11/21/2016 11:17 EST | Updated 11/21/2016 11:17 EST

Why Does The World Still Need 'Universal Children's Day'?


As long as children are victims of war, poverty, exploitation and injustice, the world needs a Universal Children's Day. Photo by World Vision

Each year around this time, I find myself frustrated that the world still needs to observe Universal Children's Day on November 20th. Don't get me wrong, kids are worth celebrating. As someone who has dedicated my life to serving children, I believe that at my core.

But I wish jobs like mine didn't have to exist. I wish there was no need for organizations like World Vision or for days like Universal Children's Day to highlight the plight of children around the world.

Even after more than 25 years serving with World Vision, I still catch myself thinking, what could have gone so wrong? With all of humankind's incredible advancements, how have we not figured out how to care for the world's most precious resource?

It's difficult not to feel depressed -- just turn on the TV. Right now in Mosul, Iraq, children who fled the ISIL-controlled city are arriving at displacement camps too traumatized to even speak after what they've been through. In sweatshops in Dhaka, Bangladesh, children are bent over sewing machines for 12 hours a day so that we can buy cheap clothing. Today I am in El Salvador, where I am meeting with youth who are desperate for family and belonging, and are turning to street gangs in an effort to find their place in the world.

When I look back at what I have witnessed this past year, the necessity of a day like Universal Children's Day becomes clear. And I have hope that perhaps for one day, Canadians might stand together and realize the power we have in making a difference to children around the world.

Twenty-seven years ago yesterday, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in New York. It noted that while all people have human rights, "childhood is entitled to special care and assistance." All childhood. All children.

The Convention was the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Apart from two nations, every country in the world promised to put children first. As a nation, Canada joined other countries in this agreement.

"The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them," our commitments read. We've had 27 years to get that right, and yet still, children need a special day to remind us of these promises.

It's not that aid doesn't work. Since 1990 deaths of children under the age of five have been cut in half, and since 2000 48 million child deaths have been prevented. Canadian funding makes a difference. And when it comes to the all-important United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Canada has made some strong commitments.

However, the duty to uphold those commitments belongs not only to our government but to all of us. We often describe our country as "open" and "generous" -- that's something to take hold of on a day like today. It will be what unifies us into combining our personal efforts to reach those sustainable development goals.

Some of those personal efforts could include sponsoring a child, or buying a goat from our gift catalogue for communities in Africa. It could mean pledging to our Raw Hope initiative that drives change in the world's most fragile regions, like South Sudan and Syria. Or, it could simply mean passing on Canada's spirit of generosity to your own children, so that they may continue to carry the baton as humanitarian leaders.

The global deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals is 2030. We have fourteen years to change the lives of millions of children for good. Impossible? I don't think so. In fact I believe that with a concerted effort by every Canadian, children around the world won't even have to wait that long.

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