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UN?Rights?of?Child?report?calls?for?innovation?to?improve?young?lives

by William M. Reilly

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- The UN Children's Fund ( UNICEF) on Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child with the launch of its first fully digital and crowd-sourced State of the World's Children Report, Reimagining the Future: Innovation for Every Child.

Innovative products, processes and partnerships are critical to realizing the rights of the hardest to reach children, the report said, recalling how such innovations as oral rehydration salts or ready-to-use therapeutic foods have helped drive radical changes in the lives of millions of children.

Urgent action is needed to prevent millions of children from missing out on the benefits of innovation, the latest report said. Connectivity and collaboration can fuel new global networks to leverage innovation to reach every child.

It called on governments, development professionals, businesses, activists and communities to work together to drive new ideas for tackling some of the most pressing problems facing children and to

find new ways of scaling up the best and most promising local innovations.

The crowd-sourced compilation of cutting-edge innovations and an interactive platform maps innovations in countries all over the world and invites innovators to put their own ideas on the map.

"Inequity is as old as humanity, but so is innovation and it has always driven humanity's progress," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. "In our ever-more connected world, local solutions can have global impact, benefiting children in every country who still face inequity and injustice every day."

"For innovation to benefit every child, we have to be more innovative, rethinking the way we foster and fuel new ideas to solve our oldest problems," said Lake, who made a special mention of China in this regard.

"And when I talk about innovations, I'm not only talking about technological innovations but also new ways of thinking, new ways of doing things," said Lake, who shared with Xinhua his recent visit to China.

During his stay in China, Lake visited Chinese villages where people are experimenting through UNICEF and the Chinese government on new ways of teaching in the most disadvantaged areas, "which was going very well and the government will take it to scale some of these ideas around China."

The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Since then, there has been progress in advancing child rights, with a huge reduction in the numbers of children dying before the age of five and increased access to education and clean water, UNICEF said.

However, the rights of millions of children are violated every day, with the poorest 20 percent of the world's children twice as likely as the richest 20 percent to die before their fifth birthday, and almost one in four children in the least developed countries engaged in child labor, and millions of children regularly experiencing discrimination, physical and sexual violence, and abuse and neglect, the report said.

The fully digital report includes multimedia and interactive content that invites readers to share their own ideas and innovations, and highlights outstanding innovations that are already improving lives in countries around the world.

UNICEF said it has prioritized innovation across its network of more than 190 countries, setting up labs around the world including in Afghanistan, Chile, Uganda, and Zambia to foster new ways of thinking, working and collaborating with partners and to nurture local talent.

"There are so many young inventors all across the globe -- even in the remotest corners -- who are committed to changing the world for children," said Bisman Deu, a 16-year old from Chandigarh, India, whose invention of a building material made from rice waste is featured in the report.

"Every nation has different problems and every person has different solutions," said Deu, who appeared at a launch luncheon in UN Headquarters in New York. "We need to learn from one another 's experiences, come together as a global community of innovation and keep producing ideas that can make a real difference."

Viraj Puri, 14, of New York City, another youngster at the launch lunch, developed Bullyvention, "a way to leverage the power of people and technology to track and advocate against cyberbullying," the report said. "Based on algorithms that analyze social media messages, the bullying heat map raises awareness by showing, in real time, where bullying is happening, while partnerships with members of government help turn awareness into action."

"Bullies are insecure. Take a stand. Forget about them. Get on with life," Puri told the luncheon.

The UNICEF report also highlighted some other youngsters' innovations, including a Solar Ear, which is a rechargeable hearing aid battery charger developed by Tendekayi Katsiga of Botswana, Zimbabwe, to meet the needs of communities lacking regular access to electricity.

 
 
 
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