Optional Protocol: Strengthening the Convention on the Rights of the Child in its 25th Year
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified human rights treaty. 192 countries have ratified the Convention, which requires States to give primary consideration to the best interests of a child when making decisions which affect them, and includes children's rights, such as rights to education, play, and protection from economic and social exploitation.
Nevertheless, despite the near universal ratification of the Convention (the US and Somalia are the only UN members still to ratify) - we are all too aware that the abuse of children's rights continues around the world.
The implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which should receive regular reports from states and will engage with states and non-governmental organisations before issuing its observations.
Now, in its 25th anniversary year, the protection of children's rights by the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been strengthened by the coming into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. This new treaty, which came into force on Monday 14th April gives children the right to complain directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Children and their representatives can now make complaints to the Committee about specific violations of their Convention rights, once they have exhausted all legal avenues in their own country.
This is a great step forward for children's access to justice, and will hopefully enable better scrutiny of States' compliance with the treaty, and better enforcement of children's rights.
However, children can only complain under the Optional Protocol if their government has ratified it. So far 10 states have ratified the Optional Protocol - Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, Slovakia and Costa Rica. This was the required number for the Optional Protocol to come into force, but now it is important that other states show their commitment to securing children's rights, by ratifying the Optional Protocol and allowing their children the opportunity to make complaints and seek justice too.
In this, the 25th anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we want to see better, stronger protection of children's rights. The UK should ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible, giving children in the UK more opportunities to seek redress for any breach of their rights and contributing towards the strengthening of children's rights worldwide.
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