What do you want life to be like for children 15 years from now?
Giving children and young people opportunities to express their opinions is a basic right enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by Thailand. Article 12 of the Convention states that all children have the right to participate in decisionmaking processes that may be relevant to their lives, and to influence decisions taken in their regard. Narumol Monchungreed (centre), 23, from Surat Thani province said she would like to see a more concrete plan to provide psychological support for children affected by unrest in the three southernmost provinces.
Suchakorn Krajangjit, who will be 33 in the year 2027, said she would like to see equal education standards for all children in Thailand.
"I would like all children in Bangkok and upcountry to receive education of the same quality," said Suchakorn, 18, of Chon Buri province.
Suchakorn was among more than 67,000 people who participated in the national mobilisation effort to develop Thailand's National Vision for Children 2027. More than 75 per cent of those taking part were children and youth drawn from all parts of the country. The rest were adults from the private sector and civil society, including business and religious leaders, media, academics, government staff, community leaders, parents and civil society representatives.
Unicef provided technical and funding support for the project carried out by the National Child and Youth Committee and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
The effort resulted in a Vision statement which was endorsed by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at a National Child and Youth Committee meeting held recently at Government House. Two youth representatives, who were part of the process, were also the ones to present the Vision statement to the prime minister, who chaired the committee responsible for drafting policies concerning children and youth in Thailand.
Suchakorn Krajangjit, 18, wants to see equal education standards for all children.
"If we want experience, we have to get it from adults. But if we want creativity, we need to get it from children," said the prime minister, who suggested that the statement should be seen as a larger framework for the five-year children and youth development plan.
Prior to the endorsement, the Vision statement was presented to the government in early April by a group of 200 children and youth representing all of the country's provinces during a meeting in Bangkok. Anuttama Amornvivat, secretary to the minister of social development and human security, received the statement on government's behalf.
"The government places great importance on child and youth development. Even though the vision is for the next 15 years, that is not so far away," Anuttama said. "I believe the government will use the statement to guide its future policies on the issue."
Children and youth representatives, including those with disabilities, joined group discussions and seminars at the provincial and regional levels, or filled out survey questionnaires, in order to provide their views on what they want the future to hold for children in Thailand. It was the first time that such a large number took part in a national process to gather opinions on issues that affect their lives.
Giving children and young people opportunities to express their opinions is a basic right enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by Thailand and all but two countries in the world. Article 12 of the Convention states that all children have the right to participate in decision-making processes that may be relevant to their lives, and to influence decisions taken in their regard.
"Without a process like this, there is no opportunity for children to voice their opinion to the government," said Yanawat Kaewsongduang, 20, of Nakhon Si Thammarat province.
Representatives of children and youth explain the National Vision statement to Anuttama Amornvivat, secretary to the minister of social development and human security, standing in for the government to receive the statement during a meeting in Bangkok.
"These are the real voices of children, so we would like adults to listen and pay attention to," said Natchaya Saengowe, 17, from Roi-Et province.
Unicef is using the Vision statement, which took a year to draft, to support its policy advocacy work with the government on increasing investment in programmes for children.
"This statement that we have all agreed upon is superb, as it involves all stages of children's lives, beginning with the mother's pregnancy," said PoorinLikitlerd, 17, from Rayong province. "I want the government to use it to guide children's policies."
The statement says that by 2027 all children born in Thailand should receive fair treatment and have equal rights regardless of their nationality, gender, religion or ethnicity. They should all be registered at birth, receive education and have equal access to public health services. Children with special needs or disabilities should be given the opportunity to develop to their full potential.
In addition, society should pay special attention to ensuring the rights of disadvantaged children and children at risk.
The statement also says that all children and youth should be active learners, virtuous, religious, have discipline, love their country and His Majesty the King. They should also be protected against violence and abuse and have the right to express their opinions to their families and at all levels of society. Additionally, they should respect the rights of other people, know their own rights and roles, volunteer to help others and be valuable citizens of the country.
The statement also cites visions for children and youth in specific age groups. For example, children below the age of 6 should be breastfed for at least a period of six months after birth, while the government should ensure that every child can attend early childhood development centres that provide a good learning environment. Children between the ages of 7-12 should receive the same standard of education and learn a second language. Youth between the ages of 13-18 should be taught life skills, receive proper sex education and be able to express political views and opinions beneficial to their communities. Youth between the ages of 19-25 should have equal opportunity to continue their education, be ready to enter job market and use their knowledge to help develop their communities and become responsible citizens.
"As a representative from the South, I would also like to see a more concrete plan for providing psychological support for children in the three southernmost provinces affected by the unrest there," said Narumol Monchungreed, 23, from Surat Thani province. "There should also be more educational and vocational support for them so that they have more will to get on with their lives."
It is expected that the children of the future will face many challenges, including economic turbulence, social disparities and political unrest. Continued climate change will probably lead to more natural crises, while natural resources are expected to become scarcer. With Asean set to become a single market starting 2015, there will also be more competition for jobs across the region. More importantly, Thailand will become an "ageing society", where there will be fewer people of working age to support an increasingly "greying" population.
All participants joining in the process agreed that the next generation will need to be prepared for these challenges.
"If adults want to see the development of children and youth by the year 2027, they need to do something now," said Kritsana Waingnak, 22, of Phrae province. "It is very important to start making plans for a better future for all children and for our country."
About the author
Writer: Heamakarn Sricharatchanya