Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
The human rights of children and the standards to which all governments must aspire in realizing these rights for all children, are most concisely and fully articulated in one international human rights treaty: the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Convention is the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history – it has been ratified by every country in the world except two – and therefore uniquely places children centre-stage in the quest for the universal application of human rights. By ratifying this instrument, national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights – civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Two Optional Protocols, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, were adopted to strengthen the provisions of the Convention in these areas. They entered into force, respectively on 12 February and 18 January 2002.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was carefully drafted over the course of 10 years (1979-1989) with the input of representatives from all societies, all religions and all cultures. A working group made up of members of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, independent experts and observer delegations of non-member governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies was charged with the drafting. NGOs involved in the drafting represented a range of issues – from various legal perspectives to concerns about the protection of the family.
The Convention reflects this global consensus and, in a very short period of time, it has become the most widely accepted human rights treaty ever. It has been ratified by 192 countries; only two countries have not ratified: The United States and Somalia, which have signalled their intention to ratify by formally signing the Convention. .
Like all human rights treaties, the Convention on the Rights of the Child had first to be approved, or adopted, by the United Nations General Assembly. On 20 November 1989, the governments represented at the General Assembly agreed to adopt the Convention into international law.
When a government signed the Convention, it had to widely consult within the country on the standards in the Convention and begin identifying the national laws and practices that needed to be brought into conformity with these standards. Ratification was the next step, which formally bound the government on behalf of all people in the country to meet the obligations and responsibilities outlined in the Convention.
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