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United Nations: Child Rights Still a World-Wide Challenge

(Nov. 24, 2009) The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted 20 years ago and has been ratified by 193 countries, the highest number of any human rights treaty. According to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, however, even though the document has inspired positive changes for children, “realizing the rights in the Convention remains a huge challenge.” (Ensuring Child Rights Still a Challenge, 20 Years After Treaty – UN Officials, UN NEWS CENTRE, Nov. 20, 2009, available at h
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; Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by G. A. Res. 44/25, Nov. 20, 1989, entered into force on Sept. 2, 1990, UNICEF website, (last visited Nov. 23, 2009).)

Among the accomplishments since the Convention's adoption are advances in child survival rates and education, combined with greater awareness of the problems children face. Among the rights described in the Convention are the rights to an identity, a name, and a nationality; the right to education and high standards of health care; and the right to be protected from abuse and exploitation. (UN NEWS CENTRE, id.) Speaking in New York at one of 160 events being held around the world to commemorate the anniversary of the Convention, Ban referred to the millions of children who do not survive five years, mostly due to preventable causes; many other children suffer due to lack of access to clean food, potable water, and a good education, or are victims of violence. “This is why children should always have the first claim on our attention and resources. … Children must be at the heart of our thinking on climate change, on the food crisis, and on the other challenges we are addressing on a daily basis,” Ban stated. (Id.)

According to the head of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), Ann M. Veneman, 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthdays, a fact she described as “simply unacceptable.” She discussed the cases of young people in central Africa who have been abducted from their families to serve as child soldiers or sex slaves or who have been abandoned by their families. (Id.) UNICEF also marked the Convention's 20-year history by issuing a special edition of its report, “The State of the World's Children,” analyzing the impact of the agreement and the problems that remain to be solved, particularly for girls, as they are less likely to be attending school than boys and are more likely to suffer from sexual violence, trafficking, lack of adequate health care, or child marriage. The New York event was emceed by Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone who is now the UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War. (Id.)