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Ensuring Access to Education on Universal Children’s Day and Beyond

Every November 20th, I am reminded of my childhood and the fun of simply being a child. But I’m also reminded of the millions of children across the world who are denied their rights because they are children.

As Universal Children’s Day and the National Day of the Child, countries observe November 20th as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children and a way to promote the ideals and objectives of the Charter and the welfare of the children of the world. This day marks significant international landmarks in children’s rights, including the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of both the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1989. As mentioned by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, "This year, I wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring that the commitments made by the international community to the world’s children are extended to a group of children who are often forgotten or overlooked: those deprived of their liberty."

This November 20th, I was invited by RESULTS Canada, in partnership with the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA), to join the Universal Children Day panel at Carleton University. The panel discussion addressed the challenges and opportunities facing children and girls and the role of Canada’s new Government in the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I was joined on the panel by Marie-Irene Richmond from Ivory Coast, who works with the United Nations in eradicating Polio in Africa, and Dr. Shahida Akter of CARE Bangladesh, an expert in children nutrition. As a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School and a Women Deliver Young leader, I highlighted Education in Emergencies and the right of all children to receive a quality education.

Despite the largest refugee crisis since WWII and the number of recent natural disasters, it is shocking that just one percent of all humanitarian aid went to education last year, leaving millions of children out of school and without hope. It is time for this to change.

The message is clear: it’s time to make education part of every emergency response. Every child deserves the chance to plan for a better future. During the panel, I called on the international community, especially the newly elected government of Canada, to move quickly to set up a much-needed new platform to fund and coordinate education in emergencies. There is a unique opportunity for bold action in the coming months as we approach the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May, and we need to make sure that education is a priority in every emergency response, not an afterthought.

It is time to promote and celebrate children’s right not just on Universal Children's Day, but to continuously promote a living-friendly environment for children in the world through dialogue and action.


Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu is a Research Scientist and Women Deliver Young Leader. In 2010, he co-founded HOPE for Children Cameroon with the goal of educating every child, one school, one village at a time. His involvement in advocating for universal education earned him three international awards - the 2014 Youth Courage Award from the Office of the UN Envoy on Global Education, the first ever 2015 Queen's Young Leaders Award and the 2015 African Youth Excellence Award for Public Service.

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