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Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals for children

2019-10-17GoldenBeeCynthia McCaffrey0

Cynthia McCaffrey, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative to China
On behalf of UNICEF, I would like to extend our congratulations on the 70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People's Republic of China. Over the past decades, China has made tremendous achievements in improving children and women's lives, lifting an estimated 750 million rural people out of extreme poverty, and making great strides in the areas of health, education, emergency response and child development more broadly.

This year is significant for many reasons. It marks the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the 40th anniversary of UNICEF's partnership with the Government of China. Our history of working with China, however, goes back much further. China was the first country in Asia to partner with UNICEF, back in 1947, when we were offering emergency relief services to children.
When UNICEF returned in 1979, we built on that history and for 40 consecutive years have been working closely with the government to roll out impactful programs and initiatives for children, including more than 160 projects in areas such as poverty alleviation, maternal and child health, education, child protection, water and sanitation, emergency response, and many more. Over 40 years, UNICEF has invested more than US$675 million in China's children.

In terms of scope and coverage, UNICEF and the Government of China strive to reach as many children as possible, focusing on the most vulnerable, particularly those in remote, rural and ethnic minority communities. In 2018 alone, our work took place in 279 sites in 30 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities in the country, achieving results that have helped to reduce disparities and improve the lives of children.

There are a lot of numbers here, all reflecting progress. Behind these numbers, however, are real lives, real children. I remember a young boy I met in Quannan County in Jiangxi Province a few months back. This boy, who was left behind to live with his grandmother, was lagging in his development. As his grandmother noted to me – he was missing every development milestone. Enter the Early Childhood Development (ECD) center and its cadre of trained specialists supported by UNICEF and its partners. After just a couple months at the ECD center, there was a noticeable difference. This young boy began to speak more and develop steadily and most importantly, started to play and laugh. 
At 40, the partnership between UNICEF and the Government of China is strengthened by our common desire to improve the lives of children. It is united by a shared vision of ensuring that all children survive, thrive and develop to their fullest potential.

Yet, while we have accomplished so much in the past 40 years, there is still more to be done. Steep targets have been agreed with the Sustainable Development Goals, and in some of the areas we are working on, we still have a long way to go. Despite the progress made on a national level, in-country disparities still exist. For example, eight million children are still living in poverty. An estimated 5 million children are living with disabilities. Internal migration affects 103 million children, with 3 out of 10 children in rural areas left behind by one or both migrating parents. Climate change remains a serious and ever-growing issue. And gender inequality remains, with the problem beginning before birth. For every 100 females born, there are 112 males. UNICEF will continue to work with partners to address inequality in China, and put children first in national poverty alleviation efforts.
Globally, challenges remain in hunger, violence, poverty, natural disasters, lack of access to education, the continued flow of migrants and refugees across borders, and devastation of conflicts. More than five million children still die each year from preventable causes. UNICEF is calling for cutting-edge innovations and ideas to get every young person in school, training or age-appropriate employment by 2030. We also want to support efforts for the reduction of the disparities faced by children – between rural and urban areas, across regions, between boys and girls, among ethnic groups, and according to age, disability and HIV status.

As China's importance on the global stage continues to grow and as the country takes on a bigger role in promoting global sustainable development, UNICEF is committed to working with China and all its partners in South-South cooperation. China's experience in poverty alleviation and its remarkable progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, coupled with UNICEF's technical expertise and presence in more than 190 countries and territories, can provide valuable lessons and inspire change in other countries. Effective collaboration and cooperation will help ensure that China's foreign investments in areas such as infrastructure development and other projects reach and benefit children, young people and their families.
Work remains, but together we can see lasting change. We can make the next 40 years even more fruitful than the previous ones.

We look forward to continuously strengthening our partnership with the Government of China so that every child in China—and beyond—has a chance for a better, brighter future.

(Translated by GoldenBee, the Chinese version of this article is issued on China Sustsinability Tribune wechat account)
(Images in this article are from the Internet)
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