[By Naveen Qayyum for World Council of Churches] The World Council of Churches (WCC) and UNICEF signed a partnership on 18 September pledging to work together to support children’s rights, with special initial focus on two major issues: violence against children and climate change.
UNICEF will be working with WCC members – over half a billion Christians in 345 member churches in 140 countries – to recognize, monitor and promote children’s rights within their communities and congregations. The partnership will leverage UNICEF’s knowledge on children’s rights and violence prevention with the WCC’s longstanding theological legacy and commitment to children, in order to achieve positive change for children around the world.
“The World Council of Churches is well placed to answer the international community’s call to help bring about a world fit for children. From a faith-based perspective, we will call upon member churches to improve the lives of children through the development and implementation of child rights principles and tools”, said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC.
Both WCC and UNICEF have a strong track record in confronting violence against children. The WCC rolled out a “Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010,” while UNICEF’s most recent report on the subject, Hidden in Plain Sight, sheds a light on the magnitude and pervasiveness of the problem, calling for action at all levels of society.
Climate change is on a course to undermine the basic rights of children, and those from the poorest families will suffer the most. The partnership will aim to influence behaviours to reduce carbon footprints, by working together to raise awareness and end harmful practices. It will leverage UNICEF’s strong evidence on the adverse impact of climate change on children with WCC’s broad reach to families and communities.
“The commitment of WCC’s leadership to support young people as agents of change reflects the organization’s goals to promote implement and monitor children’s rights around the world,” said Liza Barrie, Chief of UNICEF’s Civil Society Partnerships Unit. “We are delighted to be working with them, and welcome other stakeholders – both programmatic and funding partners – to join us in this new collaborative effort.”
The partnership will develop “Children’s Rights Principles and Tools for Churches”, outlining actions members may take to support children’s rights. Building on existing standards, initiatives and best practices, this guidance will present a vision for churches as champions of children’s rights. It will help WCC member churches, specialized ministries and ecumenical partners apply the “Principles” within their own domains, and also to be advocates for children’s rights within the wider community, both in terms of individual behaviour and public policies.
In addition, interested members will be able to undergo ethics training conducted by Arigatou International. The global faith-based organization will use the model it developed with UNICEF and UNESCO, “Learning to Live Together,” to offer training sessions on children’s rights among congregations.
WCC and UNICEF will hold a seminar in Geneva on 19 November ahead of the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (20 November). Participants will discuss initial stages of engagement at country level.
For more information, visit the WCC website.