Soils for food security and climate: The Future Policy Vision Award Winner at COP23

A report from the 4 per 1000 Initiative Day

On the occasion of the UNFCCC COP 23 (6-17 November 2017) in Bonn, the international “4 per 1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” (Future Policy Vision Award) organized, with the support of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and the German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE), the 4 per 1000 Initiative Day in Bad Godesberg on 16 November 2017.

Following a warm welcome by Dr. Hermann Onko Aeikens, German State Secretary of Food and Agriculture (representing Federal Minister Christian Schmidt), and Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, Chairman of the 4 per 1000 Consortium, Prof. Rattan Lal, Chair of the International Union of Soil Sciences, underlined in his inspirational speech that soil depletion, increased salinization, recurring drought and perpetual hunger are just as real threats to global peace and security as weapons of mass destruction.

4p1000 initiative

Full house of the 4 per 1000 Initiative Day in the city hall of Bad Godesberg.

Numerous ministers and renowned personalities took the floor to restate their support for the 4 per 1000 Initiative, including agriculture ministers from Spain, France, Hungary and Tunisia, and representatives from FAO, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), CGIAR, GEF, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, OIV, CIHEAM, INRA, IUCN, BAIF, and Danone.

The meeting continued with reports on the work of the Scientific Technical Committee, which developed orientations for an international research and scientific cooperation programme as well as reference criteria and indicators for project evaluation. After the lunch break, Dr. Paul Luu, Executive Secretary of the 4 per 1000 Initiative, presented amongst others the Initiative’s new members and partners, its activities in 2016-2017, its brand-new website and the launch of the collaborative platform, the 2018 roadmap, budget, communication strategy as well as the dates of future meetings.

Prof Barron Orr (UNCCD), Dr Ibrahim Mayaki (NEPAD), Dr Wolfgang Zornbach (BME), Ingrid Heindorf (World Future Council), Stéphane Le Foll (former French Minister of Agriculture, AgriFood and Forestry), and Dr Paul Luu (Executive Secretary of the 4 per 1000 Initiative).

Following a report about the UNCDD COP13 by Prof Barron Orr, Ingrid Heindorf from the World Future Council presented the Future Policy Award 2017 that had been organized this year in partnership with the UNCCD and among whose winning policies was the 4 per 1000 Initiative. Launched in 2015 during the Paris Climate Change Conference by H.E. Stéphane Le Foll, then French Minister of Agriculture, AgriFood and Forestry, the Initiative won the Future Policy Vision Award 2017 as it created an unprecedented attention to the role soils play for food security and climate stability.

During his conclusions of the day, the Initiative’s Chair shared also the promising news that U.N. climate talks in Bonn broke a long stalemate on agriculture (Thomson Reuters Foundation), which could trigger more sustainable government policies to support farmers.

 

The World Future Council

The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its up to 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. In close cooperation with civil society actors, parliamentarians, governments, business and international organisations the World Future Council identifies “best policies” around the globe. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany.

Event: From Degraded Drylands to Green Landscapes

What is in Land Restoration for Youth and Sustainable Peace?

Special Event With The Winners Of Future Policy Award 2017

When? Tuesday 31 October 2017, 12:30-14:00

Where? UNOG Library Events Room B. 135
Palais des Nations, Geneva

Desertification is one of today’s most serious environmental challenges. Every minute, we lose the equivalent of 30 football fields of soil to degradation. We urgently need to act.
Can we empower young people at risk? Can we transform drylands, the most conflict-prone regions of the world? The Future Policy Awardees 2017 and renowned speakers show that we can. Through a compelling combination of a high-level discussion with distinguished experts, a multi-cultural performance, and an interactive dialogue with the audience, this special event shows how the destructive drama of desertification can become a constructive theatre of land restoration. This year, the Future Policy Award was organized by the World Future Council in partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

A discussion with

Ousséni Diallo, President, Green Cross, Burkina Faso
Atinkut Mezgebu Wubneh, Head of Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, Tigray, Ethiopia
Pradeep Monga, Deputy Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Alexandra Wandel, Director, Vice Chair of the Management Board, World Future Council

Moderator

Rama Mani, Convenor, University of Oxford’s Enacting Global Transformation; Founder, Theatre of Transformation Academy; Councillor, World Future Council

Performance by Theatre Transformation Academy

Followed by a reception

For those without an access badge, registration for this event is obligatory.
Interested participants are invited to register online before 31 October 2017.

Tigray celebrates Future Policy Award reception

Ethiopia’s Tigray region has received the Future Policy Gold Award this year for their pioneering approach in successfully combatting desertification. Thanks to their policy, the region has made significant progress in restoring its degraded lands and improving its food and water security. The impressive results derived from the major land restoration undertaken by local communities and the regional government, with a  unique combination of collective action, voluntary labour and the involvement of young people.

After the Award ceremony on 11th September during the UNCCD summit in Ordos, Inner Mongolia (China), the people of Tigray celebrated the Future Policy Gold Award in their own country. A colorful ceremony was held with 1500-2000 people at Hawelty Martyrs Hall with Tigray’s president, H.E. Abay Weldu, the Speaker of House of Representatives of Tigray region, H.E. Kidusan Nega, H.E. Dr. Eyasu Abraha, Minister of Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Ethiopia and other high-level guests attending, followed by a parade through the Mek’ele, the capital of Tigray.

In conjunction with the celebration, the University of Mek’ele (MU), in collaboration with Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Regional State of Tigray, organised a panel discussion at Desta Hotel, Mek’ele. The event was opened by a welcoming speech by Prof. Kindeya Gebrehiwot, MU’s President. The event was celebrating Tigray’s achievement, and the panelists were discussing how soil conservation towards land fertility and combating desertification can be further improved and maintained for the future.

Land is Life – Advancing Sustainable Development Goal 15.3 on Land Degradation Neutrality

The World Future Council at the Land for Life Day in Ordos, China

 

The World Future Council was honoured to hold its Future Policy Award ceremony during the thirteenth session of the Conference of State Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP13) in Ordos, China, the international summit on desertification and land degradation.

On 12th September 2017, we joined the summit’s Land for Life Day and organized a session on: Policies and land: Can good policies facilitate the achievement of Land Degradation Neutrality Goals? The event was designed to present the winning policies of the Future Policy Award 2017 to stakeholders from around the world.

Ms Jenny Choo from the UNCCD Secretariat introduced the Land for Life Day in a nutshell to participants and handed then the moderation over to Ms Boping Chen, China Director of the World Future Council, who highlighted

Alexandra Wandel, director of the World Future Council, at the Land for Life Day in Ordos, China, during the UNCCD COP13.

the significance of adequate policies for achieving land degradation neutrality and presented the panelists.

At first, Ms Alexandra Wandel, Director and Vice-Chair of the Management Board of the World Future Council, emphasized that the Future Policy Award is worldwide unique in honoring laws and policies at the international level. She gave a brief introduction to the Awardees 2017 and expressed also the Council’s gratitude to UNCCD for being this year’s partner of the award.

The winning policies were presented by Dr Atinkut Mezgeb who portrayed the large-scale land restoration efforts of the Tigray policy in Ethiopia (Gold Award), Ms Fernanda Cruz, who revealed how Brazil’s Cistern Programme mitigates effectively the drought in the Semiarid region (Silver Award), Dr Paul Luu presented on the innovative 4 per 1000 Initiative (Vision Award), whilst H.E. Ali Bety uncovered the success factors of the 3N Initiative from Niger (Bronze Award). A video tribute was also paid to the winning policies from China, Australia and Jordan.

After a lively Q&A round, Jakob von Uexkull, Founder of the World Future Council, offered some closing remarks.

In the resources section below you can download the detailed programme of the session and the overall programme of the Land for Life Day.

World Future Council awards international prize for best policies to combat desertification in China

Hamburg (Germany) / Ordos (China), 12th September 2017 – Yesterday, the Future Policy Award (FPA) ceremony was held at the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD in Ordos, Inner Mongolia (China). The international “Oscar for best policies” honours laws and practices that successfully combat desertification and land degradation. The FPA is awarded by the World Future Council (WFC) in cooperation with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Among the laureates are the Ethiopian Tigray region, Brazil and China.

The ceremony was attended by 300 high-level guests and ministers from all over the world including H.E. Mr. Zhang Jianlong, Minister of State Forestry Administration of China, H.E. Ms. Bu Xiaolin, Governor of Inner Mongolia, as well as Tigray’s President H.E. Mr. Abay Weldu.

The FPA aims to draw more attention to desertification and effective ways to combat it: In the last century, droughts cost more lives than any other weather-related catastrophe. Climate change intensifies the process of desertification. Actions to combat desertification, therefore, not only contribute to protecting the environment but can also provide social and political stability.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region was granted the Gold Award. Using a unique combination of collective action, voluntary labour and the involvement of youth, the people of Tigray are restoring land on a massive scale. As a result, erosion has decreased significantly, groundwater levels are recharged, and the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices made a remarkable contribution to food self-sufficiency and economic growth.

The Future Policy Award highlights the world’s best policies and laws that create the framework for better living conditions for current and future generations.

The winning policies are introduced in short videos which are on our YouTube Channel. Further information on the winning policies may be obtained through our website as well as on futurepolicy.org.

Read in other languages

Future Policy Award 2017

Please check out our Flickr album for more pictures of the award ceremony.

STATEMENTS:

Monique Barbut, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD):

“Drylands cover close to 40% of the Earth’s land surface. Hundreds of millions of people are directly threatened by land degradation and climate change is only going to intensify the problem. So far, this underestimated environmental disaster has received far too little attention. The Future Policy Award 2017 is turning the spotlight on the looming environmental challenge and effective responses. The seven Future Policy Awardees are all from affected countries, and demonstrate great environmental and political determination.”

Jakob von Uexkull, Founder of the World Future Council (WFC):

“Drylands are among the most conflict-prone regions in the world. Not tackling desertification and land degradation means accepting humanitarian disasters. But if we take up this challenge, so much is gained: By reversing desertification we can help build peace, food security and a safe future for millions of people.”

H.E. Abay Weldu, President of Tigray State (Ethiopia)

“I am delighted and honoured as head of the Regional Government of Tigray knowing that Tigray has won Gold Future Policy Award 2017. The people of Tigray demonstrate that all challenges can be overcome if the leadership is addressing the will, need and priority of the people. Tigray’s people have proved that development is possible without harming our mother Earth.”

 

BACKGROUND

The Future Policy Award is the only award which honours policies rather than people on an international level. Each year, the World Future Council chooses a topic for the Future Policy Award on which policy progress is particularly urgent. In 2017, in partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), laws and policies were evaluated that contribute to the protection of life and livelihoods in the drylands, and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15, target 3, to “combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.”


Miriam Petersen
Media & Communications Manager
Tel: +49 40 307 09 14 19

miriam.petersen@worldfuturecouncil.org

Wagaki Wischenewsjki
Public Information and Media Officer
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Tel: +49 228 815 2820
wwischnewski@unccd.int

The World Future Council

The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its up to 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. In close cooperation with civil society actors, parliamentarians, governments, business and international organizations the World Future Council identifies “best policies” around the globe. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. The Convention promotes good land stewardship. Its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy. By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.

 

Future Policy Award 2017: Celebrating the world’s best policies to combat desertification

Abstract

In this brochure, we present the winning policies of our Future Policy Award 2017. In partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), this year’s award celebrates laws and policies that successfully tackle land degradation, and contribute to the protection of life and livelihoods in the drylands.

Policies score highly in the Future Policy Award evaluation not only by advancing the sustainable use of resources but also by addressing equity, the eradication of poverty, community participation, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

We seek to inspire lawmakers worldwide with these exemplary, award-winning policies, and hope to see their key elements being spread and implemented in the months and years ahead.

World Future Council awards international prize for best policies to combat desertification in China

Hamburg / Bonn / Ordos, 22nd August 2017: More people, less erosion – Ethiopia’s Tigray region demonstrates that this can be a reality: They will take home the Gold Future Policy Award 2017, beating 26 other nominated policies to the prize.

Future Policy Award crowns the World’s Best Land Restoration Policies

Ethiopia wins Gold Award │ Other winning policies from China, Brazil and Jordan

Hamburg / Bonn / Ordos, 22nd August 2017: More people, less erosion – Ethiopia’s Tigray region demonstrates that this can be a reality: They will take home the Gold Future Policy Award 2017, beating 26 other nominated policies to the prize. Also known as “Oscar for Best Policies”, the Future Policy Award highlights the world’s best policies that combat desertification and land degradation this year. With unique collective action, voluntary labour and the involvement of youth, the people of Tigray are restoring land on a massive scale. As a result, erosion has decreased significantly, groundwater levels are recharged, and the uptake of sustainable agricultural practices made a significant contribution to food self-sufficiency and economic growth.

Read in other languages

Photo by TerrAfrica Partnership at NEPAD Agency

Two Silver Awards were granted to:

  • Brazil’s Cistern Programme, which empowered millions of the country’s poorest people by building 2 million cisterns in the Semiarid region and providing water for consumption and for growing food and keeping livestock
  • China’s Law on Prevention and Control of Desertification, the world’s first integrated law dedicated to combating desertification. Over the last 15 years, China has reversed the trend of desertification.

The Vision Award goes to the international “4 per 1000” Initiative which communicates a new concept for mitigating climate change through the increase of soil organic carbon.

The international jury further bestowed Bronze Awards to:

  • Australia’s Indigenous Protected Areas and Rangers Programmes, where more than 2,600 indigenous rangers are at the forefront of tackling environmental degradation
  • Jordan’s Updated Rangeland Strategy, which is enshrining the Middle East’s most widespread and longstanding indigenous traditional conservation institution ‘Hima’ into law
  • Niger’s large-scale, cross-sectoral 3N Initiative ‘Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens’ addressing land degradation and food security.

Statements from the UNCCD and the World Future Council

Monique Barbut, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD):

“Drylands cover close to 40% of the Earth’s land surface. Hundreds of millions of people are directly threatened by land degradation and climate change is only going to intensify the problem. So far, this underestimated environmental disaster has received far too little attention. The Future Policy Award 2017 is turning the spotlight on the looming environmental challenge and effective responses. The seven Future Policy Awardees are all from affected countries, and demonstrate great environmental and political determination.”

 Alexandra Wandel, Director of the World Future Council (WFC):

“The Ethiopian Tigray Region’s win of the Gold Future Policy Award is sending a strong, empowering message: they show how a small region in a climate vulnerable country can find a smart and highly effective way to successfully address a global challenge. This is placing Ethiopia firmly on the map as an environmental leader.”

The Future Policy Award is the only award which honours policies rather than people on an international level. Each year, the World Future Council chooses a topic for the Future Policy Award on which policy progress is particularly urgent. In 2017, in partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), laws and policies were evaluated that contribute to the protection of life and livelihoods in the drylands, and help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15, target 3, to “combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.” The Awards will be presented at a ceremony in September 2017, at the thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNCCD in Ordos, China.

For more information, please visit
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/future-policy-award/
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/p/2017-desertification/
http://www.futurepolicy.org/

Follow the 2017 Future Policy Award on Twitter with #FPA2017

 

Media contact

Miriam Petersen
Media & Communications Manager
Tel: +49 40 307 09 14 19

miriam.petersen@worldfuturecouncil.org

Wagaki Wischenewsjki
Public Information and Media Officer
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Tel: +49 228 815 2820
wwischnewski@unccd.int

The World Future Council

The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its up to 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. In close cooperation with civil society actors, parliamentarians, governments, business and international organizations the World Future Council identifies “best policies” around the globe. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. The Convention promotes good land stewardship. Its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy. By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.

World’s best policies on land restoration shortlisted for Future Policy Award 2017

Hamburg/Bonn, 20 July 2017 – The 2017 Future Policy Award has released a shortlist of the world’s best policies for tackling land degradation, one of humanity’s foremost challenges that undermines food security, livelihoods and the health of hundreds of millions of people.

 

The six shortlisted policies are from Australia, Brazil, China, Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, Jordan, and Niger. The international 4 per 1000 initiative is also contending for the Future Policy Award.

The prestigious award, which focuses on a different area of policy progress each year, celebrates exemplary laws that create better living conditions for current and future generations.

For this year’s award, the World Future Council teamed up with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to highlight laws and policies that contribute in two ways.

 

First, laws that protect of life and livelihoods in the drylands. Drylands cover close to 40 per cent of the Earth’s land and are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation, inappropriate land use and climate variability. They are among the most conflict- and drought-prone regions of the world.

Droughts, which are getting more severe, frequent and widespread with climate change, are common in drylands, and can amplify tensions within and between communities. In the last century, droughts killed more people than any other weather-related catastrophe.

Second, laws that advance Sustainable Development Goal 15, target 3, which is to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.

Political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all contribute to desertification. Without action to restore and rehabilitate degraded land, an estimated 135 million people are at risk of being displaced by desertification.

 

UNCCD’s Executive Secretary Monique Barbut describes desertification as “a silent, invisible crisis that is destabilizing communities on a global scale.”

 

In total, twenty-seven policies and initiatives from 18 countries were nominated. Shortlisted as the world’s best policies to combat desertification and land degradation are:

  • Australia: Indigenous Protected Areas programme and Working on Country Indigenous Rangers programme. Indigenous Rangers are at the forefront of tackling environmental degradation right across Australia. 75 Indigenous Protected Areas now make up more than 44 per cent of the National Reserve System and have created the world’s largest contiguous area of protected arid land.
  • Brazil: Cistern Programme and the National Programme to Support Rainwater Harvesting and Other Social Technologies for Access to Water. This programme is a participative, bottom-up way to provide water for consumption and for growing food and keeping livestock. It empowers millions of the poorest people in the region to be in control of their own needs, to generate income and enhance their food security.
  • China: Law of the People’s Republic of China on Prevention and Control of Desertification. This is the world’s first integrated law dedicated to combating desertification. It provides a framework for China’s National Action Programme and a host of projects aimed at rehabilitating at risk land. Over the last 15 years, China has reversed the trend of desertification. It is no coincidence that the country lifted more than 700 million people out of poverty during the same period.
  • Ethiopia’s Tigray Region: Conservation-Based Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization supported by Mass Mobilization Campaigns and the Youth Responsive Land Policy More people less erosion. The Tigray region’s interpretation of Ethiopia’s development strategy focusses on food self-sufficiency and economic growth by conserving land and promoting sustainable agriculture. With unique collective action, voluntary labour and the involvement of youth the people of Tigray are restoring land on a massive scale.
  • International: The 4 per 1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate. This awareness raising, high-level political initiative communicates a new concept for mitigating climate change through the annual increase in soil organic carbon by 0.4 per cent in the top 30-40 cm of the agricultural soils. It encourages a paradigm shift in agricultural practice.
  • Jordan: Updated Rangeland Strategy for Jordan. Traditionally, Bedouin people in Jordan effectively govern their rangelands through their own land tenure systems and grazing rights known as “Hima”. The Rangeland Strategy embraces this holistic concept which integrates natural resources, community life, ethics, animal welfare and more.
  • Niger: 3N Initiative ‘Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens’ – Strategy for food security, nutrition, and sustainable agricultural development. The initiative is a large-scale and cross-sectoral policy enhancing sustainable agricultural development and socio-economic resilience of farmers and herders. It was developed in an inclusive and participatory process. Since 2011, Niger has reduced the number of people suffering from hunger by 50 per cent.

 

The winners will be announced on 22 August 2017. The award ceremony will take place during the Thirteen Session of the Conference of the Parties of UNCCD in Ordos, China, scheduled from 6-16 September 2017.

The Future Policy Award is unique in focusing global attention towards the most effective policies changing lives across the planet. The aim of the award is to raise global awareness for exemplary laws and policies.

The policy evaluation is based on the “Seven Principles for Future Just Lawmaking.” Consequently, policies score high not only by promoting the sustainable use of resources but also by addressing equity, eradication of poverty, participation, and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

For more information, please visit
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/future-policy-award/
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/p/2017-desertification/
http://www.futurepolicy.org/

 

 

Media contact

Miriam Petersen
Media & Communications Manager
Tel: +49 40 307 09 14 19

miriam.petersen@worldfuturecouncil.org

Wagaki Wischenewsjki
Public Information and Media Officer
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
Tel: +49 228 815 2820
wwischnewski@unccd.int

The World Future Council

The World Future Council brings the interests of future generations to the centre of policy-making. Its up to 50 eminent members from around the globe have already successfully promoted change. The Council addresses challenges to our common future and provides decision makers with effective policy solutions. In close cooperation with civil society actors, parliamentarians, governments, business and international organizations the World Future Council identifies “best policies” around the globe. The World Future Council is registered as a charitable foundation in Hamburg, Germany.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. The Convention promotes good land stewardship. Its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy. By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.

Promoting, Protecting and Realising the Rights of Children: A Matter of Political Will

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.

2015-10-22-1445510506-5194666-44.jpg

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

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