“I am a child of Timor-Leste, and I am the future,” sang the children, a chorus that echoed throughout the gardens of the Presidential Palace in Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital. This marked the beginning of celebrations for Children’s Day* and the launch of the first ever National Action Plan for Children 2016-2020 (NAPC). The Action Plan resonates with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), offering strategies and concrete targets for improving the lives of all children and assisting them in reaching their full potential.
More than 300 participants, most of them young pre-school children between the ages of three and five, travelled from across Timor-Leste to celebrate this significant milestone, the NAPC was jointly launched by the President and the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, a first in the young nation’s history.
With the Presidential gardens full of balloons and flowers, a pre-school marching band played and children ran around waving Timorese flags. The energy and excitement was contagious, with all present celebrating the progress made and the promise of an even brighter future. The way forward was emotionally captured as the children sang, “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day……”
Investing in the future
“Together we join our hands to take care of children because they are our future,” said Francisco Guterres, President of Timor-Leste. The symbolic handing over of the NAPC to a young girl, Arsenia, a grade 7 student from Café Liquica Basic Education School, was a moving moment during the celebrations. After receiving the book from the President, she then handed it over to the Prime Minister, Rui Maria de Araújo, placing responsibility for the wellbeing and development of children of Timor-Leste in his hands.
“The Government’s commitment to the children of Timor-Leste is shown through the approval of the National Action Plan, but it doesn’t stop here. The plan reflects the willingness of the Government of Timor-Leste to build an environment that promotes respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of boys and girls in our country, particularly those who live in challenging situations and in remote and rural areas,” said Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo at the occasion.
“The NAPC provides guidelines to government and all partners for defining policies, legal frameworks and programmes and activities that can benefit and bring changes for the children of Timor-Leste” he continued, while reflecting on the importance of the plan.
The Plan is a roadmap, outlining how to progressively build an enabling environment for children that respects, protects and fulfils the rights of all boys and girls in the country, particularly of children living in disadvantaged situations. It is the first cross-sectorial NAPC to focus on the realization of the rights of every child in Timor-Leste. It also reflects the Government’s recognition of children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation and their right to attain their full potential in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Voices of people
Following the 70th session of the UN Committee on the Rights of Children held in September 2015, the Government of Timor-Leste received the Concluding Observation from the Committee. One of the key recommendations for Timor-Leste was the adoption of a plan of action for ensuring child rights.
Accordingly, the NAPC was developed with the collective efforts of various ministries, municipality (districts) offices, and civil society organizations, including children. The initiative was led by the Commission for the Rights of the Child, with support from UNICEF. It focuses on four key areas: child protection; child and adolescent health and nutrition;, pre-school and basic education and child and youth participation. These thematic areas will be supported through the creation of a strong enabling environment, by addressing cross cutting issues such as law and legislation, budget allocation, advocacy and monitoring and evaluation as mentioned in the document. The importance of harmonizing child-related goals, strategies and timelines by all government ministries collectively was at the centre of discussions.
Investing in the Future
“Today we are all here to launch the National Action Plan for Children. This is our achievement and reflection of the commitment of our VI Constitutional Government to ensure child rights. It’s also reflected in our key documents such as the Strategic Development Plan,” said the Prime Minister Rui Maria de Araújo while emphasizing on the importance of implementation of the NAPC.
Achieving the goals and commitments outlined in the NAPC requires the continued support and strengthening of key partnerships, including with and among government ministries, international and local NGOs, UN agencies and civil society. “The NAPC is a collective commitment to achieving ambitious gains in child survival, development, protection and participation for all children in Timor-Leste by 2020. For a young nation, with a young population, investing in children, and in the strategies and actions outlined in the NAPC, will result in stronger, more equitable and more sustainable development in Timor-Leste,” said Scott Whoolery, UNICEF Representative (a.i.) and Deputy Representative with optimism.
The launch of the NAPC on Children’s day is an important symbolic moment and significant step for a young nation, as it reaffirms a commitment to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all children. With the guidance of the NAPC and continued support from UNICEF and other partners, the Government of Timor-Leste looks towards the collective achievement of its goals and to bringing hope and increased opportunities for all children.
“One for all, All for one,” a young participant waving the national flag and chanting the slogan with the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.
The full implementation of the NAPC will enable children of Timor-Leste to reach their full potential, specifically children who are disadvantaged and leaving no one behind. This was summed up by the crowd, led by the Prime Minister, chanting “One for all, All for one.”
Timor-Leste is one of many countries in the region that celebrates Children’s Day on 1 June.