World Children’s Day this year is taking place during one of the most unique and challenging moments in modern history. On the occasion of marking this important anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and young people gathered together today at an online Youth in 2020: Engaged and Heard to discuss how COVID has been affecting their lives, share their ideas about how things can be done differently and what their visions and possible solutions are for a better future after COVID.
“My message to young people is to support each other and never give up insisting on change. Because change can only happen if we loudly and clearly say what we are lacking and what we want to change,” said 17-year old Jovana Vasić, UNICEF Serbia Youth Board Member.
During the conference, UNICEF in Serbia and the Ministry of Youth and Sport officially launched the national volunteer platform Online Volunteers (Volonteri na mreži). The platform, managed by UNICEF and the Young Researchers of Serbia, connects organizations, institutions, sports federations, and local governments with volunteers to provide volunteering opportunities for young people across the country, both for online and offline activities that can concretely impact their own lives and play an active role in their communities.
“The great challenges usually come together with great opportunities. As people look for information, hope and ways to navigate the new normal, children and young people across Serbia have emerged on social media to lead the way. They have become the heroes of the pandemic — educating their peers, tackling misinformation and stigma, lifting spirits and being vocal on what kind of future they want to live in, thus starting the long process of recovery”, said Deyana Kostadinova, UNICEF Representative in Serbia.
She expressed hope that the volunteering platform will strategically contribute to the increasing participation of young people through volunteering.
“Volunteering brings young people together to develop skills and share resources, to build capacities, to promote mutual understanding, to act together and, very often, to change lives! We hope that it will not only help children and young people, to reimagine a better world, but also to build That’s what World Children’s Day is all about – action for children, by children,” she said.
Volunteerism is a powerful way for young people to gain a strong sense of civic engagement and bring about positive transformation in their communities. Volunteerism is an important component of any strategy aimed at poverty reduction, sustainable development and social integration, in particular for overcoming social exclusion and discrimination.
Addressing the online conference, Minister of Youth and Sports Vanja Udovičić said:
“We will continue to provide continuous support to young people during these challenging times which is affecting the whole world because our primary goal is for young people to continue with their formal and non-formal education, to acquire the necessary skills, nurture their talents, and also have psychological support. We want young people to openly share their ideas with us so that we can make their path to progress easier. The Ministry of Youth and Sports supports a number of projects that are adapted to the new situation and that encourage the development and initiatives of young people. ”
The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the deep inequalities in societies across the world that leave some children and young people far more at risk than others. At this critical moment in history millions of children are missing out on basic healthcare, cut off from education, and left without protection simply because they were born into poverty or because of their ethnicity, religion or race. Children will never accept that we should return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic, because they know ‘normal’ was never good enough. And children have a unique and unparalleled ability to reimagine a more equal, just and sustainable world.
This World Children’s Day, UNICEF is asking governments, partners and the private sector to listen to children and prioritize their needs. As we all reimagine the future and look ahead toward a post-pandemic world, children must come first:
1. Ensure all children learn, including by closing the digital divide.
2. Guarantee access to nutrition and health services and make vaccines affordable and available to every child.
3. Support and protect the mental health of children and young people and bring an end to abuse, gender-based violence and neglect in childhood.
4. Increase access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene and address environmental degradation and climate change.
5. Reverse the rise in child poverty and ensure an inclusive recovery for all.
6. Redouble efforts to protect and support children and their families living through conflict, disaster and displacement.