DCI – Child Rights 4

Defence for Children International

United Nations Convention on the Rights of

the Child

Constructively innovative

The Convention contains three major substantive innovations. Firstly, it

introduces “participation” rights for children, which were notably

absent from previous Declarations. Linked with this is the explicit recognition

of the need to ensure that children themselves are informed about their rights.

Secondly, the Convention takes up questions never previously dealt with in an

international instrument: the right to rehabilitation of children who have

suffered various forms of cruelty and exploitation, for example, and the

obligation of governments to take measures to abolish traditional practices

harmful to children’s health. Thirdly, it includes principles and standards that

have so far figured only in non-binding texts, notably those relating to

adoption and juvenile justice.

The Convention also introduces two significant conceptual elements with

important substantive ramifications:

the “best interests of the

child” (article 3) becomes the compulsory criterion “for all actions

concerning children”, necessarily in conjunction with all pertinent rights

set out elsewhere in the Convention;

the principle that parents (or others

responsible for the child) should provide guidance to their child in exercising

his or her rights, in accordance with the child’s “evolving capacities”

(article 5).

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has identified the following

articles as “general principles” that are basic to implementation of

all rights contained in the Convention:

Article 2 on non-discrimination;

Article 3 on the best interests of

the child;

Article 6 on the right to life,

survival and development;

Article 12 on respect for the views

of the child,

Although the Convention is progressive overall, not every aspect comes

up to expectations, of course, let alone to hopes. The fact that the prohibition

on participation in hostilities covers only children under the age of 15 has

been particularly widely criticised in both governmental and non-governmental

circles. As a result, in 1993 the Committee on the Rights of the Child

successfully called for the establishment of a Working Group to draw up an

optional protocol to the Convention dealing inter alia with the upgrading of

this standard. The Working Group began this exercise in October 1994.

Many NGOs have also contested the restricted rights on choice of

religion afforded by the provisions of this Convention in comparison with those

ostensibly granted to all human beings by the International Covenant on Civil

and Political Rights. And several individual NGOs are dissatisfied with the way

certain of their specific concerns are dealt with, or with the fact that certain

issues are not explicitly dealt with at all, e.g. protection from medical

experimentation and the right to pre-school education.

Nonetheless, whilst probably no organisation or government would say

that it is completely happy with the text, it is indisputable that the

Convention recognises substantially more and better rights for children than

those that existed previously.

Monitoring Implementation

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