It is the 20th anniversary of the Child Rights Convention. Ceremonies are being held the world over. Platitudes rent the air. Activists say even if on paper, the convention does mark a step forward, but the anniversary is a reminder of the tasks ahead.
UN itself admits a billion children in the world still go without food, shelter or healthcare and that millions are facing lives of poverty and abuse.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights. In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.
The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education and legal, civil and social services.
This is a landmark year for children and all who work alongside them and on their behalf as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, says Yanghee Lee, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
On the Convention's 20th anniversary, it is important to celebrate the many ways it has advanced children's rights while also acknowledging that it will have to adapt to a new century of threats facing children.
"This fall, the Committee on the Rights of the Child will spend focused energy analyzing the challenges, old and new, that confront the realization of children's rights. After 193 ratifications and 19 years of reporting, the need for a robust evaluation and analysis mechanism to better understand the situation of children remains more important than ever. We must continue to work to ensure that the dignity of children is preserved and hold States accountable for defining their obligations, both in material and moral terms, to prevent violations of children's rights. This includes challenging societies to address the many and varied ways they commodify children and the associated discrimination that does not view children as legitimate rights holders. State parties must include children in the policymaking process and ensure their voices are heard and considered in the development of programs and standards that uniquely impact their lives. Only when States embrace children as their partners will their rights take root and later bear the fruit of peace and equality the Convention seeks for each child," Ms.Lee added.
British charity Everychild said increasing numbers of children were growing up with no parents or separated from their families.
The charity said Russia and other former Soviet countries were of particular concern, with more than a million children living in institutions, many of them with at least one parent still alive, but too poor to care for them.
Everychild warned that other countries were in danger of following the same path by focusing on building orphanages rather than trying to keep families together.
Only two countries are yet to ratify the convention - one, a wrecked state, Somalia and the other the most powerful nation on earth which preens constantly on its democratic credentials, the US!