Convention on the Rights of the Child Turns 20

On Friday, November 20, 2009, UNICEF commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the first legally binding international document securing human rights for children.  At the event, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman described what had been achieved on behalf of the world’s children through this document, such as “reductions in child mortality, child trafficking and recruitment of child soldiers, and increases in school enrollment, access to safe water and the legal age of marriage for girls in many nations.”

Children’s rights are a cornerstone of the UN Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight key development objectives that provide a comprehensive framework for addressing the most pressing issues of poverty worldwide. Children’s rights are also intimately connected with women’s rights. As noted in the May 2009 edition of the World Savvy Monitor, “female children face significant disadvantages in societies with great gender inequality, initiating a cycle of women’s disempowerment that is difficult to escape.  At issue are abrogations of basic universal human rights as well as gender-specific abuses.  As is usually the case, most issues around this topic stem from poverty.  Growing attention is being focused on leveling the playing field for young girls and boys, protecting girls from predation, and providing affirmative action to redress entrenched discrimination in societies.  The goal is to help today’s generation of girl children, and create a positive influence for generations to come.”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty, ratified by 192 nations, except for the United States and Somalia.  Last week, however, the transitional government of Somalia declared their intention to ratify the convention.  If the Somali government does indeed ratify the Convention, the US will stand alone in this regard.  The US signed the treaty in 1995, indicating a general agreement with its principles, and an intention to review and potentially ratify the treaty someday.  The Convention itself has become a point of contention in the United States, primarily from those who believe it will intrude upon US sovereignty and parent’s rights concerning children.

To learn more about the Convention of the Rights of the Child and background on why the US has not ratified the convention, visit the website of UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, or this blog posting from the New American criticizing the CRC.

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