Every Child Has a Right to Realize the Human Potential

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ECW Director Yasmine Sherif interacts with children in DRC

World Children’s Day Statement by ECW Director Yasmine Sherif - 20 November 2022


On World Children’s Day, we must remember what it means to be a child born with a right to reach the human potential. Nothing is more precious, more priceless, than a child growing towards that potential. And nothing is more despicable than to ignore the innocence and learning needs of a child in the process of becoming

The child’s brain is in constant flux and growth and can move in either direction. The education the child receives from day one onwards – the mind, the heart and the soul – will determine the outcome and prospects for achieving the human potential. Sadly, it would take thousands of years until we finally declared – six decades ago – the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. Now, we must realize it.

Children have a right to early childhood development and a right to attend formal school. This is our promise to them as we bring them into the world. Because without them how can we possibly create a better world? Not only are they our world, they are our hope for a better world. They are our promise in materializing all human rights and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Through early learning and childhood development we prepare them for formal education and for life, itself. By encouraging our daughters, we empower them to become strong girls and young women who will lead the way through the 21st century, so that we can bring an end to the era where women were hidden in the dark.

By allowing our children to rebel, explore and develop their curiosity for learning and knowledge, and by matching that with a quality education, we prepare them to become climate activists who will protect both people and planet, teachers who will kindle a light in their students, nurses and doctors who will save lives, human rights activists who will speak truth to power, scientists and entrepreneurs who will keep our drive for creativity and innovation on fire, and government officials who will lead by ethical imperatives and democratic values.

This is what we promised six decades ago in adopting the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. How can we justify six decades later that we have not yet invested in all of them through a quality education – but instead left millions of them to fend for themselves against sexual violence and rape, child marriage, child labor, extreme poverty, illiteracy, recruitment into armed groups, and other violations against children.

Investing in their education is our investment in resilient economies, strong and peaceful communities and is the most profitable investment in a more just and humane world for generations to come.

Now is our time to act for children everywhere. Now is our time to deliver on our promises of an education, especially for the 222 million girls and boys whose education has been brutally disrupted by armed conflicts, forced displacement, climate-induced disasters and protracted crises. Each one has a dream: #222MillionDreams✨📚. Each one has a potential and a story to tell. We need their voices to be heard and their dreams to be realized, now more than ever.

The Government of Switzerland and Education Cannot Wait will host ECW’s High-Level Financing Conference on 16-17 February 2023 in Geneva. Co-convened by the Governments of Colombia, Germany, Niger, Norway and South Sudan, the conference will provide global leaders, and public and private sector donors with the opportunity to substantively fund ECW to help ensure every child, everywhere, is able to go to school – especially the 222 million crisis-impacted children and adolescents caught in the world’s toughest contexts who urgently need education support.  

As the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, ECW is working to deliver on their 222 million dreams. Our Case for Investment and our 2023-2026 Strategic Plan outline our important contribution to these global commitments.

Children are both the present and the future. They must be heard and they must be seen. Their rights must be honored and their potentials realized. They must be put front and center in our global agenda for sustainable development and our global promise to ensure universal human rights, peace and security. The time has come to invest in education as the very foundation for every child and hence the pillar upon which we build the world we want.

About our Director

ECW Executive Director Yasmine Sherif
Yasmine Sherif

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