Pioneering Child Rights Policy from Zanzibar wins distinguished international award

Future Policy Award 2015: Gold goes to Zanzibar’s Children’s Act, Maryland, U.S. and Finland win silverP

Embargoed to 1900 CET 20 October

Hamburg/Geneva/New York – 20 October 2015: Zanzibar’s pioneering child rights law is the winner of the 2015 Future Policy Award on securing children’s rights, beating 29 other nominated policies to the prize. The Award will be presented at a ceremony in Geneva today by the World Future Council, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UNICEF during the 133rd IPU Assembly.

The “Children’s Act” was awarded for its effective response to child abuse and violence and for its promotion and protection of child rights that have led to a marked societal change in attitudes towards children in Zanzibar. Alongside a revamped child protection system, many schools are now piloting alternatives to the previously widespread use of corporal punishment and thousands of children have been assisted in returning to school from harmful work. A pioneering feature was a child consultation process which provided young people with an understanding of the law and their rights, leading to the establishment of over 200 Children’s Councils.

On learning about the Gold prize, Asha Abdullah, Principal Secretary of the Zanzibar Ministry of Empowerment, Social, Welfare, Youth, Women and Children said: “This is a great honour. The Award will not only raise global awareness of our model of child rights legislation, but also enhance our commitment to its implementation.”

Jakob von Uexkull, Founder and Chair of the World Future Council, said: “This prize celebrates policies that help us to do the right thing by creating the right rules. Children are among the most vulnerable group facing a host of the world’s emerging challenges. We need more laws that support a just world and protect the rights of future generations.”  

Silver awards were granted to two other policies. The state of Maryland in the US was recognized for becoming the first to require students to be environmentally literate as a high school graduation requirement. Other states, such as Kentucky and Utah have since developed education plans based on Maryland’s “Environmental Literacy Standards”.

Finland’s ‘Basic Education Act’, adopted in 1998 won the second Silver Award for guaranteeing  children’s equal access to high-quality education and training, irrespective of ethnic origin, age, wealth, language or location.  Finland’s holistic and trust based education system produces excellent results, both in terms of child well-being and international test scores.

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said: Parliaments can lead the response against child abuse and violence by ensuring international commitments on children’s rights are adhered to nationally through laws that are effectively implemented and monitored. The winning policies can only inspire parliaments and parliamentarians everywhere on concrete action to take. ”

Honourable Mentions were conferred on Sweden’s Children and Parent Code which prohibits all corporal punishment and other humiliating treatment of children, and Argentina’s Supreme Court’s Judgement on Environmental Rights.

UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake commended the recognition bestowed by the awards: “Children’s rights are brought to life not through pronouncements, but through practical action.  Parliamentarians are among UNICEF’s most important partners in driving that action and the results it can achieve in children’s lives.  We applaud the World Future Council for spurring more parliamentarians to leverage their powers on behalf of the world’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable children.”

The Future Policy Award is the only award which honours policies rather than people on an international level. The World Future Council will now work to globally raise awareness of the winning model policies and assist policy-makers to develop and implement similar initiatives.