards”.
Finland’s ‘Basic Education Act’, adopted in 1998, guarantees children’s equal access to high-quality education and training, irrespective of ethnic origin, age, wealth, language or location. Finland’s holistic and trust based education system produces excellent results, both in terms of child well-being and international test scores.
In Sweden, the Children and Parent Code prohibits all corporal punishment and other humiliating treatment of children. It has fostered a profound change of attitude across Swedish society in relation to violence against children, gaining a very high level of awareness and support, including from children. Sweden is also working with other states to promote universal prohibition of all violent punishment of children.
Finally, Argentina’s Supreme Court’s Judgement which upheld the country’s constitutional right ‘to an environment which is healthy, balanced and suitable for human development’ led to a comprehensive inspection, restoration and clean-up plan for the heavily polluted Matanza-Riachuelo river basin in Buenos Aires. These efforts have provided clean drinking water and sanitation to over a million people and are directly benefitting local children through access to health care and relocated housing. It demonstrates what can be achieved when judges start recognizing and enforcing environmental rights which are included (but not enforced) in three quarters of the world’s national constitutions.
Inaction no longer an option
By looking at these examples, we can lay out the policy incentives required to build a world of growing solutions, rather than growing problems. It is essential that we highlight these best policies, engage our communities to spread the word about them and empower policy-makers to implement them. Action requires more than intent and good will: The time has come for world leaders to step up to the challenge and leverage their powers on behalf of the youngest members of our societies.
Giving these policies the recognition they deserve by awarding them with the Future Policy Award is only the beginning. We need to raise more global awareness of these pioneering examples and assist policy-makers to develop and implement similar initiatives. The time to act is now!
Originally published on
On 20 September 2015, the Voices of Future Generations “Children’s Declaration” was adopted by more than 100 young delegates during the Children’s Summit on the World’s Sustainable Development Goals at the UN Headquarters in NYC. At the same event, child authors from around the world shared their visions of the future with the 70th UN General Assembly. Click here for further information or here to read a copy of the declaration.
Together with our ambassador and German TV-Host Jörg Pilawa, we celebrated the launch of our new book “Kinderrechte erleben – Unterwegs mit Jörg Pilawa (Discovering child rights – On the road with Jörg Pilawa), in Hamburg on November 18, 2014.