Children's rights – September 25 2017 SOS Children’s Villages and the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Action The SDGs aim to make the world a better place. They include 17 goals and targets on subjects like poverty, education, and governance. Global leaders have been gathering at United Nations Headquarters in New York from the 12 to the 25 of September for the annual round of diplomatic talks known as the General Debate. Staged under the theme, “Focusing on People – Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet,” the 72nd UN General Assembly has seen monarchs, presidents and prime ministers discuss international responses to many of the global challenges of the day, including protracted conflicts, extreme poverty and hunger, and the refugee crisis. Progress in meeting the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was also on the agenda. In 2015, leaders from 193 countries around the world committed to a 15-year plan of action aimed at improving the lives of people, protecting the planet, and building prosperity. The SDGs, also known as the global goals, cover a wide range of areas such as poverty, peace and education, as well as decent work, economic growth and reduced inequalities. “As a child care organization and as individuals, we have the chance to ensure that all children have equal opportunities to grow with dignity, security and respect – in a caring environment as every child deserves,” said Norbert Meder, Chief Executive Officer of SOS Children's Villages International. “Our work to care for and protect children made vulnerable by the loss of parental care also plays an integral role in helping the world meet some very ambitious goals enshrined in the SDGs,” added Meder. SOS Children’s Villages is focused on reaching out to the millions of children without parental care or at risk of losing it. We are helping to meet the SDGs by preventing family separation, ensuring quality alternative care while preparing young people for independent living. Breaking the cycle of poverty and exclusion in Ethiopia Severe back-to-back droughts mean the number of people facing acute food shortages is on the rise, and millions are in need of humanitarian aid in Ethiopia and across the Horn of Africa. The seventh SOS Village in Ethiopia is located in the town of Jimma in the region of Oromiya in the country’s south-west. Poverty and deprivation are widespread; only one in 10 children go to primary school and attendance rates among girls are critically low. Infant malnutrition contributes to the problem, making children’s future chances of breaking the cycle of social, economic and political exclusion all the more difficult. The SOS Children’s Village in Jimma is addressing some of these issues, and there are currently 150 children living with 15 SOS families in the town. Consolidating what children are taught in the classroom through practical education techniques such as school trips, engagement in projects, science laboratory work and building students’ computer literacy is already showing results. “It is important to ensure that every child and young person has access to quality education regardless of their background. SOS Children’s Villages in Jimma is putting different strategies in place to empower children, guided by the education policy. Provision of indoor and outdoor play opportunities is a vital strategy to empower children in terms of cognitive and psychomotor development,” said Ebisa Jaleta, Programme Director for SOS Children’s Villages, Jimma. Governments pledged to leave no one behind in the SDGs and recognized children as agents of change. Another way of ensuring child engagement is by allowing them to take part in debates at the local parliament. Established in 2012, the young people of Jimma are given a platform to speak and influence decisions that affect them in the presence of local government leaders. Fourteen-year-old Dawit* is the current president of the children’s assembly. He said the SDGs are, “a window through which children can see the issues affecting their world.” “We address the goals in various ways. For example, we partner with the adults to learn child rights and protection, and about our responsibilities. I often encourage members to speak up on issues of abuse, violence and other matters affecting their lives,” he added. Ending violence against children in Paraguay The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children sets out to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children, in line with SDG 16, which calls for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. With this mandate in mind, the partnership brings together governments, foundations, the UN, civil society and academia groups, the private sector to drive action towards achieving this global target. SOS Children’s Villages advocates to end violence against children and in July 2016, was part of a UN forum tasked with accelerating efforts to ensure the safety of children around the world. Seventeen-year-old Gregorio Ramon Ayala from the SOS Children’s Village of Luque on the outskirts of Paraguay’s capital, Asunción represented the organization at the forum. “There are millions of children and youth victims of wars, slavery, exploitation and trafficking, sexual abuse and thousands of others who grow up in institutions and have no guaranteed rights to live in a family,” said Gregorio Ramon. Paraguay is one of Latin America’s poorest countries with over forty percent of the population living in poverty. Many lack access to sanitation, clean water, electricity and decent housing. SOS Children’s Villages believes that every child has the right to be heard and that including young people’s voices in political discourse is essential in establishing change. As a further way of making this happen, children from across the continent are taking part in a survey which will help SOS and the Global Partnership to understand the causes of violence and ultimately to find solutions to stop such practices. To date, children from 24 countries around the world have contributed their opinions. The results will be shared with governments with the objective of putting pressure on countries to do more to make sure children enjoy adequate protection. “We are committed to eliminating violence and exploitation against children in all its forms. We know that by stopping violence we can create protective and caring family environments as well as preventing the loss of care,” said Nadia Garrido, Programme Director for the Regional Office of SOS Children’s Villages, Latin America. SOS Children’s Villages’ work centres on five SDGs. Our responsibilities include influencing national regulatory frameworks of child protection, care and education, to upgrade quality standards of care and preventative services in each of the countries we work in. Engaging young people in global decision-making processes and promoting social inclusion is an essential component of ensuring that by 2030, many more children have a loving home and an equal chance to succeed in life. *Name changed to protect the privacy of the child.