Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth secretary-general, is urging Commonwealth countries to work together to end the institutional care of children and reform protection services to ensure every child is safe, protected and able to reach their full potential.
Scotland made this call on Thursday (February 23) during a meeting with government officials, stakeholders and experts to discuss the implementation of the Kigali Declaration on Child Care and Protection Reform, a declaration which was agreed upon by Commonwealth countries in June 2022.
“More than five million children around the world still live in institutions. Most of these children are not orphans around 80 per cent of them have at least one living parent. But their institutionalisation disproportionately exposes them to vulnerabilities and marginalisation, which can inhibit their development and life chances,” she said.
The Commonwealth secretary-general outlined that growing up in a family environment is critical to a child’s wellbeing and development.
She also noted that every child is entitled to a happy and fulfilling upbringing which is outlined under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“We can all work together to prioritise support for, investment in, and reform of childcare and protection services – to enable children to live without abuse or discrimination of any kind; to enjoy their civil, political, social and cultural rights; and to flourish as equal, valued and productive human beings.
“We cannot afford to fail our children, so we must give their wellbeing the priority it deserves – and act together to ensure that every child in Commonwealth is safe, protected and able to reach their full potential,” Scotland said.
The Kigali Declaration on Child Care and Protection Reform is a historic agreement among Commonwealth countries that focuses on ensuring and restoring the rights of children following the COVID-19 pandemic, paying particular attention to the most marginalised and excluded.
It contains commitments to phase out orphanages in the Commonwealth and opt for community care of children to tackle the underlying causes that lead to separation of parents and children.
It also contains commitments to eliminate child labour in all its forms, including forced labour, trafficking, and sexual exploitation.