World Children’s Day 2019: : A call to action for the Promotion of Child Rights
The United Nations (UN) in 1990, established November 20th as the Universal Children’s Day, to be commemorated each year in promotion of international togetherness and awareness among children worldwide. November 20th was the day in 1954 on which the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. It was also the date in 1989 of the adaptation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly.
The United Nations Children Fund UNICEF also promotes and coordinates the day in a special way, celebrated towards improving children’s welfare globally. World Children’s Day offers an inspirational access-port for advocacy, promotion and celebration of children’s rights, translating same to talks, deliberations and actions geared towards building a better world for children.
November 20th 2019 has been ear marked as an extra special day to mark the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a date slated for the celebration and a call to action for child rights.
In deliberating and promoting the rights of children, it is necessary that these rights are put under the lime light and emphasized on. To this effect, I will attempt to re-address the rights of children from the general point of the fundamental human rights, before addressing the rights as contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHTS
Human rights as defined by the United Nations are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status. Human rights can be classified on the basis of a state’s position in terms of negative rights and positive rights. Negative rights being those rights which ensure that state parties do not interfere in the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights. Positive rights on the other hand, are those rights that require state parties to undertake all necessary measures necessary to ensure that right – holders fully exercise and enjoy the rights attributed to him or her.
Rights are also described as either first generation rights, the civil and political rights, as second generation rights, the economic, social, and cultural rights, or as third-generation rights, defined as solidarity rights, for example the right to peace or the right to clean environment. Some of those third-generation rights have been codified at international level, others remain merely aspirational. There is already on-going talks about fourth generation rights, which are mainly geared toward the protection of human beings from the effect and impacts of technologic evolution such as the effects of genetic manipulation.
GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
The name ‘Convention on the right of the child’ was chosen as to recognize and ensure that children not only had universal human rights but also enjoyed a range of exclusive and specific rights identified on the basis of the peculiar characteristics of a child. The Convention has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty and has aided in the global transformation of children’s lives, it has undoubtedly introduced novel approaches and parameters in the subject matter of childhood and adolescent standards. Furthermore, the adoption of the UN Convention on the rights of the child answered the debate on State’s obligations towards the implementation of the Convention.
The Convention has four articles which are commonly referred to as the general principles which underly the treaty, these articles are:
Article 2 Right of the Child to Non-discrimination.
Article 3 Right on Best interests of the child.
Article 6 Right to life, survival and development of the Child.
Article 12 Right of the Child to be heard.
These general principles are unilaterally declared or designated as general principles by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The committee believed that these four articles were over-arching, and needed to be seen as general principles of the Convention.
Non-discrimination and the right to life are absolute fundamental human rights and in human rights law, best interests is a notion that applies uniquely to children. Right of the Child to be heard in Article 12, refers to specific circumstances, in particular to judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child.
The Convention on the right of the child, a result of the specialization of human rights procedure, and dedicated to a specific group of people, Children, who range from the ages 0 to 18 years. The Convention on the rights of the child is the most widespread and commonly used international instruments for defining human rights associated with children. It provides the formal recognition of children as social actors through the full implementation of the participation of the principles contained in Article 12 of the Convention and serves as a code of conduct for adults in their relations with children, providing the minimum standard of child care protection and guardianship for guaranteeing full and correct child development. It further provides a list of recognized specific and exclusive rights of children in consideration of their peculiarity as social and legal subjects.
The rights included between the Article 2 and Article 41 can be organised under two main categories: Universal human rights and the rights specifically recognized to the category of children. The latter category of rights includes for example, the rights recognized to prevent the child from being separated from their parents, child rights in cases of adoption, rights attributed to refugee children as provided for in Article 22, rights for children with physical or psychological disability as provided for in Article 23, rights of children belonging to minorities in article 30 or rights of children involved in armed conflict in article 38, amongst others. These rights are referred to as specialized rights.
The CRC committee, established by virtue of Article 43 of the Convention on the rights of the child, was tasked with ensuring that measures are adopted to implement the Convention, checking on the progresses made on the enjoyment of the rights and the obstacle encountered in the process. The Committee stipulated that in order for State parties to implement the human rights of children, there had to be three main levels of state obligation:
- Obligation to respect is negative character of Convention of the right of the child, states are required not to interfere with the enjoyment of delineated rights.
- Obligation to fulfil the rights. This refers to the positive character of the Convention, State parties are required to promulgate appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measure requisite for the implementation of the Convention.
- Obligation to protect, this requires State parties to protect children against certain interferences, perpetrated or operated by other private individuals, groups of people or associated activists.
For Child Rights to be promoted, some controversial issues pertaining to the legal rights of children ought to be addressed and emphasised on. Issues such as the legal age of a child has been finally put to rest. Today, most countries have set their legal age of majority at 18 years, arrival at such consensual age however, took a great deal of debates and discussions. For example, the earlier position in relation to the Reaffirmation of Fundamental Freedoms had an entirely different import, especially where it had to do with fundamental freedoms such as the right of association, the right to choose one’s religion, the right to receive and impart information etc. These fundamental freedoms existed in the covenants on civil and political rights, which albeit being enforced, were unrealized by most people as having a coverage reach to include children, because at that time, there was no lower age limit of which such rights would be afforded. Consequently, there was a big debate on whether or not theses rights ought to be reaffirmed in the context of the Convention of the Rights of the child or not, in the end they were fortunately so affirmed.
The subject matter of child adoption is another issue that thankfully was clarified by the Convention. There are many noted and reported situations where bad practices and indeed criminal activities had been observed in terms of adoption. Such reports led to much circumspection about adoption of a child as a protection measure. The Convention of the Rights of the Child promotes the aim of adoption as less to facilitate adoption but much more to ensure that children are protected throughout an adoption process. The Convention presents a situation where instead of facilitating adoption, the first obligation of a State should be to ensure that legal adoption takes place with the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration.
These issues are but a few of the unfortunate circumstance that limit the full enjoyment of fundamental rights by children. The unique vulnerability of children, with issues such as lack of food and nutrition, lack of access healthcare, education, engagement of children in armed conflicts, trafficking of children, forced labour, child abuse, lack of access to mental health facilities or specialised centers, children who are victims of migration, conflicts, war, poverty, discrimination, diseases and disasters … the lists goes on and on.
CONCLUSION AND WAY FORWARD
International days are opportunities and platforms that can be utilized as powerful advocacy tools, platforms to educate and sensitize the public on issues of concern, address universal problems, seek for global solutions through the mobilization of political will and resources, and also celebrate achievements of humanity.
Children and young people of the twenty-first century constitute a group plagued with a multitude of issues of great concern to world leaders, problems which requires innovative and modern solutions. The Convention of the Rights of the Child, albeit being said to be the most widely ratified treaty in history, helping in the transformation of children’s lives, is yet to be universally ratified and implemented. Children around the world are yet to enjoy full and protected childhoods, their lives are cut short in circumstances that could ordinarily have been avoided or ameliorated.
World leaders must pledge themselves with the commitment and responsibility of providing children with food, healthcare, education, family lives, play recreation, legal and physical protection etc. The actions or inactions of governments have direct consequences on children more gravely than on other human groups. Policy makers must take into account, the resultant (negative or positive) impact of those policies on children who are the future generations.
It is truly up to each and every one of us today, to demand accountability and action from our governments, private entrepreneurs, businesses, communities and individuals, to raise our voices in a unified call for action for the recognition and enforcement of the Rights of the Child, especially as contained in the Convention. We all must be committed to ensuring that EVRY CHILD has and enjoys their fundamental human rights, Change it is said, begins with me, For Every Child, Every Right.
Written by Barr. Marian Aneke, Program Lead, Education