At the closing of the ceremony to celebrate 30 years since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Child Rights Connect’s President, Mária Herczog, called on all stakeholders to put child rights at the highest level of a common agenda to ensure respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of every person in every place.

It is an exceptional honour and privilege to speak here at the closing of this conference, celebrating child rights with children, friends and colleagues. When I was in Geneva in 2005, I was invited to prepare the first ever alternative report as a representative of a Hungarian NGO with the support and assistance of Child Rights Connect. I would have not thought that, 14 years later, I would be here as the President of the same organisation. In the meantime I was a member for eight years of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and could experience the complexities of the approaches, understanding and the implementation  of the Convention. It is a life long learning process and there is a lot more to learn and do.

Thirty years since the adoption of the Convention, we should be self-critical. We should recognize that there are diverging interests at all levels. Diverging interests are natural, but we have allowed these to become competing interests that have given rise to opposing agendas. Civil society has become increasingly split along the lines of the different actors we represent: human rights versus child rights; elderly versus children; persons with disabilities versus children; or parents versus the child. Rifts exist between civil society and States; sometimes innocuous but other times leading to the suppression of civil society. Tensions are present between different mechanisms and agencies of the UN; sometimes also leading to those mechanisms and agencies working at cross purposes or in parallel without any co-operation.

Yet the communities we serve do not care for those divisions. The view of children, including those we have heard from over the past three days, is that we just need to get on with making the world a better place together with them. This is frank and perhaps not always pleasant, but it is not naive nor unachievable. We need to overcome the divisions we have put in place; we need to work more together for the common interest of discharging our commitments and obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of every person in every place.

With those common commitments and obligations in mind, we should maintain our focus but not allow this to overshadow others. It is right that we mainstream child rights within all spheres; within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); within the youth agenda; within the aims of achieving the well-being of families, communities, nations and the world at large.

But we must distinguish between mainstreaming and merging. We must do more than use the SDGs, the youth agenda and other concepts as proxies for child rights. We must address child rights as child rights and treat them as everyone’s priority. We must put child rights at the highest level of our common agenda.

Mária Herczog, President, Child Rights Connect