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Advances In Children's Rights Attributed To 1989 Un Convention On The Rights Of The Child First Impact Study Of Its Kind Analyzes Outcomes Of Convention

May 30, 2000 · 

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United States, Somalia Only UN Member Countries Who Haven’t Ratified Convention

(WASHINGTON, DC) – A first-of-its kind impact study has found that the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has led to exciting advances in children’s rights. This news comes as the international community attends the first UN Preparatory Committee meeting for the 2001 World Summit on Children today.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child Impact Study found that non-governmental organizations have been very active since ratification of the CRC, and every country in the Impact Study had a national coalition with implementation of the CRC as its mandate. Ratification of the CRC has led to reform of laws relating to children, including creation of ombudsman offices for children and the creation of new government entities to coordinate implementation of the CRC. However, the study also found that ratification of the CRC has had significantly less effect at the local level of government than at national, though there have been some excellent examples of municipal-level child rights programming.

Ten years after ratification of the Convention, the study found, changes are preliminary and much more work needs to be done, particularly at the national and local government level, and within the international community.

“Certainly, ratification of the Convention has had a great effect upon national non-governmental communities,” said Lisa Woll, director and author of the CRC Impact Study. “We see room for improvement, however, in the response of governments, who are the States Parties with the responsibility for implementation. The impact of the CRC needs to go wider and deeper if the world community is to see significant and long-lasting advances for children.”

Nonetheless, in countries as diverse as Peru and Ghana, the impact of the ratification of the CRC has been enough that it is reasonable to conclude that the CRC can be used in a strategic and pro-active way to further the rights and well-being of children.

The CRC Impact study assessed whether there has been an impact on the institutions and actors with the responsibility and ability to advance children’s rights at local, national and international levels. The study analyzed the impact of the Convention on two major international institutions – UNICEF and Save the Children – and on a range of institutions in six countries: Ghana, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Sweden and Yemen.

The study found that most international non-governmental organizations and other international actors and donors have not taken on the CRC into their mission. The major exceptions to this have been UNICEF and some members of the Save the Children Alliance. Professional associations, academic institutions and religious bodies have been largely uninvolved in advancing the CRC.

A discouraging aspect found by the study is that, overall, the notion of the child as a social actor, which could be the most radical element of the CRC, has gone largely unrealized.

“Children have largely been absent in any decision-making and they have only the tiniest voice in the media,” Woll said. “In all of the countries studied, there is still the socio-cultural mindset that the child is incapable of becoming an important actor in societal processes.”

The Convention, adopted more than 10 years ago by the UN General Assembly, is unique in that it has achieved almost universal ratification and consists of the broadest range of rights – social, civil, economic, political and cultural – of any international human rights treaty. The United States and Somalia are the only UN member countries that haven’t ratified the Convention.

“The fact that the United States remains one of two countries that hasn’t ratified the Convention raises serious questions when considering that the Convention has caused some positive action in countries across the world,” Woll said.

The study concluded that governments need to demonstrate that the base which has been laid isn’t cosmetic, but provides an effective structure for implementation which they will carry out.

Non-governmental organizations will need to improve their capacities in a range of areas, particularly their ability to effect government change.

“In many respects, it is an exciting time for child rights advocates – no one could have known if the CRC would cause any changes, and it has,” Woll said. “However, the next stage poses a far greater challenge. Actors and institutions at international and national levels, that are not currently involved in advancing children’s rights, will need to be engaged. And, all sectors of society will need to involve children in a meaningful way.”

The release of the Impact Study coincides with a preparatory committee meeting in New York May 30-June 2, which will formalize plans for the UN Special Session in September 2001, where leaders will follow up on progress made since the World Summit for Children in 1990 and develop further recommendations.

The CRC Impact Study was published by Save the Children Sweden, an organization which works for the rights of the child in Sweden and around the world.

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