Despite progress, children's rights far from universal

***Learn more about Universal Children's Day, 20 November at:

UNICEF Press release

NEW YORK, 20 November 2004 - On the 15th anniversary today of the
international adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),
UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said that despite major
advancements for children that include the creation of new laws in many
countries, the rights of millions of children remain forgotten or ignored.

"The enactment of new laws set in motion by the Convention is a positive
step that is critical to protecting the rights of children, but legal
reform must be pursued at the same timeas social policies that address the
challenges facing children right now," Bellamy said. "Too many children
are growing up without basic health care, education and protection from
abuse and exploitation."

Adopted in 1989 and ratified by every country in the world except two, the
CRC is the most widely accepted international human rights treaty in
history. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere
have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from
harm, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural
and social life.

The implementation of the CRC remains a critical strategy to achieving the
Millennium Declaration and the Millenium Development Goals, behind which
the international community stands.

A recent review by UNICEF of 62 countries that have strived to implement
the CRC shows that:

* More than half the countries studied have incorporated the CRC into
domestic law;
* Nearly a third of the countries have incorporated important provisions
on the rights of the child into their constitutions;
* Nearly half the countries have adopted codes or comprehensive laws on

In addition, two optional protocols anchored on the CRC have been approved
since: one on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and the
second on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
There has been widespread ratification of both of these, and their
implementation is gaining momentum, Bellamy said.

The review also found that the CRC has led to important institutional
reforms, including the establishment of more than 60 independent human
rights institutions for children in at least 38 states around the world.

With the UN Special Session on Children in 2002, independent institutions
joined in a global network to enhance their advocacy on behalf of
children's rights, and committed to double their number by end decade.

"These independent institutions constitute a critical pillar of a global
movement to specifically monitor and protect the rights of children,"
Bellamy said.

But the study also found that while high-level political commitment has
been essential to the development of new laws protecting children's
rights, social change has been sustained only when that commitment has
been matched by effective law enforcement, allocation of adequate
resources and the engagement of all levels of society.

"Only when governments are dedicated to developing and implementing laws
to protect children and work in partnership with all sectors of society
will we have the true culture of human rights for children that the CRC
envisions," Bellamy said.

A renewed commitment to children's rights is essential at a time when
nearly 11 million children before the age of five die every year, most
from preventable causes, Bellamy said.

"Children are dying because their families are too poor to be sick," said
Bellamy. "If we are truly to make a difference in children's lives, and
have a chance at achieving the social and economic goals of the world
community, we must make the rights of these marginalized and forgotten
children our highest priority. The rights to education, health care and a
safe and loving environment in which to thrive must never be theoretical.
They must be a reality for all children."

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