At a meeting on 19 January, the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) pledged to not only deepen their existing collaboration but also explore even more joint projects to protect and provide for children.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and UNICEF deputy executive director Justin Forsyth signed a “Memorandum of Collaboration 2018-2021” that regulates a partnership between the WCC and UNICEF in line with the newly approved UNICEF Strategic Plan.
A formal global collaboration between the WCC and UNICEF began in September 2015. As a result of the first two years of work together, a comprehensive participatory process involving 235 experts rallied WCC member churches to monitor and promote children’s rights in their communities and within their congregations through the initiative, “Churches’ Commitments to Children.”
Tveit said he has been encouraged by the strong response from member churches in all continents to this program,” he said. “They have something to offer. We share the faith that God came to us as a child. That changes our perspectives on all human beings.”
WCC member churches clearly want to develop and share even more resources as Churches’ Commitments to Children continues, Tveit added. “They have something they want to develop further in cooperation with the WCC and UNICEF,” he said. “Children need protection everywhere. We are grateful for the continuing cooperation and we will explore new possibilities of joint projects.”
Forsyth echoed Tveit’s positive outlook, saying that UNICEF values its partnership with WCC and would like to deepen it.
“Children are the most vulnerable in any of the tragedies we deal with: forced migration, war, famine, and more,” said Forsyth. “Collectively we have an obligation to protect and provide for children. Christians around the world are committed to the protection and care of children. This joint effort by the WCC and UNICEF would lead to action that will save the lives of millions of vulnerable children globally.”
Forsyth noted that, today, fewer children die of starvation and more children go to school than in the past. “But there are still millions of children being left behind who are the victims of conflict and extreme poverty,” he said. “And for those children caught in war zones or trapped between nations as refugees or undocumented and stateless, the situation is dire. They not only become casualties of war, but they are becoming the instruments of war, recruited as child soldiers, forced to strap on bombs, used as human shields. We must protect children everywhere.”