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UNICEF home The State of the World's Children
2002 Photo © UNICEF

Leadership

 

Protecting children

© UNICEF/98-1064/Pirozzi

A boy holding an AK-47 in the back of a truck in Sana'a, Yemen

Two of the highest international standards for child protection – Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child – were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in May 2000. After six years of negotiations involving governments, NGOs and UN agencies, these amendments to the Convention addressed two egregious assaults on children: involving children in armed conflict; and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

With an estimated 300,000 children engaged in combat, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict emphasizes the establishment of 18 as the minimum age for compulsory recruitment. As of 3 August, 81 countries have signed this protocol and 4 countries have ratified it.

About 1 million children – mainly girls – suffer the degradation and life-threatening risk of the commercial sex trade. The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography emphasizes the criminalization of these abuses, an increased public awareness and international cooperation to stop these atrocities. As of 3 August, 74 countries have signed this protocol and 4 countries have ratified it.

These two protocols represent a giant step forward for children's rights. Ten ratifications are needed to make each protocol legally binding.

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