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Convention on the Rights of the Child

Convention on the Rights of the Child

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Convention on the Rights of the Child
UNICEF’s mission is to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needsand to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided in doing this by theprovisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standards—also called human rights—set minimumentitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. They are founded on respect forthe dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions,origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere. With theserights comes the obligation on both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others. These standards are both interdependent and indivisible; we cannot ensure some rights without—or at the expense of—other rights.
A legally binding instrument
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument toincorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In 1989,world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to makesure that the world recognized that children have human rights too.The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basichuman rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; toprotection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural andsocial life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the bestinterests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.Every right spelled out in the Convention is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious developmentof every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education;and legal, civil and social services.By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the Convention (by ratifying or acceding to it), nationalgovernments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights and they haveagreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. Statesparties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of thebest interests of the child.
The human rights framework 
© UNICEF/ HQ05-1469/Pirozzi The human rights framework shows thatmembers of any family, like this one inPakistan, are entitled to all of theirrights. Everyone, everywhere has thesame rights as a result of our commonhumanity.
Human rights are those rights which are essential to live as human beings – basic standards withoutwhich people cannot survive and develop in dignity. They are inherent to the human person,inalienableand universal.
 
The United Nations set a common standard on human rights with the adoption of the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights in 1948. Although this Declaration is not part of binding international law,its acceptance by all countries around the world gives great moral weight to the fundamental principlethat all human beings, rich and poor, strong and weak, male and female, of all races and religions, areto be treated equally and with respect for their natural worth as human beings.The United Nations has since adopted many legally binding international human rights instruments.These treaties are used as a framework for discussing and applying human rights. Through theseinstruments, the principles and rights they outline become legal obligations on those States choosing tobe bound by them. The framework also establishes legal and other mechanisms to hold governmentsaccountable in the event they violate human rights.The instruments of the international human rights framework are the Universal Declaration of HumanRights and the six core human rights treaties: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of theChild; the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and theConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Every country in the worldhas ratified at least one of these, and many have ratified most of them. These treaties are importanttools for holding governments accountable for the respect for, protection of and realization of the rightsof individuals in their country.As part of the framework of human rights law, all human rights areindivisible, interrelated andinterdependent. Understanding this framework is important to promoting, protecting and realizingchildren’s rights because the Convention on the Rights of the Child—and the rights and duties containedin it—are part of the framework.
Path to the Convention on the Rights of the Child 
© UNICEF/HQ91-0241/ToutounjiWomen are trained to teach children toread and write in a project supported byUNICEF in Yemen.
The path to the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been long and slow. In 1945, the UnitedNations Charter laid the groundwork for the Convention by urging nations to promote and encouragerespect for human rights and fundamental freedoms 'for all'. The Universal Declaration of Human Rightsfollowed three years later, further stressing that "motherhood and childhood are entitled to special careand protection" and referring to the family as "the natural and fundamental group unit of society."Several Declarations on the Rights of the Child were agreed during the twentieth century, the last in1959 "recognizing that Mankind owes to the child the best that it has to give."Declarations are statements of moral and ethical intent but they are not legally binding instruments. Theinternational human rights framework was therefore built to contain covenants (or conventions) thatcarry the weight of international law. In 1976, the first two covenants—the International Covenants onCivil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—became binding on States parties.These two Covenants used the foundation of the rights and principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and thus provided a legal as well as a moral obligation for countries to respect thehuman rights of each individual.
 
Children’s rights then followed the same path. In 1978, on the eve of the United Nations-sponsoredInternational Year of the Child, a draft text was proposed for the Convention on the Rights of the Child.Drawing heavily from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civiland Political Rights; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a workinggroup within the United Nations then collaborated and revised the draft, finally agreeing what becamethe articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.Final approval from United Nations Member States came when the UN General Assembly unanimouslyadopted the text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1989. The Conventionthen became legally binding in September 1990, after 20 States had ratified it. Many countries ratifiedthe Convention very soon after it was adopted and others continued to ratify or accede to it, making itthe most widely ratified human rights treaty. Nearly all States are now parties. Somalia and the UnitedStates have not yet ratified the Convention but have signed it, indicating their support.
The role of the United Nations in respect for human rights
© UNICEF/ HQ02-0144/Susan MarkiszIn May 2002, the UN Special Session of the General Assembly on Childrenfocused attention on making progressfor children and investing in them askeys to building global peace andsecurity.
The United Nations has repeatedly emphasized the need to integrate human rights into the broad rangeof its activities. It is essential to recognize the potential of almost all UN human rights mechanisms andprocedures for contributing to the protection and promotion of children’s rights.
Human rights treaties
The creation of a body of international human rights law is one of the United Nations’ greatachievements. The United Nations has helped negotiate more than 70 human rights treaties anddeclarations—many focused on the rights of vulnerable groups such as women, children, persons withdisabilities, minorities and indigenous peoples. Together, these treaties and declarations have helpedcreate a ‘culture of human rights’ throughout the world, providing a powerful tool to protect andpromote all rights. In accordance with the treaties, States parties have set up treaty bodycommittees that may call upon States to respond to allegations, adopt decisions and publish them alongwith criticisms or recommendations. For the full text of the core human rights treaties, see the linksat right.
World Conferences and Summits
The standards articulated in the international covenants and conventions have been reinforced throughdeclarations and plans of action that have emerged from a series of World Conferences organized by theUnited Nations. These conferences have gained importance as real forums for deciding on national andinternational policy regarding such global issues as the environment, human rights and economicdevelopment. They focus world attention on these issues and place them squarely on the global agenda.UNICEF's work in the area of child rights is informed by the World Summit for Children (1990), as wellas by the World Conference on Education for All (1990), the World Conference on Human Rights (1993),

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