UNITED NATIONS     -    Children were both seen and heard at the United Nations General Assembly on the World Children’s Day as the body commemorated 30 years of the adoption of a milestone treaty that protects their rights.

Pakistan was represented by Alyana Akram, daughter of Ambassador Munir Akram, at the ceremony that, among numerous events this year, took stock of the progress achieved under the landmark Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“I feel extremely proud that my country, Pakistan, was one of the original signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Alyana, the Pakistani youth delegate, told the large and distinguished gathering in the iconic hall of the 193-member Assembly.

Pakistan, she said, also co-facilitated the adoption of the modalities resolution for the commemoration of this 30th anniversary of the Convention.

“I am confident that Pakistan will continue to fully promote and protect the rights of all children at home and abroad,” Alyana expressed optimism.

In her remarks, she noted that considerable progress had been made over the last 30 years, including more children going to schools, more widely available safe and effective vaccines, improved sanitation standards and a 60 percent drop in infant mortality rate across the globe. But significant challenges remain, the Pakistani youth delegate said, with 1 billion children still living in poverty, suffering from hunger and malnutrition that stunt their physical and mental growth as well as potential. “Food is insufficient, and often polluted by chemicals. Education is not yet universal; nor are opportunities equal,” she said, and added there were growing dangers of exposure to infectious diseases against the backdrop of climate change.

“Technology has improved our lives – better nutrition, education, access to knowledge and information,” she said, adding that it had also created problems as the internet can be a dangerous place for children. “The speed of life could rob us of our youth.”

Addressing such challenges, Alyana said, was essential for full realization of 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and protection of the rights of all children.

On the Convention’s anniversary, she said the world must look ahead to the next 30 years.

“The international community must also listen to young voices on the issues of greatest concern and begin working on twenty-first century solutions to twenty-first century problems,” Alyana asserted.

Earlier, well-known actress Millie Bobby Brown, star of the hit Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’ and the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said, “In world capitals and buildings like this, adults talk about children’s rights. But today, young people don’t want to be talked about. We want to do the talking.”

“Although important markers have been achieved since its adoption, including the fact that more children are now in schools, millions of the world’s poorest children are still being left behind,” she said.

Though no longer a child, football legend David Beckham recalled his youth in the East End of London, where family, teachers and later, coaches, supported his dream of becoming a soccer player.

As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2005, Beckham has seen how scores of children worldwide have not been as fortunate.

“Children hungry and sick; children living through wars; children who lost their parents in earthquakes and floods; girls and boys with different stories and backgrounds, but like all children they have one thing in common: they have ambitions and they have dreams for a better future,” he told the gathering.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that the anniversary of the child rights convention had provided an opportunity to adults and children to work together to build a brighter future.

And while three decades of technological developments have empowered children, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported in Geneva, how the Internet had been used to bully, intimidate and exploit children.

“We need to take action to protect children from exploitation and harm”, she said.  “We need action to ensure that children are empowered to raise their voices - and to protect them from physical attacks and other forms of abuse.”

Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF, said at the event that the “best pathway to a better, more sustainable future for all was to invest in all children today. As we look ahead to the next 30 years of progress, let’s recommit to children’s rights. And let’s make these rights look real in programmes, policies and services in every community, in every country, around the world.”