The Global Goals: Why it mat­ters for Ev­ery Child

Bhutan Times - - Home - Sha­heen Nilofer UNICEF Rep­re­sen­ta­tive

As we em­bark 2016, the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals be­comes the `new-nor­mal’ pro­vid­ing the re­newed vi­sion and path­ways to speed up our ef­forts to­wards achiev­ing child rights and chil­dren’s well-be­ing.

The Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) are an am­bi­tious and univer­sal “plan of ac­tion for peo­ple, planet and pros­per­ity”. It rep­re­sent an his­toric op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance the rights and well-be­ing of ev­ery child.

Achiev­ing the SDGs can only be pos­si­ble if we make con­certed ef­forts to ad­dress the is­sues that con­tinue to leave chil­dren vul­ner­a­ble. This in­cludes tack­ling the un­fin­ished busi­ness from the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals. It will re­quire ef­fec­tive and eq­ui­table in­vest­ment in the most dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren through fo­cused part­ner­ships with gov­ern­ments, de­vel­op­ment part­ners, academia and civil so­ci­ety. UNICEF is com­mit­ted to that vi­sion, join­ing with oth­ers to scale up what works, in­no­vate for im­proved so­lu­tions and re­sults, mea­sure progress and share lessons learned.

The SDGs con­sist of 17 goals and 169 tar­gets. All are rel­e­vant to chil­dren’s lives. But some ex­plic­itly tackle is­sues at the cen­tre of UNICEF’s work in 190 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bhutan.

About a bil­lion peo­ple world­wide live in ex­treme poverty. Nearly half of them are chil­dren. The ex­plicit men­tion of chil­dren and poverty and the call to end ex­treme poverty are crit­i­cal steps for­ward. The goal on poverty rec­og­nizes the myr­iad di­men­sions of poverty and urges coun­tries to de­velop and strengthen so­cial pro­tec­tion sys­tems.

Nearly half of all deaths in chil­dren un­der 5 are at­trib­uted to un­der­nu­tri­tion. Glob­ally, one out of ev­ery four chil­dren un­der 5 had were stunted in 2013. In Bhutan, ac­cord­ing to Bhutan Mul­ti­ple Indi­ca­tor Sur­vey (BMIS) 2010, one in three chil­dren are stunted. The goal on nu­tri­tion calls for an end to mal­nu­tri­tion, which threat­ens chil­dren’s lives and un­der­mines their health and phys­i­cal growth, ed­u­ca­tion and fu­tures. It in­cludes a child nu­tri­tion tar­get and a com­mit­ment to achiev­ing tar­gets on stunt­ing and wast­ing by 2025.

By the end of 2015 year, nearly six mil­lion chil­dren glob­ally will have died be­fore their fifth birth­day. The goal on health re­news com­mit­ment to child sur­vival and health and con­tin­ues the fo­cus on diseases that re­main a chal­lenge around the world in­clud­ing HIV/AIDS and malaria. In ad­di­tion, the tar­gets aim for a re­duc­tion of neona­tal mor­tal­ity of at least 12 per 1,000 live births and un­der-5 mor­tal­ity of at least 25 per 1,000 live births by 2030. The tar­gets also rec­og­nize non­com­mu­ni­ca­ble diseases as a grow­ing global health is­sue and ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tance of so­cial de­ter­mi­nants of health and the need to strengthen health sys­tems and so­cial safety nets.

The goal on ed­u­ca­tion ac­knowl­edges the im­por­tance of im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity and rec­og­nizes that learn­ing should be­gin early and con­tinue through at least sec­ondary school. It adds early child­hood care and ed­u­ca­tion to the global de­vel­op­ment agenda, ac­knowl­edg­ing the cru­cial role it plays in pro­vid­ing ev­ery child a fair start in life, and aims to en­sure that ed­u­ca­tion is ac­ces­si­ble ed­u­ca­tion for all chil­dren – whether girl, boy, dis­abled, in­dige­nous or liv­ing in a vul­ner­a­ble sit­u­a­tion. Early child­hood care and de­vel­op­ment is an im­por­tant area of UNICEF’s work in Bhutan, with only 17 per cent of chil­dren aged 3 to 5 years at­tend­ing some form of or­ga­nized early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion in 2015. The per­cent­age is much lower if the chil­dren are from the poor­est house­holds (3 per cent) – they are al­most ten times less likely to have ac­cess to early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion com­pared to chil­dren from the rich­est house­holds (27 per cent).

The goal on gen­der equal­ity pro­vides strong tar­gets on crit­i­cal gen­der equal­ity is­sues that af­fect chil­dren in­clud­ing em­pow­er­ment, dis­crim­i­na­tion, violence against women and girls and child mar­riage. It calls for poli­cies and leg­is­la­tion that pro­tect and em­power girls and women, and for boys and men to play a crit­i­cal role in chang­ing at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iours that harm women and girls.

In­vest­ing in chil­dren’s ac­cess to wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene en­ables them to be agents of be­hav­iour change in fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. The goal fur­thers the ef­forts of the Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals by clearly stat­ing the need to achieve univer­sal and eq­ui­table ac­cess to clean and safe wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion. For ex­am­ple: In Bhutan 58 per cent of pop­u­la­tion have ac­cess to im­proved san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­ity, how­ever for the poor­est house­holds (32 per cent) ac­cess to im­proved san­i­ta­tion is three times less com­pared to the rich­est house­holds (95 per cent). The goal calls for an end to open defe­ca­tion and ac­knowl­edges the dan­gers it presents, es­pe­cially for girls and women.

Eco­nomic growth and em­ploy­ment di­rectly af­fect the fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity of chil­dren and fam­i­lies. In ad­di­tion, as chil­dren grow up and en­ter the work­force, they will need to find jobs – an in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult task in a world where young peo­ple aged 15 and 24 make up 36 per cent of un­em­ployed peo­ple world­wide. The goal calls for a global strat­egy on youth em­ploy­ment. It also aims to end child labour, start­ing with its haz­ardous forms, in­clud­ing re­cruit­ment and use of child sol­diers – a crit­i­cal ad­di­tion to the global de­vel­op­ment agenda.

The poor­est chil­dren are not get­ting a fair chance to sur­vive, thrive and reach their full po­ten­tial. Dis­crim­i­na­tion based on fac­tors like eth­nic­ity or ge­o­graphic lo­ca­tion re­in­force poverty across gen­er­a­tions. For ex­am­ple: In Bhutan only 34 per cent of women from the poor­est house­holds de­liver with skilled birth as­sis­tance com­pared to 95 per cent of women from the rich­est house­holds. The goal on in­equal­i­ties calls on coun­tries to en­act poli­cies that nar­row the gaps be­tween rich and poor, and to dis­man­tle ones that ex­clude groups of chil­dren from so­ci­eties, pol­i­tics and economies.

The num­ber of peo­ple, in­clud­ing chil­dren, liv­ing in cities and towns is grow­ing ev­ery year. For many chil­dren, ur­ban life in­creases ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, med­i­cal at­ten­tion and recre­ation. How­ever, too many are de­nied the ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties, in­clud­ing clean wa­ter and health care. Ev­ery child has the right to a liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment that is safe and ser­vices that are cen­tral to their health, mo­bil­ity and well-be­ing. The goal on hu­man set­tle­ments calls for ac­cess to green and pub­lic spa­ces by 2030, as well as ac­cess to safe, af­ford­able, ac­ces­si­ble and sus­tain­able trans­port sys­tems for all, bet­ter road safety and more pub­lic trans­port that pro­vides for the needs of women and chil­dren and the vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions.

For chil­dren, this goal on cli­mate change is an im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vance­ment as it af­fects chil­dren in many ways. It is linked to Goal 7, which calls for univer­sal ac­cess to af­ford­able, re­li­able, and mod­ern en­ergy ser­vices by 2030. For ex­am­ple: Lack of mod­ern en­ergy sources in the home ex­poses chil­dren to house­hold air pol­lu­tion such as soot that can af­fect their health, safety, ed­u­ca­tion and well-be­ing. The goal calls for in­te­grat­ing cli­mate change poli­cies into na­tional strate­gies and plans and en­sur­ing ac­cess to af­ford­able, re­li­able and mod­ern en­ergy ser­vices for all by 2030.

Violence threat­ens the lives and fu­tures of mil­lions of chil­dren and dam­ages the so­cial fab­ric of com­mu­ni­ties and na­tions. One of the ma­jor achieve­ments of the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals is the in­tro­duc­tion of violence and pro­tec­tion to the in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment agenda. The tar­gets in­clude end­ing abuse, ex­ploita­tion, traf­fick­ing and all forms of violence against chil­dren.

This new phase of de­vel­op­ment presents a holis­tic op­por­tu­nity to ad­vance the rights and well-be­ing of ev­ery child, es­pe­cially the most dis­ad­van­taged. What we de­cide to do for chil­dren and how we en­gage them in build­ing the fu­ture will ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine whether we are suc­cess­ful in cre­at­ing a more peace­ful, pros­per­ous and sus­tain­able world.

In the words of UNICEF Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, Mr. An­thony Lake, “the true mea­sure (of progress) will be in ev­ery child lifted out of poverty; through ev­ery mother who sur­vives child­birth; ev­ery girl who does not lose her child­hood to early mar­riage. By help­ing the most dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren to­day – by giv­ing them a fair chance in life – we can help break the bonds of ex­treme poverty tomorrow.”

As we em­bark on this new col­lec­tive jour­ney, we wish years of op­ti­mism and hope for all chil­dren every­where en­sur­ing no one re­gard­less of where they live is left be­hind. Bhutan too is all set mov­ing for­ward to ac­cel­er­ate its ef­forts on SDGs as an in­cen­tive for mea­sur­ing progress for its chil­dren. Thank you and Tashi


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