As the world is marking the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Plan International Cambodia and other child rights agencies joined with the Cambodia National Council for Children to organize series of activities to reflect past achievements and renew collective commitments to further promote child rights in the country.
Taking place at the heart of Phnom Penh capital, the events aimed to urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to strengthen policy and systems for the country’s 5.5 million children.
Plan International, World Vision, Save the Children, Unicef and other child rights agencies recognize the significant strides that the government has made since the ratification the UN-CRC in October 1992. This includes all efforts to promote children’s rights in cooperation with civil society organizations to develop, align and implement various laws, policies, institutions, system strengthening, awareness raising and action plans to improve the general situation of Cambodian children.
However, more needs to be done. The child protection system in Cambodia remains weak due to poor Government resourcing of protection services, the low capacity of mandated structures to protect and provide services to children at all levels do not function and are not coordinated well. Poor law enforcement contributes to inefficient levels of protection for children in Cambodia and must be addressed urgently through a National Plan for Children and increased government budget plan on child protection.
According to Ranjan Poudyal, Country Director of Save the Children, based on the situation analysis of some NGOs, the Cambodia National Council for Children (CNCC) lacks effective monitoring mechanisms and capacity to develop the Government Report on Convention on the Rights of the Child to the UN Committee. He encouraged the body to play a more active role in coordinating the national Government working groups, taskforce and line ministries to fulfill children’s rights.
“Reflecting the progress of child rights implementation in Cambodia, we also see the need to strengthen the child protection laws application and child protection system at national and sub-national levels. To sustain the protection medium, we need to incorporate all systems and settings, such as community, family, private and public schools, correction and rehabilitation centres, work place, judicial systems, online or cyber system” said Ty Sovannary, Country Child Rights Specialist for Plan International Cambodia
“Evidence from World Vision’s work suggests that many child abuse cases are settled informally out of court by local authorities themselves rather than being recorded or processed through government systems. This simply encourages perpetrators who have money to pay their way to settle damages, undermines Government authority, and refuses justice and restoration for their victims”, shared Aimyleen Gabriel, Child Protection Manager for World Vision in Cambodia, adding that the loopholes allow the issues of child protection such as violence against children, child labor, trafficking, and drug abuse to occur with limited legal repercussions.
Recently, a Ministry of Women’s Affairs and UNICEF study found that violence against children was rampant across the country, with more than half of all children in Cambodia reporting they experienced at least one incident of physical violence before the age of 18. Without prevention efforts, the report cites children who experience violence could engage in high risk behavior or become future perpetrators of violence.
We have the government’s support
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection H.E. Madam Men Sam An who presided over the event appreciated the hard work and achievements of all concerned bodies as well as the children themselves to promote the rights of the children. She also welcomes recommendations raised to her by children and child rights agencies.
“Taking this opportunity, I urge concerned agencies to continue to support the Royal Government of Cambodia to further improve the situation of our children,” addressed H.E. Madam Men Sam An to over 600 children, youth, government officials and representatives from development partners who attended the events.
What it means to children
“If adults and we ourselves don’t know our rights, we are not confident about what’s right and what’s wrong. We don’t know if we are violated and we don’t know what to claim for. These are all the convention is all about,” said Phoung Keo, 14, who attended the celebration of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Unlike before, children now have more chances to voice our worries. It’s because the convention is accepted,” added her friend, Rot, 18.