November 20th, 1989, was the first time children were recognized as veracious holders in an International Treaty at the United Nations State Members General Assembly in New York, and now in 2015 we have the pleasure of celebrating its 26th anniversary. The importance of this Convention it is not just about addressing the crucial matters of the abuse children’s human rights. It has marked the transition from addressing children’s immediate need of help into a strong advocacy for a systemic change intended for the realization of children’s rights.
This convention is a result of decades of efforts in promoting the rights of the child and the formation of a child oriented human rights convention. The value and essentiality of this treaty is also showed by the number of participants. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. As of this day, 194 countries of the world have ratified it, and the unprecedented acceptance of the Convention clearly shows a wide global commitment to advancing children’s rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. It defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen, unless the age of majority is attained earlier under a state's own domestic legislation. Also, this treaty ensures the basic human rights for children, (without exhaustive) such as non-discrimination, protection of rights, the possibility of separation from parents as well as reunification with them, protection from kidnapping and sexual abuse, and finally, protection from any violence and the freedom of religion and expression. Besides these, the Convention on the Rights of the child provides three more optional protocols in order to draw more support from participant states.
Two optional protocols were adopted on May 25th 2000. The First Optional Protocol restricts the involvement of children in military conflicts whilst the Second Optional Protocol prohibits the trade of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Both protocols have been ratified by more than 150 states. A third Optional Protocol related to a communication procedure of complaints, was adopted in December 2011 and opened for signature on February 28th 2012. It came into effect on April 14th 2014. This third protocol allows children or their representatives, to file individual complaints for violation of children’s rights. Between these four treaties there are over 530 ratifications. Thus, this is a clear sign of commitment from around the world that every child shall be protected and respected.
The latest improvement regarding the protection of children and their human rights, is the participation of children themselves in decision-making procedures. They have a unique perspective of life that must be sort, and cannot be ignored. The Convention retains amity for the children as it is supposed to, but it must also evolve with them. Children must be heard, and their opinion must be reflected on the following year’s agendas. For instance, the direct online dialogue hosted by the Committee with 28 children is an important step and tool to create a principle of child participation.
With the help of UN agencies, governments, NGO’s, businesses and principally with the help of children themselves, it is possible to render their rights from paper into feasible results. But this anniversary, as every other one before it, 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.