Investment in child rights leads to economic development, claims leading child-focused organisations in Cambodia

Joint Press Release

Investment in child rights leads to economic development, claims leading child-focused organisations in Cambodia

Thirty-year after Global Leaders adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Cambodia has made dramatic progress on child wellbeing, including health and education. However, whole groups of children are still deprived of their most essential rights, preventing them to reach their full potential in life and holding back the economic development of the country.

Phnom Penh, 19th of November 2019 - Thirty years ago, global leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Kingdom of Cambodia ratified this in 1992 with the commitment to guarantee these rights for all children in the country.

A new report - Unlocking Cambodia’s Future – How child rights are the key to future economic growth and development in Cambodia - shows that over the last 30 years dramatic progress has been registered on child rights in Cambodia. Produced by the Joining Forces alliance, a coalition

1 of the 6 largest global child-focused organizations, the report shows that in several key child-rights areas, the country achieved in a few decades what many nations took up to a century to accomplish.

The report also highlights the strong links that exist between investment in child rights, the development of a healthy and resilient workforce and economic growth and poverty reduction.

“Today’s children are tomorrow’s citizens and workers and they are the ones that will build the bright future we all want for Cambodia”, said Daniel Selvanayagam National Director of World Vision International Cambodia and chair of Joining Forces in Cambodia. “But children need the realization of their rights to good nutrition, quality education, sanitation, and participation to reach their full potential in life and contribute to the development of the country. Too many children are deprived of these rights today and it is holding back the economic and human development of the country,” added Danie.

The report shows that to achieve its objective to become an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050, Cambodia will need to sustain a high level of economic

1 ChildFund Alliance, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages International, Terre des Hommes International Federation and World Vision International

growth for several decades. For the members of Joining Forces, the only realistic way to achieve these targets is to invest massively in child rights and address 2 key obstacles that are threatening further progress on child rights:

-  The inequitable share of the benefits of the progress achieved over the last 30 years. While dramatic progress has been registered, whole groups of Cambodian children have been left behind due to persisting issues of marginalization, discrimination or barriers based on geography or income

-  New and emerging challenges linked to the quickly changing context in Cambodia

“Migration, climate change, tourism, and technology are quickly changing the context for children in Cambodia,'' said Kimthan Yi, Plan International Cambodia’s Acting Country Director, a member of the Joining Forces. “While some of these factors do present opportunities for Cambodia, they also contribute to increased vulnerability and exploitation of children and they will require more actions and investment so child rights are guaranteed,” added Kimthan.

Morokot, a 16-year-old girl from Child Advocacy Network, who is a moderator in Children Panel Discussion in the Report Launch event, said, “Children are very important assets which our country can’t grow without. So far I can see children are getting a better education and good health. Child participation is also improving. For example, myself and my network’s members have participated and shared our voice about our rights at national and regional events. However, I would like government and civil society to continue working together to give more opportunities to children. As we know children today are the next generation who will take responsibilities from old generation. If they understand more about society, when they grow up and start work, they know how to develop and modernise their society better.”

The report presents six priority areas for investment in child rights that can overcome these two key obstacles of inequality and rapidly changing context. Identified as ‘game changers’, they represent significant shifts in the current way of doing things, which will take leadership, resources and dedication to achieve.

1. Improve access to quality Early Childhood Education
Despite being recognized as a critical foundation for future learning and development of human capital, many children continue to lack access to quality early childhood education services, especially in remote areas.

2. Combat poor access to quality education
Cambodia has achieved incredible progress in basic education; however, further progress is threatened by persistent barriers to access and low-quality learning outcomes.

3. Address the high prevalence of child protection abuses
Children face a range of child protection issues including unnecessary separation from families, neglect and exploitation, and violence which occurs in many settings, including at home, schools and residential care institutions.

4. Significantly reduce the rates of child malnutrition
The number of children suffering from malnutrition in Cambodia has been reducing in recent years; however, the rate of progress remains unacceptably slow and continues to threaten the development of human capital.

5. Improve access to basic drinking water, sanitation services and hygiene
Around 9.4 million Cambodians do not have access to improved sanitation – one of the highest rates in Asia.

6. Increase meaningful child participation in decision-making processes.
The limited participation of children and youth in policy making and decisions that impact their lives prevents them from playing their role as future citizens and actors in supporting Cambodia’s development.

What is Joining Forces – Child Rights Now!

Joining Forces - Child Rights Now! is a global coalition of the leading independent child-focused NGOs, united to advocate for a renewed commitment to achieving the rights of all children. We advocate for all governments to demonstrate their support for internationally agreed standards for children’s rights, and in particular to back the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in the lead up to its 30-year anniversary in 2019.