Sunday, June 23, 2013

Presidential Candidates Sign Commitment to Child Rights

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By Dashiell Young-Saver

The three Presidential candidates – Ts.Elbegdorj (Democratic Party), B.Bat-Erdene (Mongolian People’s Party), and N.Udval (Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party) – signed a statement on child rights and protection supported by UNICEF and the National Authority for Children (among other organizations) during the closing days of the campaign, effectively making a common commitment towards supporting the rights of children through their individual policies.

Earlier this month, five hundred Mongolian children from a variety of socio-economic and geographic backgrounds gathered at the National Forum on Children to construct the statement the candidates endorsed. In total, the document contains 27 mostly unedited complaints, statements, and suggestion from the children regarding their rights and protection, which range from discussions on alcoholism and fighting in the home to divorce, school hours, and even evening cinemas.
 “Because of the commitment of politicians around children’s issues, it really shows that when it comes to children, they are ready to work across their traditional divides and have a consensus,” said Mohamed Fall, the UNICEF representative in Mongolia. He further emphasized that the candidates not only demonstrated their own commitment, but the statement also showed the children’s commitment to participating in the process of shaping their own legal and cultural environment.

“With this event, we are bringing the issues of Mongolian children to the level of decision-makers in order to make sure they follow up on those when elected,” said I.Naratuya, the President of the National Authority for Children. She and Mr Fall were in attendance for each of the signings.
At the MPRP headquarters Saturday morning, N.Udval became the first candidate to sign the statement. In addition to currently serving as the Minister of Health, N.Udval has been trained in pediatric work and was a main contributor to a joint health survey done by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health in 2000. During the event, she emphasized her background in children’s health and her platform regarding child health rights, which she claimed separates her commitment to the children from those of the other candidates.
“Above all else, I’m for children’s rights and protection for their health and well-being in a safe environment,” she said.
The current President, Ts.Elbegdorj of the DP, was the second candidate to sign the document. After providing his signature, Ts.Elbegdorj spoke about solving the issues raised by allocating new funds generated by the mining sector to education development. If reelected, the President stated that he would give assistance to mothers raising five or more children, increase the number of elementary schools in the country (he said in two years, there will be 80 such schools in UB), decrease the distance children have to travel for school, build social infrastructure to connect children with disabilities with other children, and institute various other policies relating to improving educational access.
“I think we have to relate … economic success with our people and we have to support them,” he said. “Mongolia historically has been really committed to the children and to their families … and I think we have to continue with that tradition.”
B.Bat-Erdene of the MPP signed the document yesterday. After the ceremony at the party headquarters, he could not be reached for comment.
Organizers were optimistic that each of the candidates genuinely showed their support for change in the legal and cultural environment for children in Mongolia. Yet, they emphasized that putting names on paper was only the first step in the process of acting upon the concerns the children expressed in their statement.
“I think the country has really set a standard that can be shared with other areas of the world for the advancement of children,” stated Fall. “But the remaining challenge is … the gaps. We need to work with the nation as “one” around the issues of children; and that means that we need to work with communities, we need to work with families, and we need to work with civil society.”
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