Thursday, September 19, 2013

Convention on the Rights of the Child and Its Optional Protocols

United Nations officials today urged Member States that have not done so to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Child and its three Optional Protocols, stressing that this is vital to protect children from abuse and mistreatment worldwide. “Millions of children around the globe suffer daily from violence, exploitation and abuse. Ignored by statistics and neglected by policy action they are silent victims, excluded from the public debate,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, addressing the press. 

Countries will have the opportunity to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocols at the 2013 Treaty Event, which will be held 24 – 26, and 30 September and 1 October at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations, providing protection and support for the rights of children. Its three Optional Protocols deal, respectively, with protecting children from trafficking, prostitution and child pornography; prohibiting their recruitment in armed conflict; and allowing children to bring forward their complaints to the UN if their rights are being abused.

“The Treaty Event is an opportunity for Member States to reaffirm or to express their commitment to be accountable for the rights of the child everywhere – all children under their jurisdiction,” Ms. Santos Pais told reporters during a briefing in New York. “It is also a way of recalling that ratification, while very important, is just the start of a very long process, and a continuous process of national implementation.”

The Convention is the most widely and rapidly ratified treaty in history, but has not achieved universal ratification. Currently, 193 States are party to the Convention. Somalia, South Sudan and the United States are the only Member States that have not ratified it.

The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force in 2002 and has been ratified by 152 countries. Twenty States have signed but not ratified it and 22 have neither signed nor ratified it.

“Every new commitment brings us closer to a world where all States agree that children belong far from the battlefield,” said the Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children on Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, also at the press conference.  “The goal is within reach and many countries have taken the additional step to criminalize the use of children under 18 in conflict in their national legislation.” 

The Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography provides is closer to universal ratification as 164 States have ratified it, and less than 30 are yet to join. The third Optional Protocol allows children to bring complaints to the UN was adopted in December 2011, and has been ratified by only six countries and signed by 37. 

“Ratification and implementation of the Protocols lay the foundation for children’s protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.” said Ms. Santos Pais. “Children are key actors in this process.” During the press briefing, Ms. Santos Pais launched a child-friendly version of the Third Optional Protocol to inform children them about their rights and prevent their victimization.

The child-friendly version was developed in consultation with children in different regions of the world and is an advocacy tool to help young people raise awareness and promote the safeguard of the rights of the child. 

“This means a lot to children around the world, especially those who were born or are growing up in countries torn apart by conflict,” Ms. Zerrougui told reporters, adding that she had seen the devastating impact of conflict on children who had been recruited by armed groups in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq. 

“States should take all possible measures to prevent such recruitments. That includes legislation to prohibit and criminalize recruitment of children under 18 and involve them in hostilities,” she said, adding that Governments should also provide support to help children who have experienced abuse.

(from a UN press release)

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