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20th Anniversary Convention on the Rights of the Child

Every child is born with the expectation of growing up without fear, of looking forward to a brilliant future, to total freedom; let us give them this chance to be children who are free and without fear of imagining a world without distinctions of sex, race, social class or religion.

Twenty years of efforts, twenty years providing a voice for those who are not heard; twenty years publicising children’s rights at global level, twenty years campaigning for the fulfilment of these rights; twenty years trying to establish a protection system for every single child.

During these last 20 years, it could be said that all the countries in the world, with the exceptions of Somalia and the United States, have accepted and taken on the commitment to protect and promote the integrated development of children within a perspective of rights.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, approved by the United Nations in 1989, is the first universal code of rights for children. The rights it proclaims correspond to everyone under the age of 18, regardless of their place of birth, sex, ethnicity, religion or social class.

The convention enshrines the general principles such as non-discrimination, the child’s greater interest, and the right to life, to survival and the development and the right to express an opinion.

Twenty years after its approval, reading the Convention shows that a great deal still needs to be done. Around the world it has been applied to varying degrees. In some countries, like Russia, a youth and families court has been set up in response to the Convention; in Morocco a national institute has been established in order to supervise rights.

In Finland new measures inspired by the convention have been taken for children, such as an early education and childcare programme, quality recommendations for medical care at school and a plan of action against poverty and social exclusion.

In Eritrea a transitory penal code has been put into effect for parents or guardians who neglect, abandon or abuse children.

In Paraguay, with the introduction of the Children and Adolescents Code, the number of children deprived of their liberty has been reduced from 650 in 1999 to 300 in 2001.

Since the mid 1990s, it can be said the process of implementing the Convention across the countries of Latin America has taken place in a situation of permanent tension between progress and setbacks. Efforts are being made in order to achieve the application of these laws and to protect children.

The new legislation formulated since the Convention provide for new child protection systems, establish responsible parties for implementing each country’s child-focused policies, as well as new systems of penal responsibility for adolescents in conflict with the law.

© UNICEF RD/L.E.Gonzalez/2007

Dominican Republic

The creation of the National Children’s Council (CONANI) and the celebration of this International Year of the Child made way for the launch of a discussion and government policy review process on children’s issues in the Dominican Republic. Since the Convention was ratified in 1991, the Dominican State has taken on the commitment of adopting educational, administrative, social mobilisation and regulatory measures aimed at divulging and applying these rules.
In these last few years the country has made progress in developing national legislation in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Law 136-03 (only in Spanish), the Code for the Protection System and Fundamental Rights of Children and Adolescents, sets out in its articles the Dominican State’s commitment to guarantee the protection of fundamental rights of survival, development, participation and special protection through the establishment of the National Protection System.

During the Commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Human Rights Declaration, UNICEF Representative in the Dominican Republic Françoise Gruloos-Ackermans said that the challenge was to know how to use children and young people’s rights as a good resource for the configuration of power, meaning that it is indispensable to use children’s rights to build citizenship.

“We need strong leadership that will bring the importance of investing in children into all the social and political spheres and spaces”.

Sarah Carrasco
August 2009

UNICEF presents the State of the World’s Children: Special Edition 2009



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