Marta Santos Pais, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, also says in a video message that the inclusion of child-related issues in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) marked a “truly historic achievement”.
Organisations like SOS Children’s Villages have an important role in achieving the goals by making sure that governments carry out commitments to end poverty, the target of SDG 1, and eliminate violence and torture of children as outlined in SDG 16.2.
“There is indeed no time for complacency”, Santos Pais said at the opening of the General Assembly of SOS Children’s Villages International on Thursday, 23 June. “It is high time to mobilise all those who can actively make a difference in bringing an end to violence against children, especially those who lack family care.”
More than 400 people from 134 countries and territories are attending the General Assembly, 23-25 June in Innsbruck, Austria. Siddhartha Kaul, President of SOS Children’s Villages International, welcomed delegates who are expected to approve a sweeping strategy to guide the organisation through 2030.
The strategy underscores the organisation’s core commitment to the care and protection of children. It also calls for improving youth employability and strengthening the participation of young people in the decisions that affect their lives.
Santos Pais, a Portuguese lawyer and long-time UNICEF and UN official, congratulated SOS Children’s Villages for helping to make the rights of young people – “particularly vulnerable and forgotten children” – a global priority.
Santos Pais welcomed the Strategy 2030 – with its vision that every child belongs to a family and grows with love, respect and security – “which will no doubt help to strengthen families and family-based care for children who are too often left behind in policy decisions and actions.”
Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, also praised SOS Children’s Villages for its work at the opening ceremony.
“Because of your dedication and commitment”, he said in a statement, “a great number of children have been given a family, hope and perspective – and the chance to live a happy, fulfilled life.
“I hope that many more children in need will benefit from your engagement”, he added, “whether it is the strengthening of families or giving children a home, whether it is the fight for children’s rights and against child abuse, humanitarian action, or the provision of education and training. All these activities contribute to improving the lives of young people.”
Another top UN representative also commended the new SOS Children’s Villages 2030 Strategy and its inclusion of young people as partners.
Ahmad Alhendawi is the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. Photo: UN DESA
“Given a chance and empowered with a voice, young people have the creativity to be key partners in making change happen”, Ahmad Alhendawi, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, says in a video taped in advance of the General Assembly. A Jordanian who is the first person to hold the post, Alhendawi said young people also will play a crucial role in achieving the SDGs and praised the synergy between the SOS 2030 Strategy and the SDGs to help children and young people.
For her part, Santos Pais applauded SOS Children’s Villages for its support of two signature international documents – the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2010 Guidelines on the Alternative Care of Children.
The new SOS strategy “will go a long way to support national implementation of the guidelines, while helping to develop an integrated approach to child care to achieve the vision of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development”, she said. She envisions a world “which invests in its children, and in which every child grows up free from violence and from exploitation.”
Santos Pais urged SOS Children’s Villages, with its federation of more than 130 countries and territories, to pressure national governments to develop and carry out a comprehensive strategy for child care.
“I have no doubt that your important deliberations will help ensure that no child grows up alone or is left behind in the fight against violence”, Santos Pais said.