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The State of the World's Children

‘State of the World’s Children’ special edition marks 20 years of child rights

© UNICEF/NYHQ2008-0847/Isaac
An indigenous girl from the San ethnic group sits with her mother outside their home in a squatter settlement in Epako, a sprawling suburb of the town of Gobabis in Omaheke Region, near the border with Botswana.

NEW YORK, USA, 19 November 2009 – On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNICEF today launches a special edition of its flagship report, ‘The State of the World’s Children’, focusing on the ground-breaking human rights covenant for children.

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UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, Goodwill Ambassador and actor Lucy Liu, and Grace Akallo, a former child soldier, are discussing the special edition at a UNICEF headquarters event where the agency’s annual publication is being released.

‘The State of the World’s Children’ this year explores the difference that the CRC has made in the lives of children over the past two decades – and the role it can play in an increasingly populous, urbanized, disparate and environmentally challenged world.

Rights of children everywhere

On 20 November 1989, the United Nations adopted the CRC, the first legally binding international instrument that incorporated the full range of human rights for children.

© UNICEF/NYHQ1996-0922/Balaguer
A boy and a girl carry pumice stones loaded on an empty sack out of an underground volcanic mine, near the southern city of Arequipa, Peru.

The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that apply to children everywhere: the rights to survival, health, protection, education and full participation in family, cultural and social life.

The CRC has achieved near-universal acceptance, having now been ratified by 193 State Parties – more than belong to the United Nations or have acceded to the Geneva Conventions.

Tomorrow, on the anniversary date itself, a commemoration of the CRC’s first 20 years will take place in the Trusteeship Council chamber at United Nations headquarters.

UNICEF and the Convention

The provisions and principles of the CRC guide UNICEF in advocating for the protection of child rights, helping to meet children’s basic needs and expanding their opportunities to reach their full potential.

Over the past 20 years, the world has witnessed the power of the CRC to transform lives. Because of a global commitment to the Convention, more children today are surviving, more are attending school, more have access to safe water and more are being protected against deadly diseases.

However, UNICEF recognizes that many challenges remain before all rights for all children are achieved.

“The idea that we live in a world where people still use children as soldiers, that we live in a world where people make children do jobs that are so dangerous that they can kill or disable them – the existence of those things shows how much farther we have to go in creating those structures around children that deliver them their rights,” said the Chief of UNICEF’s Gender and Rights Unit, Dan Seymour.

Working together

It will take a commitment from all sectors of society – from leaders and policy-makers to families and educators – to transform the CRC from words on paper into real change for all the world’s children.

“When we fail in that duty and responsibility, we are a lesser society or human family,” said Mr. Seymour. “It’s one of the most powerful reflections on how far we’ve come as people.”

With the Convention as a guiding document, UNICEF and its partners can hold governments accountable to their obligations, empower parents and educators with knowledge and skills, and listen to children when making decisions on their behalf. Working together, we can make the dream of the CRC a reality for every child.




Watch an assessment of progress achieved and challenges ahead, 20 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
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20 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

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