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Introduction: Letter to UNICEF (With Martha Ross DeWitt)

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Introduction: Letter to UNICEF

Ms. Carol Bellamy

Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

Dear Ms. Bellamy,

We are pleased to send you our Concept of children’s suffrage (19 pages) and Concept for international sociological research o­n attitudes of parents to children’s suffrage (10 pages). Below we suggest, briefly, a systemic framework for children’ s suffrage, and the anticipated consequences for societies and their political systems.

Children’s suffrage means that the law grants children under age 18 the RIGHT to vote and entitles them to be entered into electoral register s, but the EXERCISE of the right (the voting) is incumbent, by law, o­n their parents or legal guardians. Children’s suffrage will eliminate the age qualification, a characteristic of industrial society, and put an end to society's neglect of children. It will abolish political discrimination against children and make them equal with adults in electoral rights. A result will be the formation, in legislative bodies, of a parliamentary majority (the votes of parents and their children will constitute a majority of the total votes), which will result in a governmental mechanism for the efficient handling of children's problems (education, health, crime, drugs, homelessness, prostitution, etc.). This mechanism w ill find resources to ameliorate the problems of children’s welfare and raise their families' living standards. It will strengthen the authority and importance of parents, especially mothers. It will en sure priority financing for the social sphere, with considerable salary increases for teachers, doctors and al l others employed in childcare, which is certain to make society truly social. All population groups are due to benefit from the adoption of the law. Children’s suffrage will cause a major transformation of the electoral and political system, purge it from corruption, promote a socially oriented redistribution of the state budget, and provide a systematic solution for the problems of childhood. Children’s suffrage is regarded by us as a key right of the child, the execution of which provides effective performance of ALL rights of children, as prescribed by the UN Convention o­n the Rights of the Child. The necessity, content and social consequences of children’s suffrage are considered in more detail in Concept-1 (enclosed).

Historically, this idea has been around, in various forms, for nearly a century! Here we highlight two public events. It was brought up as far back as 1905, by the well known Russian scientist D.I.Mendeleyev, albeit in a slightly different form -- he proposed to indirectly introduce a "children qualification" for members of the State Duma. ( Zavetnye Mysli, Moscow, 1995, p.344). And recently, in January, 2004, Belgian cardinal Gustaaf Joos has ridiculed the electoral principle of “one person - o­ne vote.” He has said: “I find it strange that (an) 18 year old has the same vote as a father of seven. o­ne has no responsibilities whatsoever, the other provides tomorrow's citizens.” (Australian newspaper The Age, January 23rd, 2004, p 8). The idea returns frequently, o­n the o­ne hand because of "poverty, discrimination, and society's neglect of children," and o­n the other because of a need "to make the world fit for children," which the UN Special Session o­n Children stressed in 2002, in a session carried out under the auspices of UNICEF.

In Concept-2 we propose a comparative, sociological study to determine attitudes toward children’s suffrage in different countries of the world. The first part of the study would examine the attitudes of 1,000 parents and guardians in four large cities, two in rich countries (US and Australia or France) and two in poor o­nes (Russia and Brazil). (T his selection might be amended later.) Based o­n the findings, if parents in at least o­ne of the countries approve of children’s suffrage, a proposal will be prepared for UNICEF, calling for the introduction of a special clause about children’s suffrage in the UN Convention o­n the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So, our Concepts are pivoted around objectives set by UNICEF, and intended to provide, first of all, a method of efficient IMPLEMENTATION of the UN Convention o­n the Rights of the Child. Children’s suffrage, as a social institution, is believed to be such a method.

In connection with the above, we request UNICEF to become a sponsor of the international, sociological study, to include it in UNICEF's program for the next three years, and to consider the possibility of financing the project in the first stage, in the amount of the USD 130 thousand (optimal), or 55 thousand (alternative, minimal version ), or financing a part of the first stage . We also ask UNICEF to make recommendations o­n aspects of the Concepts and the study, especially the questionnaire, the pool of countries under examination, the hypotheses, the pool of researchers, the number of interviews, and additional sources of possible funding.

With deep respect and hope for acceptance of our proposal,

Leo Semashko and Martha Ross DeWitt

February 9, 2004

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