On Universal Children’s Day, UNICEF says all youngsters have a right to play

On Universal Children’s Day, UNICEF says all youngsters have a right to play

Although youngsters have an inherent right to play, this simple privilege is denied to millions of children whose lives are enmeshed in conflict, lost in exploitation, or stolen by preventable disease, the head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.

Although youngsters have an inherent need to play, this simple right is denied to millions of children whose lives are enmeshed in conflict, lost in exploitation, or stolen by preventable disease, the head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today.

In a statement issued to mark Universal Children's Day, Executive Director Carol Bellamy described the idea that many children grow up with no memory of sports in their lives as "a staggering reminder of how badly we have failed our children” and dedicated this year's celebration to the right of all youngsters to play. "Sports and games and athletics are crucial to every child’s healthy development, and we must recognize them as more than just child’s play,” she said.

Ms. Bellamy added that UNICEF has always embraced sports in a number of ways, including using soccer to promote AIDS awareness in Kenya, Honduras and Ethiopia, as well as sponsoring sports in a Brazilian detention centre and along the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, where Afghan children play soccer as part of educational activities.

In his message to commemorate the Day, the President of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, urged the international community to guarantee a better future for all children. He said youngsters need protection from degrading living conditions, violence, prostitution, trafficking, armed conflicts and child labour.

Mr. Kavan noted that all of the basic human rights convention guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms to everyone without distinction. "Recognition of the equal status of children as individuals in enjoying their fundamental rights and freedoms is vital," he said.

The ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by 191 countries was an indication of the global consensus that it is important to guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms to children, he added.