(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – Thirty years ago, Sri Lanka made a historic commitment to protect and fulll the rights of children, by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – an international law on childhood. Thirty years on, child rights have not changed but the world they live in has evolved. Global changes, like digital technology, climate change and mass migration are changing the lives of the children of today.
While Sri Lanka has made several commendable strides, including lifting millions of families
from extreme poverty, drastically reducing mortality rates for children under 5 and achieving an
almost-universal primary school attendance for boys and girls, there are still many more children
that need help to unlock their vast potential.
Six critical areas that need to be urgently addressed have been identied:
01. Nutrition: According to global research, Sri Lanka is one of the 10 worst low and middleincome
countries in the world for wasting, with worse rates than Nepal, Bangladesh and
02. Education: There is a clear mismatch between the skills in demand in the workplace and
the education of the workforce and the below average spend on education
03. Child Poverty: Varying poverty levels across the country are a major problem creating a
vacuum in the level and quality of access and opportunity available to poorer
04.Corporal Punishment: Despite Sri Lanka’s commitment to banning all forms of corporal
punishment, damaging physical punishment is still common and legal in across the
country, leading to physical and mental trauma, aect a child’s brain development and
cause lifelong psychological damage.
05.Unity: Despite the progress made since 2009, Sri Lanka continues to grapple with
communal disharmony, leading to violence and negatively contributing to national
06.Climate Change: Children suer the most from the direct physical impact of extreme
weather. Extreme climate events have a direct impact on their education, on
psychological stress and on nutrition.
In this light, the upcoming presidential election presents a unique opportunity for Sri Lanka to
shape its vision of a fair and prosperous future. Sri Lanka’s 6 million young people cannot vote,
but it is our duty to ensure that they are given an opportunity to enjoy an equal chance to live,
learn, grow and succeed in a rapidly changing, increasingly complex world. So much progress
has been made with regards to the children of this country, yet there is so much that needs to
be done, to ensure the welfare of the children of Sri Lanka.
Focusing on areas that require timely and urgent action, UNICEF had identied 6 key
commitments that the presidential candidates can promise to implement after they take up oce
Ending child malnutrition forever, including by addressing Sri Lanka’s child malnutrition
problem by increasing investment into community-based care and treatment of acute
Building an education system that prepares our young for the future, including by ensuring
that every school places the child at the centre.
Giving every child a fair chance to succeed by ending child poverty, including through the
establishment of a universal child benet, as a concrete means to smoothing disparities,
eliminating child poverty, and ensuring the right start in life for all children.
Banning damaging physical punishment against children, including by legally and explicitly
prohibiting any act of physical force or humiliating action while promoting and implementing
positive methods of disciplining children.
Creating an inclusive and peaceful Sri Lanka for all, including through putting the National
Action Plan on Education for Social Cohesion and Peace into action.
Fighting climate change and preparing Sri Lanka for its eects, including by prioritizing the
conservation and restoration of forests, wetlands and other ecosystems and ensuring all
government ministries consider the environmental impact of future programmes, while
supporting climate change adaptation.
To mark this important moment, and the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, UNICEF Sri Lanka will launch ‘Ara Wade: A Vote For Children’, a campaign that calls
on all presidential candidates to commit publicly to addressing the rights of children when they
take up oce. ‘Ara Wade: A Vote For Children’ also aims to create awareness among the Sri
Lankan public of the 6 critical needs of children, with the public encouraged to visit
www.arawade.lk to ask all candidates, via an online letter, to make this vital commitment.