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YYY: Child Rights Make Headway, But Millions Still Suffering

Child Rights Make Headway, But Millions Still Suffering

 IPS 27 May 2019

(Originally published: 11/2009) The international community, which has been hit by a financial meltdown and a global food crisis, claims it is doing its best to protect and safeguard the rights of children worldwide. (968 words) - By Thalif Deen

The international community, which has been hit by a financial meltdown and a global food crisis, claims it is doing its best to protect and safeguard the rights of children worldwide.

But its "best" is still not good enough, complains the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, in its latest 2009 report on the 'State of the World's Children' released Thursday.

"The agenda for children's rights is far from complete," stressed UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman.

Despite the tremendous progress in advancing the cause of children worldwide, millions remain without the essential services to help ensure their survival, are vulnerable to disease and undernutrition, lack access to water and sanitation, and are deprived of a quality education.

Many children still do not have the protective environment required to safeguard them from violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect, said Veneman.

According to U.N. estimates, between 500 million and 1.5 billion children are experiencing violence annually.

"The continents of Africa and Asia, and especially the regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, have the greatest concentrations of absolute deprivations of child rights and will demand particular attention in the coming years," Veneman adds.

This year's report focuses on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which will be 20 years old on Nov. 20. It says more than 70 countries have incorporated children's codes into national legislation.

The report lists the "considerable progress" made during the lifetime of the Convention.

The number of deaths of children under five years of age has fallen from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008, representing a 28 percent decline.

Globally, around 84 percent of primary-school-age children are in class today while the gender gap in primary school enrolment is narrowing.

The study also says that important steps have been taken to help protect children from serving as soldiers or trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude.

But Veneman says it is still unacceptable that children continue to die from preventable causes like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition.

"Many of the world's children will never see the inside of a schoolroom, and millions lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect," she said.

Described as the Magna Carta of children's rights, the CRC comprises 54 articles which spell out four core principles: non-discrimination; best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of children.

The CRC has been ratified by 193 countries, with only two holdouts: the United States and Somalia. But, according to UNICEF, both countries have indicated an interest in accelerating the ratification process.

Howard Davidson of the Washington-based American Bar Association (ABA) points out that the United States has ratified the two Optional Protocols of the Children's Convention, including the protocol on the sexual exploitation of children.

Since that time, the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act and the US PROTECT act have closed loopholes in federal laws that inhibited prosecution, and increased penalties for those who would abuse and exploit children at home or abroad.

The legislation also provides improved assistance for victims, including enhancing special visa programmes for immigrant child victims of trafficking, abuse, neglect and parental abandonment.

Addressing the Child Policy Forum of New York last week, Davidson said that many countries in Latin America and around the world are increasingly recognising the equal rights and responsibilities of both parents to take care of their children, meaning that legal reforms to recognise the paternity of unwed fathers are underway.

To specifically address the sexual exploitation of children, he said, many countries have also raised the age of legal consent for sexual relations, amended their criminal codes to include the sexual exploitation of minors through trafficking and pornography, and provided for increased enforcement against adult perpetrators of child sex abuse.

Meg Gardinier, director of the 'Day of Prayer and Action for Children', an initiative of the Arigatou International of Japan, told IPS the treaty has regularly improved the lives of children, their families and communities.

The benefits of CRC ratification are clearly evident because the treaty has promoted positive legislation, policies and practices at the country level.

"It has consistently supported and protected families to raise and nurture their children," Gardinier said.

It is time for the United States to stand united with the world by ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child, she added.

Meanwhile, in a request which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the CRC, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has asked U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates for updated data on juveniles in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a letter to Gates, the ACLU has also sought information on U.S. policy regarding the treatment, detention and trial of juveniles and its compliance with international law.

The letter says that as of May 2008, the U.S. military was holding 513 Iraqi children as "imperative threats to security" and had transferred an unknown number of additional children to Iraqi custody.

As of April 2008, there were approximately 10 juveniles being held at the Bagram prison in Afghanistan.

The ACLU says that in May 2008, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child conducted a comprehensive review of U.S. compliance with the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which the U.S. ratified in 2002. The protocol guarantees basic protections to former child soldiers.

"The committee issued a strongly worded critique of the United States' record on the detention and treatment of juveniles in U.S. military custody abroad, and offered recommendations for compliance."

"The U.S. can improve its standing in the international community and lead by example by demonstrating compliance with the committee's recommendations concerning juvenile detainees," said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Programme, in a statement released Thursday.

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