Home > Children and the Law > UNCRC – 20th Anniversary

UNCRC – 20th Anniversary

Today, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is 20 years old. UNICEF is hosting a special commemorative event. This website of the OHCHR highlights some of the key work to be done with the Convention as it enters its third decade. For those of you interested in this area, the Child Rights Information Network has resources on every possible dimension of children’s rights.While browsing it, I came across the following report from the Children’s Rights Alliance (also a fantastic source for researchers) on the impact of the Renewed Programme for Government on children’s rights in Ireland.

“Confusion” and “diluted commitments” are the new agenda formers for Government, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance, in its comprehensive analysis of the Renewed Programme for Government. Published today (16 October), the Alliance’s analysis has found that over 75 per cent of commitments affecting children have disappeared; in 2007, 219 commitments relating to children were written into the Programme for Government 2007-2012, there are now only 49 commitments…The Alliance…also has real fears that the new measures are not costed, language is opaque and subject to interpretation, and many “new” commitments are merely repackaged. Many commitments have lost their punch, by being expressed in less specific terms or their remit severely narrowed.

We wait now to see how these commitments translate into funding in the forthcoming budget. The Children’s Rights Alliance Pre-Budget 2010 submission is here. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg has this week identified government funding as a key battleground for children’s rights in the near future:

[T]he seriousness of the political commitment [to children’s rights] is now being tested in the ongoing budget discussions. In the wake of the current recession, there have already been budget cuts in several countries which have affected children – either directly in the state budget or via reduced support to local authorities.

Funds for education, health care and social benefits for vulnerable groups have been significantly reduced in some countries. And this is before governments start paying back the debts incurred when state money was used to meet the financial crisis and rescue the banking system.

This has provoked a discussion on the concrete meaning of “the maximum extent” of the available resources to go to children. Inevitably, children’s interests will also suffer when the whole society is forced to tighten its belt. However, what is clearly against the very spirit of the Convention are decisions which would penalise those who are already vulnerable and thereby increase the existing inequalities.

It is now particularly important that the short- and long-term impact on children are analysed before the next budgets are approved. Also in Europe we now already have a serious problem of child poverty – appallingly widespread in some countries. Here, a large number of children are disadvantaged from the very start. This has to be addressed, the current crisis is no argument for not doing so – on the contrary.

Resource limitations cannot be seen as an excuse for ignoring obligations to protect child rights and for delaying the implementation of measures. The greater the difficulties, the more reason to act with a clear political will in order to address the problems in a systematic fashion.

Indeed, it is particularly in times of crisis that the state has to reaffirm its commitment and to fully respect the rights of children – all children.

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  1. November 20, 2009 at 10:57 am

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