June 1st has been observed as International Children’s Day since the World Conference for the Well-Being of Children (Geneva) in 1925 and was given particular relavance by the Soviet Bloc to promote internationalist cultural and developmental programmes. On June 1st, 2008 should we be celebrating this day or should we be hanging our heads in shame?
Much has been done if we compare June 1st 1908 with June 1st 2008. Child labour is an exception and not the rule, Child Protection Laws exist in all members of the international community and Child Protection Agencies enforce them in a growing number of States. Working conditions are regulated, working hours are controlled and safety at work is carefully monitored.
However, far more is still to be done. On a political level, how can one celebrate this date or any other, when we live in a world in which these great victories of the Left are being assailed on a daily basis? How can we celebrate when free children’s healthcare schemes, free dental treatment and free education were for the first time a birthright and less than a century later, have been taken away?
In the so-called “developed” world, how can we celebrate International Children’s Day (ICD) when a Universal Right to education at all levels is already a thing of the past? How can we celebrate an International Children’s Day when we know that the economic system into which the majority of them are born with turn each and every single day of their lives into a fight for survival?
They will have to fight for the right to a decent healthcare plan, they will have to fight for University education, and fight to pay for it. They will have to fight for a job, and fight to keep it. They will have to fight to gather enough money for a deposit on a house and fight to meet spiraling mortgage repayments. They will have to fight against higher and higher fiscal contributions with less and less in return. They will have to fight for the right to use the world’s natural resources, caught in the grip of a restricted clique of capitalist controllers, while the economic model permits speculation to push commodities prices higher and further out of reach.
If we are to celebrate because a growing number of children find themselves in the first group, it does not say much, specially when compared with the situation in the “developing” nations.
While trillions of dollars have been spent in the last few years on illegal, criminal acts of butchery, what about the millions of Ethiopian children and their families who are not covered by the food safety-net programmes? While trillions are spent on war, how can we celebrate ICD when 50 million USD would suffice to feed the starving children in Ethiopia? How can ICD be celebrated in Iraq, where the US-led criminal invasion deprived civilians of water supplies because the US forces targeted civilian structures with military hardware and have yet to repair the damage?
How can we celebrate ICD when 70 million women and girls are victims of Female Genital Mutilation, practised when they were children? How can we celebrate ICD when in some African countries, only 10 per cent of children have any comprehensive knowledge about HIV/AIDS?
And how can we celebrate International Children’s Day when hundreds of millions of children around the world do not even have access to a square meal on the table at the end of the day?