The Institute of International Relations (IIR), The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, will serve as the base where all issues concerning Caribbean children will be monitored.
This was announced on Tuesday at Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port of Spain, where The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)signed three agreements—a Multi-Country Programme Action Plan 2012-2016 between the Governments of the Eastern Caribbean area and UNICEF; the Trinidad and Tobago Strategic Actions for Children and Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; and UNICEF Work Plan 2013 to 2016—and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the University of the West Indies (UWI) and UNICEF, to establish an observatory link to key issues related to the monitoring of the welfare of children.
Director of the IIR Professor Andy Knight described the signing of the MOU as part of a larger effort, as all Caricom states are signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“And as such they have all committed to respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of all children in their respective countries. And because the Convention on the Rights of the Child is a legally binding international treaty, State parties are obligated to undertake actions and polices that are in the best interest of children across the region.
“Our task as the hub of the Child Rights Observatory Network is to ensure that States in this region live up to their obligations and the Institute of International Relations will work collaborative with agencies and bodies who are at the forefront of this very important issue of protecting children’s rights to strengthen the coordination and the evaluation of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols,” Knight added.
“We will work closely with UNICEF to coordinate data collection, analysis and the development of evidence-based, evidence-informed policies for children all across the Caribbean region.”
Minister of Planning and Development Dr Bhoe Tewarie, who expressed concern over the high school drop out rate in Trinidad and Tobago, said the MOU between The UWI and UNICEF, through the IIR, would link to key issues related to the monitoring of the welfare of children.
“The focus is to strengthen the work done by the Government in the areas related to children’s rights, gender affairs and family life in Trinidad and Tobago. In the area of education, preliminary results from the Millennium Development Goals Report indicate access to Early Childhood Education is now at about 90 per cent... The tertiary level participation rate increased from 15 per cent (2004) to 46.4 per cent (2009/2010),” said Tewarie.
“Universal access to secondary education has been achieved but the increasing number of drop-outs will be closely monitored. The six per cent target for these areas are likely to be achieved by 2015 and there has been an increasing emphasis on technical/vocational.
We have achieved gender parity in primary education. At least 90 per cent of boys and girls have completed primary school level education. In secondary school, we have excellent access but we do have a drop out, lack of completion and lack of certification challenge for a fair number,” he pointed out.
Tewarie said, despite this overall progress, children are still highly vulnerable.
“In recent months this has been reflected in the reported news media. We are very concerned about the effect of abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect on our children. There are levels of depravity which have been revealed which have shocked and jolted on human sensibility,” he added.