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On November 20th, 1989, exactly 25 years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly ratified a fundamental and groundbreaking Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), with the crucial aim of globally acknowledging the special needs and care due to the children of every country.
The unquestionable principles within the 25-year-old Convention are still genuine, far-reaching and long-lasting today as they were twenty-five years ago. What changes now is that we can actually see how effective the Convention was at improving the living conditions of children internationally. Since the Convention derives its value not only from its words, but also from the broad engagement granted by the different parties, the first element to take into account today is the actual number of signatory countries and the extent to which the parties have already complied with the provisions.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Today only three UN countries, Somalia, the United States, and South Sudan (which was not a country when the CRC was adopted) have yet to ratify it. This is definitely an impressive accomplishment. However, Anthony Lake, UNICEF’s Executive Director, reminds us in a report celebrating the 25th anniversary of the CRC that “a recognized right is not necessarily an executed right”, and we cannot fully celebrate knowing that there are still “17,000 children who are dying everyday for causes we know how to prevent”.
a recognized right is not necessarily an executed right
During the last 25 years the world has certainly undergone a dramatic change, in terms of demography, environment, economics, armed conflicts and information technology, and all these changes have positively or negatively affected children’s lives globally. UNICEF’s report draws attention to the improvements made throughout all these years in terms of health, nutrition, education, child protection, water and sanitation, HIV prevention and legislative reforms. All the data collected have the main goal of answering the question whether the world is a better place to live for children than it was 25 years ago. If we focus on the analysis, we can acknowledge substantial improvements, especially with regard to under-five mortality rate, stunting levels, measles immunization and legislative reforms. Data are less encouraging as to access to education and water, child labor, marriage and trafficking, and access to antiretroviral treatment.
Celebrating the exceptional number of countries signatory to the Convention is an imperative, as it is taking into consideration the elements of accountability, funding and constitutions. The process of holding States accountable for complying with the obligations within the Convention is crucial to obtain any advancement in terms of legislative reforms; regrettably the signatory states are totally aware of the complete absence of financial enforcement measures against violations of the principles of the Convention. State funding is a key aspect in the process of adhering to CRC provisions and in times of economic crises, reforms aimed at improving children’s lives are generally put aside and rarely prioritized. The United States case is a striking example of the constitution aspect; this country, in fact, signed the Convention almost 19 years ago, but the treaty still did not make it through a Senate vote because of objections on American sovereignty.
Today we have a chance to celebrate the wide number of accomplishments achieved in twenty-five years of actions towards the well-being of children worldwide. At the same time, however, we have the responsibility to personally invest more on children in terms of health, education and protection. By doing so we will invest in our future society, with the hope to create a better one.
(Head picture: ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Tsegaye)
Francesco holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Turin University (Italy) and he’s majoring in Development Studies from the same academic institution. He dedicated the last three years of his life to humanitarian field projects in Eastern Africa especially throughout the Great Lakes Region, where he had the opportunity to work on inclusive education programs for children with disabilities and special needs as well as vocational training projects for disadvantaged youth. Francesco now lives in northern Burundi where he works as a Logistics Manager in a District Hospital.