National 'Durbar' community gathering in commemoration of Day of the African Child
Statement delivered by the Acting RC at the National Durbar in commemoration of Day of the African Child Ampain Refugee Camp, Western region on 14 June 2019
It is an honour to represent UNICEF and the entire United Nations Family at this important event as we celebrate the Day of the African Child here in the Ampain Refugee Camp. We would like to congratulate the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection for its choice of location to highlight this year’s theme: Humanitarian Action in Africa: Children's Rights First. The issue of refugee and displaced children – those forced to leave their homes, communities and everything they know because of conflict, economic or other unavoidable reasons – often does not get the attention it deserves.
Here in Ghana, many of us are fortunate enough to live in areas of relative safety, security and general well-being. However, skirmishes and community tensions can lead to children and their families having to be uprooted from their homes, as can natural disasters such as floods. Ghana is also home to thousands of children and their families from other countries who have had to flee for issues of conflict and climate change. Here in Ampain, there are about 500 children from neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire. Such experiences of being forced to flee one’s home can have negative lingering consequences.
Basic rights may be impacted. They may not receive education, attain good healthcare or have an adequate standard of living. In many instances, the events that forced children and their families to flee may result in negatively impacting children’s psychological as well as physical wellbeing.
This year marks 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As many are aware, Ghana was the first country in the world to ratify this Convention in 1990 – sending a clear message that this African country will commit to put Children’s Rights First. Since then Ghana has made remarkable progress in advancing the rights of children living here – refugees, displaced or otherwise. Policies including the Child and Family Welfare Policy and Social Protection Policy have been implemented enabling the Government and other duty bearers to provide a more strengthened child protection system.
For Ghana to continue to set standards and lead the way in not only Africa but around the world, we must all take every opportunity to continually strive for a more equitable environment for every child. Therefore, during this auspicious year, as we celebrate 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we would encourage the Government of Ghana to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Prostitution, and Child Pornography. Trafficking, child prostitution and sexual violence of all forms of children are abhorrent abuses which more often than not, affect the most vulnerable, the poorest, the displaced, those without a stable home. Ratifying this Optional Protocol would move all of Ghana’s children one step closer to a safer and more secure environment.
Ghana can also continue to set the standard by ratifying the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The 1954 Convention requires to ensure that stateless people enjoy a minimum set of human rights. These include, but are not limited to, the right to education, employment and housing. Importantly, the 1954 Convention also guarantees stateless people a right to identity, travel documents and administrative assistance.
While the 1961 Convention aims to prevent statelessness and reduce it over time. It establishes an international framework to ensure the right of every person to a nationality. Notably, the Convention establishes that children are to acquire the nationality of the country in which they are born if they do not acquire any other nationality. Although most countries across West Africa have ratified these Conventions, Ghana has yet to do so. These two Conventions could give children and their families who have become stateless a chance of stability and assurance that they are fully welcomed in Ghana – thereby enabling them to provide a stable environment for their children to be raised.
The Day of the African Child is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Africa’s children. It is a day of pride, of recognition, and of a celebration of their rights. However, we cannot fully rejoice unless every African child can join us. We encourage Ghana to continue to demonstrate the leadership and commitment to ensuring a fair chance for every child.
As Ghana is committed to make progress towards the SDGs, let’s all work together to leave no one behind.