Sweden must be a leading global force for the rights of the child and for gender equality and the new Swedish Government will prioritise children’s rights in foreign policy and international development cooperation. That was the main content in a debate article published in Swedish Daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on October 20:
Children have rights – the right to life, play and learning. This means all children: regardless of whether your name is Maria or Mariam and whether you live in Borlänge or Bamako.
This November marks 25 years since the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. So far, 193 countries have undertaken to respect, protect and promote the rights of the child. Much has improved since the Convention was adopted. But unfortunately, huge challenges still remain.
Developments in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, South Sudan and Liberia are brutal reminders of how children’s rights are violated on a daily basis. Minors are cynically used as child soldiers, children are subjected to violence and exploitation, and girls are prevented from attending school, forced into marriage and subjected to life-threatening pregnancies.
A few days ago, Anna Hägg-Sjöquist and Pia Stavås Meier from the children’s charity Plan Sverige urged the Government to prioritise children’s rights in foreign policy and international development cooperation.
Our new cooperation government will do so, with great force and determination. Sweden must be a leading global force for the rights of the child and for gender equality. In the Statement of Government Policy, we said that Sweden’s voice must always be clear and unambiguous when human dignity is violated, and that we will pursue a feminist foreign policy. Poverty reduction, sexual and reproductive health and rights and the fight against discrimination will be given high priority in the years ahead.
The UN has an important role to play in this, and the new Government will give higher priority to UN cooperation. We will actively pursue these issues in view of the new global development agenda due to be negotiated by the UN member states ahead of the UN Summit in September 2015.
Today, we are among the very largest financiers of the UN’s global development work. Via the UN, Sweden has contributed to a reduction of almost fifty per cent in the number of children dying before the age of five, down from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. Last year alone, UNICEF provided water to 24 million people and sanitation to 7 million people, and gave 13.1 million people the possibility to wash their hands. In 2013, 3.6 million children in humanitarian crisis situations gained access to education. UNICEF has also contributed to 123 countries making all forms of sexual violence towards girls and boys punishable offences, and enabling 7 300 children with links to armed forces or groups to return to their families and communities.
At the same time, as ardent supporters of the UN we will not be afraid to criticise it if necessary. Swedish taxpayers’ money must be used efficiently, and the UN needs to be reformed in order to be able to tackle the challenges of the future.
Human rights – including the rights of the child – are a cornerstone of Swedish foreign policy. But we also want to set a good example for other countries. Being a leader means leading the way. For this reason we will now take the next step, and begin the work to make the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child law in Sweden.
Standing up for children’s rights and working for greater social and gender equality in the world will be the hallmarks of the new Government’s work. As the ministers responsible for foreign affairs, development cooperation and children, we will shoulder our share of the responsibility for ensuring that children are able to enjoy their incontrovertible right to be just that – Children.
Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs
Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation
Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality