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The BBC's David Campanale
"Life is a daily struggle"
 real 28k

Clare Doole reports from Geneva
"On the tenth anniversary of the convention, there's little to celebrate"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 November, 1999, 13:01 GMT
UN: Save the children
Child labour is still widespread around the world

Governments around the world must do more to save children from poverty and war, the UN says.

In a series of speeches to mark the tenth anniversary of an international treaty which aims to safeguard children's human rights, UN officials highlighted the suffering they still undergo.

No child's play
2 million children have died, 8 million wounded in wars since November 1989
Minimum recruiting age of 15 widely flouted
250 million children work to survive
Children are biggest victims of poverty
12 million die a year from preventable disease
The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, is the world's most widely accepted human rights treaty, with only the United States and Somalia having failed to ratify it.

Carol Bellamy, executive director of the children's fund Unicef, said in a speech to mark the anniversary that 12 million children under five were still dying every year from preventable causes.

The high incidence of child soliders is a pressing problem
"Governments and societies must realise that every day counts," she told an audience in Oslo, which included Queen Sonja of Noway, Queen Silvia of Sweden and ministers of children's affairs from 12 nations.

Major threats

"We owe it to (children) to move more quickly toward fulfilment" of the convention she said, adding that major threats to children include poverty, AIDS and armed conflicts.

But she said the convention had helped lay down rights for children ranging from education and health care to a right to avoid military conscription until the age of 15.

And she called on leaders around the world to do more.

We owe it to (children) to move more quickly
Carol Bellamy, Unicef
"The words 'child rights' stand for more than a treaty," she said.

A series of international events have also been planned, culminating in an attempt to set an international record for the the biggest simultaneous musical performance.

Some 12,000 children from stage schools around the world are set to perform a musical in more than 200 locations.

Abuse and injustice

Called The Rainbow Juggler, the performance marks Article 29 of the convention, which covers children's right to develop their personality and talents.

I have seen children in situations that children should never be in
Mary Robinson, UN human rights chief
The musical is the story of a circus performer, who loses his ability to juggle until a young child gives him back his smile.

But for many children around the world, there is still little to smile about, as attempts to implement the convention have fallen short of targets.

On Friday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said 10 years after the adoption of the landmark convention, abuse and injustice remain widespread.

Mrs Robinson urged governments to ensure the convention was truly implemented within the next 10 years.

"I have seen children in situations that children should never be in," Mrs Robinson said.

"Children caught up in war. Children inflicting injury on others."

War zones

She referred in particular to the "war of adults fought by children" in Sierra Leone, where many children have beendeliberately maimed, with their limbs brutally cut off.

And she made plea for the children of Chechnya, who had been injured by Russia's onslaught against the breakaway republic.

The former Irish president also criticised widespread poverty which results in tens of millions of children suffering from disease and malnutrition.

To mark the anniversary, children are being urged by the UK's Children Society to access a website to speak out about their concerns, such as drugs, guns and racism (

Schoolchildren will also present a petition and drawings from children in Iraq to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as part of an ongoing campaign to have UN sanctions lifted against the country.

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See also:
17 Jun 99 |  World
Child slavery ban agreed
22 Oct 99 |  Africa
Children 'must not be let down'
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UN fears for Afghan child soldiers
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08 Sep 99 |  World
Children top conference agenda
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