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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT


'Damning indictment' of children's rights

Child labourers are used to make footballs in India

The majority of the world's children have not benefited from the main piece of international legislation aimed at protecting their rights, says a leading charity.

The Save the Chiildren Fund (SCF) says the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary, was hailed as a "major breakthrough", but has failed to deliver on its promises.

It states that, as a result of the widening gap between rich and poor countries, more children than ever are now living in poverty and suffer from health and social problems.

SCF estimates that 650 million children now live in absolute poverty although global wealth has increased in an "unprecedented" fashion in recent years.

It believes 250 million children around the world are working, often in dangerous conditions, and that 300,000 children - some as young as eight - are fighting in wars across the globe.

Paper promises

The charity issued two reports on Monday to mark the convention's 10th anniversary and is calling for radical action to ensure that governments and other agencies respect children's rights in practice as well as on paper.

[ image: Some 300,000 children are fighting in wars around the globe]
Some 300,000 children are fighting in wars around the globe
Some 191 countries have ratified the convention. The only two governments which have failed to do so are the USA and Somalia.

But SCF says none of the 191 has yet developed an integrated strategy for implementing the convention.

And children are still not being consulted or allowed to participated in issues affecting them.

Burkhard Gnarig, chief executive of the International Save the Children Alliance, said: "The fact that children continued to suffer so visibly at the end of the millennium provides a damning indictment that governments have not taken adequate steps to ensure the rights set out in this convention have become a reality for children."

The charity's two reports, Children's Rights: Reality or Rhetoric? and The Convention on the Rights of the Child Impact Study, analyse progress made over the past 10 years.

They say the convention has created a precedent for international co-operation and accountability.

And advances have been made on a national and international scale. However, they have often failed to trickle down to the local level, says the SCF.


The reports conclude that responsibility for implementing the convention can no longer be left in the hands of governments because of increasing globalisation.

SCF states: "Today's global economy means that - in practice - governments need increasingly to work in partnership with the private sector, civil society and the international community in the delivery of key services.

"A new approach is needed therefore in the implementation of the convention, which recognises this interdependency."

The SCFalso calls for:

  • A major international effort to increase global awareness of the convention
  • "Real meaningful action", including international legislation, to make children's rights a priority
  • A minimum requirement on governments to develop a "coherent strategy" for implementing the convention
  • Sanctions on governments which fail to report to the United Nations on how they have implemented the convention
  • More accurate information on children

In addition, it urges the USA and Somalia to ratify the convention.

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