The Convention on the Rights of the Child – 25 years on
Different perspectives on the need to underline the promises made to children everywhere – and take action!
The Convention on the Rights of the Child represents a remarkable milestone in the journey to build a more just world: it is the first international instrument to articulate the entire complement of rights relevant to children – economic, social, cultural, civil and political. It is also the first international instrument to explicitly recognize children as active holders of their own rights.
The importance of the Convention was recognized from the outset and it quickly became the most rapidly and widely ratified human rights treaty in history. The Convention has now been ratified by 194 States.Its almost universal ratification shows an unparalleled level of agreement among the world’s nations: That children must receive the treatment and respect to which they have an innate and immutable right.
The Convention offers a vision of a world in which children have a healthy start in life and are educated and protected, a world in which their views are respected and they can develop their full physical and mental potential. its guiding principles – non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child – have had a profound influence on how children are treated and regarded the world over.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.
The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity.
The unprecedented acceptance of the Convention clearly shows a wide global commitment to advancing children’s rights.
There is much to celebrate as we mark the 25th anniversary of the Convention, from declining infant mortality to rising school enrolment, but this historic milestone must also serve as an urgent reminder that much remains to be done. Too many children still do not enjoy their full rights on par with their peers.
Business as usual is not enough to make the vision of the Convention a reality for all children. The world needs new ideas and approaches, and the Convention must become a guiding document for every human being in every nation.
Twenty-five years ago, world leaders were united behind a common vision: to promote and protect the rights of all children.
The adoption of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child was a landmark moment: For the first time, children were recognized as the holders of a unique set of rights — education, leisure, participate in society, health and protection.
We’ve come a long way in those 25 years. For example, the number of children under the age of 5 that die each year from preventable causes has almost halved globally, and almost 50 million more children are in school. Yet the fact remains that we are a long way from realizing the vision set out in the CDC. Children’s rights are still violated daily, in the European Union and globally. Today, 57 million children are still unable to go to school and 250 million children are either out of school or not learning. Up to 1.5 billion children experience violence annually. Almost 27 million European children are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
While the EU has played its part in the progress made, it must also accept responsibility for the gaps which remain. Too often, despite promises on paper, Brussels has failed to live up to its commitments to children. The current Human Rights Strategic Framework and accompanying Action Plan, for example, is a case in point. While this had the potential to make a positive and lasting difference to the lives of children around the world, many of the proposed actions — such as the campaign aimed at eliminating violence against children — were never implemented.
On the 25th anniversary of the CRC, we want more EU action on these three topics to fulfil the bloc’s commitments to children:
1. Develop a strategic and comprehensive human rights framework. The protection of children’s rights is an explicit objective in the EU’s internal and external action thanks to theLisbon Treaty, and the new EU leadership has a golden opportunity to address previous shortcomings and realize the bloc’s objectives in this area. The newly appointed European Commission must actively develop a comprehensive vision for the future of the EU’s policies and legislation that will impact on children within and outside of Europe. It must do this through tools such as Policy Coherence for Development, as well as through specific policies on children’s rights. The European Commission and European External Action Service must therefore strive to deliver a much more strategic and comprehensive human rights framework when it is renewed in 2015. Crucially, there must be concerted action by EU delegations to implement the framework.
2. Ensure adequate and sustained investment in children’s rights. This must be backed up by adequate, sustained investment in programs which take a holistic approach to promoting children’s rights. Through the “child well-being” budget line in the 2014-2020 Development Cooperation Instrument, the EU has the ability to do precisely this. Working in concert with other budget lines affecting children, such as those covering health, education and gender equality, the EU has the means necessary to ensure the rights enshrined in the CRC are fulfilled.
3. Emphasize participation, equality, inclusion and accountability post-2015. Globally, the EU must push for a post-2015 framework that places the rights and the well-being of children at its center, with a strong emphasis on participation, equality, inclusion and accountability. Given the universality of the future framework and its wide scope in covering social, economic, environmental and governance issues — all of which are critical for children — the EU must ensure that the goals and targets are both ambitious enough and relevant for implementation internally in the EU as well as externally. Sustained and long-term action is required for all children to claim their rights. Investing in the survival, development, protection and participation of all girls and boys is essential for the promotion of sustainable development, the fulfilment of human rights, and addressing structural inequalities and intergenerational poverty.
As the EU’s new leaders take over the reins, they must push for children’s rights to be mainstreamed throughout all the bloc’s development work. Change requires action, and action requires political will and real investment. Good intentions are not enough. The EU should play its part in making the promises of the CRC a reality for all children.
In addition to the authors and their organizations, this article is also co-signed by the Alliance for Childhood European Network Group, Eurochild, Missing Children Europe, PICUM and SOS Children’s Villages.
And how the CRC is progressing:
Three optional protocols to the Convention have been adopted by the General Assembly. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was adopted on 25 May 2000 and came into force on 18 January 2002. It requires States parties to prohibit the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict was also adopted on 25 May 2000 and came into force on 12 February 2002. It requires States parties to take all feasible measures to ensure that children do not take a direct part in hostilities. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on a communications procedure was adopted on 19 December 2011 and provides a mechanism for the submission of communications by or on behalf of an individual or group claiming to be victims of a violation of the Convention. Communications submitted under this Optional Protocol are received and considered by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which was established under the Convention. This Optional Protocol has not yet entered into force.
CRIN reminds us of the many conflicts in which children’s rights are certainly not protected or promoted.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). To mark that event, this special issue of the Children and Armed Conflict CRINmail draws attention to conflicts and issues affecting children in conflict that have slipped out of our consciousness or never made it there in the first place.
- No end to war in Darfur
- The ‘forgotten crisis’ of CAR
- Business as usual in DR Congo?
- No peace in Mali
- Anti-Muslim violence in Sri Lanka
- More than 50 years of conflict in Colombia
- Boko Haram active since 2009
- Unaccompanied migrant children
- Demobilisation programmes
- Prosecution of child soldiers
- Transitional justice
- Armed violence
- Military tribunals
- Drone strikes
In times of armed conflict, children’s rights are violated in horrific ways: they are killed and maimed, abducted, recruited to fight, and experience sexual violence and attacks on their daily lives.
According to the 1996 UN report on the ‘Impact of Armed Conflict on Children’, prepared by Graça Machel, “in recent decades, the proportion of war victims who are civilians has leaped dramatically from five per cent to over 90 per cent.“
Hundreds of children are dying, with many more injured and displaced, while those responsible escape with impunity. Perpetrators of violations of children’s rights in times of armed conflict must be prosecuted to ensure victims obtain justice and reparation.
Information is a powerful – and necessary – tool for conveying the horrors of warfare, understanding the impact of conflict on different population groups, gathering evidence on possible rights violations and eventually securing accountability.