Young NZers call for parties to act on children's rights
UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)
14 July 2014
Young New Zealanders call for political parties to take action on children’s rights
Fifty young people (aged 15-18 years) who attended the UNICEF NZ Youth Congress in Christchurch at the weekend, have called on political parties to address six priority issues including youth unemployment, poverty and mental health.
The theme of this year’s congress was ‘Shape Your World’, with delegates learning about ways to participate in their communities and in politics to create the world they want. The Congress developed a short political communiqué (included below) for political parties and presented it to the MP for Christchurch Central, Hon Nicky Wagner and the MP for Wigram, Megan Woods. The recommendations identified by the young people are:
1. Create and support avenues for effective child and youth participation in decision-making (Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)
2. Implement child rights education as an integral strand in the school curriculum
3. Ensure adequate funding for schools and encourage the development of schools as focal points or community hubs
4. Take immediate action to build the mental health of young New Zealanders
5. Create a more equal society and improve the standard of living of children and families living in poverty
6. Youth unemployment as an issue requiring priority action
UNICEF NZ National Advocacy manager, Deborah Morris-Travers said, “When the young people started talking about the issues that matter to them there was a high level of consensus about priorities for action. They understand that all New Zealanders have a responsibility to take positive action for children but also identified the need for bold political leadership to ensure equitable investment in children and youth.”
The communiqué acknowledges current Government and community efforts to improve the lives of children and youth, but reminds the Government of its responsibility to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and challenges all political parties to do more for children and youth.
The Congress identified youth unemployment as an urgent priority and expressed support for continuing education. Many of the delegates are in their final years of school, or at university, and they are concerned that young people are disproportionately affected by unemployment.
“It was also clear from the discussions that delegates are concerned about the large proportion of Kiwi kids who are living in poverty, going without the basic things needed for health and education. They called for more equality and a standard of living that enables every child to participate in our society and economy.
“Another big concern for delegates was youth mental health. The Congress called for immediate action to build and support the mental health of young New Zealanders by ensuring the best possible childhoods and acknowledging children and youth as valued members of our society. The delegates talked about the need for good quality mental health services and the need for professionals to be well trained to respond to trauma in children and youth,” Ms Morris-Travers added.
Other recommendations referred to the need for better child and youth participation in decision-making; child rights and citizenship education; and for schools to serve as community hubs in the provision of health and other social services.
“UNICEF NZ is sending the communiqué to all political parties today, requesting a formal response so that we can share the parties’ responses with the youth delegates. We hope all parties will hear what these young people have to say and incorporate those views into their policy,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.
Notes to editors
17 year old Brad Olsen, a UNICEF NZ Youth Ambassador, is available to speak with media via Laura Gibbons at UNICEF NZ (contact details below).