On the 20th November 1989, the UN adopted The Convention on the Rights of the Child. This was a legally binding text aimed at protecting the most vulnerable from all forms of exploitation. Twenty years later, what has happened to this noble ambition?
In 54 articles and two Optional Protocols, the Convention lays out the fundamental rights of ALL children – boys and girls – from 0 to 18 years old : starting with the right to survive… So 20 years later, where are we? The most significant progress has been made in the area of healthcare. In 2008, 8.8 million children died before the age of 5 years old, compared with 12.5 million in 1990. Vaccination programmes have erradicated many diseases but HIV and AIDS still take their toll. More than 2 million children under the age of 15 years old are currently living with HIV. Around 20 million children are living with malnutrition. Because their survival and that of their families depends on them, at least 158 million children aged between 5 and 14 years old work. War is another fact of life for many children. It is estimated that there are up to 300,000 child soldiers in the world. Underage marriage, no proper registration of births, sexual exploitation… the litany of damage inflicted on children is still a long one; the hopes expressed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child remain for the most part unrealised. But education could help. In 20 years, the number of children who don’t go to school has dropped from 115 to 95 million. An improvement that should not be forgotten, says Unicef, even though more needs to be done.