Highlights of the United Nations Children's Convention and International Response to Children's Human Rights

39 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2005


Societal and legal concern for children's rights is a relatively recent development. The treatment of children has improved over the last century as the status of children has evolved from being regarded as property to being valued as persons. Continuing research and dialogue on this subject will enhance regard for children.

With the passage of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ("the Children's Convention") on November 20, 1989, the United Nations recognized the need to institutionalize the concept of childhood in international law. The Children's Convention was ratified by over 150 countries by the end of 1994. As with all humanitarian laws, the Children's Convention effectiveness is limited by the signatories' willingness to comply.

Armed conflicts continue to kill. Street children are murdered in some countries and sold in others. The exploitation of children for labor and prostitution is growing in Asia, with a high incidence of HIV infection among sexually-exploited children. The underlying causes of these phenomena are not well understood, but advances are promising. Effective child abuse programs in industrialized nations have used risk indicators for predicting child abuse. Methods for improving the lot of the world's children have been growing in Asia, Africa and Latin America. International attention is increasingly focused on preventing the sexual exploitation of women and children.

The need for increased international legal protection of children is beyond argument. Despite their increased rights, children's status is deplorable. Legal protection notwithstanding, children continue to suffer from war, poverty, population growth and environmental degradation disproportionately from adults.

One of the many human rights issues of international child advocacy today is the PPE problem of poverty, population growth and environmental degradation.

The legacy of child persecution is that it manifests a depreciation of and contempt for what is best in humankind. The failure of the international community to vigilantly address atrocities against children results in the perpetuation of those atrocities and creates adults who learn to solve problems through war and violence.

Many professionals are unfamiliar with the Children's Convention, which protects the human rights of children. It stands to reason that the general public is not familiar with the Children's Convention either. This article aims to inform practitioners and policy makers, in an effort to move children's human rights and children's plight in especially difficult circumstances to the forefront of the public conscience.

The United States was the last major Western nation to sign the Children's Convention, but did so on February 16, 1995. The United States' signing of the treaty heightens awareness and influences policy makers to reduce child victimization from war and violence. Ratifying the Convention would heighten the awareness in the United States even more, and hopefully translate into meaningful action. Articles and commentary on the human rights of children, including the effects of war on children, are appearing with rising frequency. The State of the World's Children 1994 included children in war zones in its report for the first time, and the State of the World's Children 1996 devoted the whole issue to children at war.

Keywords: children's rights, international law, child labor, child soldiers, child health

JEL Classification: 119, 139, K19

Suggested Citation

von Struensee, Susan, Highlights of the United Nations Children's Convention and International Response to Children's Human Rights. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=657363

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