, African leaders and experts were united in calling for children to be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda at a High Level Dialogue organised by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) - a leading pan-African centre for policy research and dialogue on the African child.
The panel of distinguished African leaders and thinkers agreed on a number of critical priorities to ensure children's specific and holistic needs are reflected in a strong post-2015 development agenda and a common set of accountable and comprehensive goals for governments and the international community.
Chairing the panel, H.E. Joaquim Chissano, President of Mozambique (1986-2005) and Chairman of the International Board of Trustees of ACPF, commented; "The MDGs have achieved much for children, galvanizing development efforts and guiding global and national priorities, and as a continent Africa has witnessed much progress including impressive reductions in child mortality and greatly improved primary school enrolment."
"But there remains an urgent and unfinished agenda for Africa's children and it is imperative that the post-MDG framework tackles children's realities and their potential in a comprehensive and accountable way. So for the sake of development - human, social and economic - it is time to put children and their rights and best interests at the centre of development, nowhere more so than in Africa."
The global community has been intensely discussing what will replace the MDGs and at the AU Summit being held 26-27 May, which will mark the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of Africa Unity/AU, Heads of State will adopt Africa's Common Position on the Post-2015 Agenda.
"Children under the age of 18 make up as much as 60 percent of the population in some African countries. Not only should such a large constituency have their rights promoted and protected, they also represent a potential productive workforce that can further drive and accelerate economic growth in the region", said Ambassador Moushira Khattab, former Vice Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. "So our goal is simple - to ensure the rights and needs of these children are front and centre in the post-2015 development agenda".
Malnutrition was one of the critical issues the panel discussed, ahead of next month's Nutrition for Growth Summit hosted by the UK prior to the annual G8 meeting. Chronic malnutrition continues to persist at unacceptable levels in Africa - as high as 40% in some countries - with little improvement in these trends over the past two decades in many countries as the region experiences a deteriorating nutritional situation.
"Well-nourished children are the cornerstone of any nation's economic, social and political development, and children's failure to meet their full development potential places severe constraints on a nation's current and future economic growth and wellbeing. So it is imperative that the new development agenda leads the way in the battle against malnutrition," said H.E. Mrs Graça Machel, founder of the Graça Machel Trust. "The attention on nutrition ahead of the UK's Nutrition for Growth meeting is more important than ever and governments must ensure nutrition is a priority not only in the health sector but in education, agriculture and social protection", added Mr. Martin Mogwanja, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF.
Discussions at the panel event focused on a series of recommendations in ACPF's Towards an African Position on Children and the Post-2015 Development Agenda which was drawn up through research, analysis and consultations with child rights experts throughout Africa to provide a common voice on the way forward for children in the next decade and beyond.
The recommendations include:
- Elimination of preventable infant and child deaths.
- Greater investment to ensure adequate nutrition.
- Universal access to quality education at both the primary and secondary levels, especially for girls.
- Universalise birth registration (Currently an estimated 56% of births in Africa are not registered).
- Skills-building and vocational training, specifically for older children and adolescents.
- Ensuring protection of children against all forms of violence, including harmful practices.
- Combating child poverty.
Source: The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF)