Somalia to ratify to children's rights Convention (CRC)

Somalia has announced it plans to ratify a global treaty aimed atprotecting children, leaving the United States as the only countryoutside the pact, UNICEF said on Friday.  The 20th of November 2009 was the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Amnesty International children's rights teams from all over the world met in Copenhagen on the anniversary to discuss the way forward for AI children's rights over the coming years.  Many sections have been campaigning for US ratification in the run up to the anniversary.

Campaigning on Somalia was admittedly not a priority.  We learnt over the weekend however that Somalia, where one child in every ten dies before its first birthday, has long been has long been eager for international approval and has been working on a push for children's rights in new legislation.

Christian Balslav-Olesen, former UN representative for Somalia, spoke at the Amnesty conference in Copenhagen last week.  He emphasised some astonishing signs of success in the Horn of Africa related to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs): the health MDGs will most likely be met, he said.  There is still some way to go however – success with the education goals is unlikely.

The CRC is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, it declaresthat those under 18 years old must be protected from violence,exploitation, discrimination and neglect.  Somalia, despite having waited to ratify the treaty, have demonstrably been eager to join the international community that back the principles of the CRC. 

UNICEF has been working with the government to introduce juvenilejustice laws, for example – a move acknowledging the child's right tospecial dispensation in court that correlates directly to Article 40 ofthe CRC.

Somalia's transitional government have now told UNICEF that the "Somalicabinet of ministers has agreed in principle to ratify the Conventionon the Rights of the Child".

"Adherence to and application of the Convention will be of crucialimportance for the children of Somalia, who are gravely affected by theongoing conflict, recurrent natural disasters and chronic poverty," UNICEF said in a statement welcoming the move. 

Those that have ratified the CRC are obliged to report to the committee every five years, the AI children's rights network learnt from Professor Lucy Smith at the Saturday seminar at AI Denmark.  NGOs submit shadow reports and each country's adherence to the principles set out in the CRC is assessed.

There 192 state parties to the CRC.  In 1995 the United States signed under President BillClinton in 1995 (Somalia signed in 2002) but neither has ratified it.  There are two optional protocols which the US have ratified.

There is great debate as to the reasons behind the lack of US support, but it is clear that should they ratify the Convention they would already be in breach of Article 37.  The article prohibits Life without Parole (LWOP), a practice introduced when the death penalty for children was abolished in the US.

Laws in approximately 20 U.S. states appear to conflict with this article (and it currently affects thousands of minors who are imprisoned in this way).  Please see the previous article I wrote on Life without Parole on this blog a few weeks ago for more details.

UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau told a news briefing in Geneva:"The United States has indicated that a very important review processis going on at the moment in order to arrive as quickly as possible ata ratification".

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I would, in my little tiny voice, like to congratulate the 'powers that be' on moving forward on this issue.  News of Somalia's upcoming ratification is very positive for children's rights campaigners, and should help to push the US on the point too. A word of warning however – although this is a good move for Somalia (and possibly the US), it is the reporting process, the legislation and (crucially) the implementation of such laws protecting children that really count. 

This is where all us activists come in! Many tiny voices make one BIG SHOUT!  So raise yours today in whatever way you can.

Also – thank you to all those Amnesty children's rights campaigners and activists from all over the world whom I met in Copenhagen over the weekend of Nov 20-22.  I learnt an awful lot from all of you and am feeling inspired and motivated!  Thanks too to Christian Balslav-Oleson and Professor Lucy Smith for their valuable expertise on matters of the CRC and children's rights.

Helle :)

 

 

 

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