8 Nov 2010

20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - U.S.A. still not signed

Earth Times - October 7, 2009

PREVIEW: UN set to mark 20 years of children's rights

Geneva - The United Nations will kick off on Thursday events in Geneva to mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, widely hailed by activists as one of the international organization's most successful treaties.

All UN member states, excepting the United States and Somalia, have joined the convention, which seeks to protect children from abuse and encourage their healthy development.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the treaty has reach near-universal ratification faster than any other such convention. The convention also birthed a special committee which reviews the behaviour of each member and follows up on their commitments to the treaty. If states fail to implement the provisions they signed onto the committee can single them out and recommend legislative changes.

"The committee reviews each state every four years and states take the process very seriously," said Colville. For the next five weeks, leading up to November 20, the day in 1989 that the UN General Assembly adopted the convention, governmental and non-governmental bodies will engage in activities to celebrate children's rights and highlight problems.

The convention itself aims to protect children, meaning anyone under 18 years of age, from violence and ensure adequate education, health care and nutrition. Moreover, it grants the youngsters freedoms on issue like religion, thought and speech while guaranteeing them safe spaces to play and engage in cultural activities.

"Children all across the world face massive problems, including exploitation, abduction, trafficking, being forced to fight in armed conflicts and more," Colville said. The global financial crisis also has human rights activists concerned, as, generally speaking, when money is short, education and health are cut out of family budgets, and children can be forced into hazardous labour and other dangerous situations.

Also of perennial concern in certain parts of the world are issues like children in unfit detention conditions and executions of minors. The first event, to be attended by Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and ministers from several states, including Brazil, Norway and Slovakia, will last for two days in Geneva.

Thomas Hammarberg, one of the key people behind the convention more than 20 years ago, and now the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, will also take part.

Youngsters from five continents will participate at the event, being organized by Pillay's office and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). The children will give their input at workshops on various issues, including the rights of the child during the economic crisis.

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