South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Unicef urges nations to take urgent action

Published in The Daily Star on Nov. 21 ::

As the world yesterday observed the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Unicef underscored the need for urgent action to prevent millions of children from missing out on the benefits of innovations. 

The international children agency also called on the governments, development professionals, businesses, activists and communities to work together to come up with new ideas for tackling some of the most pressing problems facing children and to find new ways of scaling up the best and most promising local innovations.

“Inequity is as old as humanity, but so is innovation and it has always driven humanity’s progress,” said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake in a press release yesterday.  

“In our ever-more connected world, local solutions can have global impact — benefiting children in every country who still face inequity and injustice every day.”

Unicef cited an innovative idea of a Bangladeshi for providing children with education in a report titled “Re-imagine the future for every child” which was launched marking the occasion. 

The report talks about floating schools that give children, living in flood-prone regions across the country, year-round access to education, which were initiated by Mohammed Rezwan, the founding executive director of NGO Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha.

Rezwan in a write-up on the Unicef website said, “I seldom missed school days as a child. I used to go to school on a family boat during the flooding. But many of my friends were denied education.”

“If children couldn’t come to school, the school should come to them. I came up with a creative solution to the problem of extreme flooding and introduced ‘floating schools’ to the students in 2002.”

Shidhulai’s floating school model has been adopted across the world. School boats now serve children in Cambodia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Vietnam and Zambia, where they are having a transformative impact on education and communities in flood-prone regions.

The latest edition of Unicef’s flagship report argues that innovations have helped drive radical changes in the lives of millions of children in the last 25 years and more innovative products, processes, and partnerships are critical to realising the rights of children.

There has been tremendous progress in advancing child rights since the UN General Assembly adopted the convention in 1989, yet the rights of millions of children are violated every day, it says.

“For innovation to benefit every child, we have to be more innovative — rethinking the way we foster and fuel new ideas to solve our oldest problems,” Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake said.


Meanwhile, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu urged politicians to stop using children in political activities, which is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh.

He also asked other ministers, lawmakers and top government officials to refrain from receiving receptions, in which students are forcibly queued up for hours on the streets during their study hours. 

“Terrorists have recently been using children and women as human shields, which is dangerous and risky. Similarly, uses of children in politics are very bad. Both practices must stop,” Inu, also the president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, said at a discussion yesterday.

Child Rights Advocacy Coalition in Bangladesh, a civil society network working to promote child rights, organised the discussion in the capital’s BIAM auditorium to mark the anniversary of the UN convention on children’s rights. 

Suggesting that children’s rights should fall under human rights, Inu said it was possible to raise a child as a good human being by ensuring all his rights and that today’s children would one day lead the country.

Referring to the recent reports that the government is considering lowering the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 16, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Chairman Prof Mizanur Rahman said the move would not be acceptable.

“There is no way to deviate from the commitment Bangladesh has made to the international community…. If there is any such plan, I am humbly requesting [the government] to reconsider it,” he said.

With Farah Kabir, country director of Action Aid Bangladesh, a component of the coalition, in the chair, Mir Showkat Ali Badsha, chairperson of the parliamentary caucus on child rights; Sharon Hauser, acting country director of Save the Children; Soumya Brata Guha, deputy country director of Plan International Bangladesh, and Kazi Reazul Hoque, full-time member of NHRC, also spoke at the programme.

Meanwhile, National Children Taskforce, a children’s body, called for a children’s department and ombudsman among other things to improve the child rights situation in Bangladesh.

NCTF, supported by Plan International Bangladesh and Save the Children, made the call at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity in the capital.