Save Theodora Now! America's other 6-year-old hostage

    UPDATE:
    Following my relentless campaign, which began in 1998, the US was finally expelled from the UN Human Rights Committee. 22-May-01

    (See relevant UN Press Release - Article 1 - Article 2)
The page to which the article at www.photius.com/feminocracy originally linked was a page on the UNICEF web site that correctly urged the American people to lobby for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It noted that only the USA besides Somalia (which at the time had no government) had not ratified the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. The link was via a banner of the UNICEF logo (which is still in www.photius.com/feminocracy).

Due to the negative publicity about the plight of America's children in the article, and instead of doing something to help America's battered children, the American feminofascists of UNICEF decided instead to get me to remove the link and the UNICEF banner.

Following threats of litigation (over a year ago), I retained the link and the banner anyway, but UNICEF went ahead and removed that decent page from their web site, leaving instead this pathetically "sanitized" version that talks about the "intention" of the USA to ratify (Does ABM ring a bell? Does Kyoto, you freeking foney bastards?).

I do wish that the shameless American feminoscum at UNICEF would sue, so that the world can see their hypocrisy and hopefully hold them responsible for their actions.
Photius Coutsoukis

Frequently asked questions

Q: What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Q: How was it decided what should go into the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Q: How does the Convention protect these rights?
Q: How does the international community monitor and support progress on the implementation of the Convention?
Q: What is the new vision of the child in the Convention?
Q: How is the Convention special?
Q: How does the Convention define a child?
Q: How many countries have ratified the Convention?
Q: Who has not ratified and why not?
Q: How does UNICEF use the Convention?
Q: What steps do the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of the Child encourage governments to undertake?
Q: In addition to support of country programmes, how does UNICEF assist governments in promoting children's rights?
Q: What are some of the areas in which the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been most effective?

Q: What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
A: The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty that recognizes the human rights of children, defined as persons up to the age of 18 years. In 41 substantive articles, it establishes in international law that States Parties must ensure that all children – without discrimination in any form – benefit from special protection measures and assistance; have access to services such as education and health care; can develop their personalities, abilities and talents to the fullest potential; grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding; and are informed about and participate in, achieving their rights in an accessible and active manner.

Q: How was it decided what should go into the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
A: The standards in the Convention on the Rights of the Child were negotiated by governments, non-governmental organizations, human rights advocates, lawyers, health specialists, social workers, educators, child development experts and religious leaders from all over the world, over a 10-year period. The result is a consensus document that takes into account the importance of tradition and cultural values for the protection and harmonious development of the child. It reflects the principal legal systems of the world and acknowledges the specific needs of developing countries.

Q: How does the Convention protect these rights?
A: It constitutes a common reference against which progress in meeting human rights standards for children can be assessed and results compared. Having agreed to meet the standards in the Convention, governments are obliged to bring their legislation, policy and practice into accordance with the standards in the Convention; to transform the standards into reality for all children; and to abstain from any action that may preclude the enjoyment of those rights or violate them. Governments are required to report periodically to a committee of independent experts on their progress to achieve all the rights.

Q: How does the international community monitor and support progress on the implementation of the Convention?
A: The Committee on the Rights of the Child, an internationally elected body of independent experts that sits in Geneva to monitor the Convention's implementation, requires governments that have ratified the Convention to submit regular reports on the status of children's rights in their countries. The Committee reviews and comments on these reports and encourages States to take special measures and to develop special institutions for the promotion and protection of children's rights. Where necessary, the Committee calls for international assistance from other governments and technical assistance from organizations like UNICEF.

Q: What is the new vision of the child in the Convention?
A: The Convention provides a universal set of standards to be adhered to by all countries. It reflects a new vision of the child. Children are neither the property of their parents nor are they helpless objects of charity. They are human beings and are the subject of their own rights. The Convention offers a vision of the child as an individual and a member of a family and a community, with rights and responsibilities appropriate to his or her age and stage of development. Recognizing children's rights in this way firmly sets a focus on the whole child. Previously seen as negotiable, the child's needs have become legally binding rights. No longer the passive recipient of benefits, the child has become the subject or holder of rights.

Q: How is the Convention special?
A: The Convention:

  • Is in force in virtually the entire community of nations, thus providing a common ethical and legal framework to develop an agenda for children. At the same time, it constitutes a common reference against which progress may be assessed.
  • Was the first time a formal commitment was made to ensure the realization of human rights and monitor progress on the situation of children.
  • Indicates that children's rights are human rights. Children's rights are not special rights, but rather the fundamental rights inherent to the human dignity of all people, including children. Children's rights can no longer be perceived as an option, as a question of favour or kindness to children or as an expression of charity. They generate obligations and responsibilities that we all must honour and respect.
  • Was even accepted by non-state entities. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), a rebel movement in Southern Sudan, is one such example.
  • Is a reference for many organizations working with and for children – including NGOs and organizations within the UN system.
  • Reaffirms that all rights are important and essential for the full development of the child and that addressing each and every child is important.
  • Reaffirms the notion of State accountability for the realization of human rights and the values of transparency and public scrutiny that are associated with it.
  • Promotes an international system of solidarity designed to achieve the realization of children's rights. Using the Convention's reporting process as a reference, donor countries are required to provide assistance in areas where particular needs have been identified; recipient countries are required to direct overseas development assistance (ODA) to that end too.
  • Highlights and defends the family's role in children's lives.
Q: How does the Convention define a child?
A: The Convention defines a "child" as a person below the age of 18, unless the relevant laws recognize an earlier age of majority. In some cases, States are obliged to be consistent in defining benchmark ages – such as the age for admission into employment and completion of compulsory education; but in other cases the Convention is unequivocal in setting an upper limit – such as prohibiting life imprisonment or capital punishment for those under 18 years of age.

Q: How many countries have ratified the Convention?
A: More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history – 191 countries had become State Parties to the Convention as of October 1999.

Q: Who has not ratified and why not?
A: The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. Only two countries, Somalia and the United States, have not ratified this celebrated agreement. Somalia is currently unable to proceed to ratification as it has no recognized government. By signing the Convention, the United States has signalled its intention to ratify – but has yet to do so.

As in many other nations, the United States undertakes an extensive examination and scrutiny of treaties before proceeding to ratify. This examination, which includes an evaluation of the degree of compliance with existing law and practice in the country at state and federal levels, can take several years – or even longer if the treaty is portrayed as being controversial or if the process is politicized. For example, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide took more than 30 years to be ratified in the United States and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was signed by the United States 17 years ago, still has not been ratified. Moreover, the US Government typically will consider only one human rights treaty at a time. Currently, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is cited as the nation's top priority among human rights treaties.

Q: How does UNICEF use the Convention?
A: The Secretary-General of the United Nations has called for the mainstreaming of human rights in all areas of UN operations – for example, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in its mandate for refugee children, or the International Labour Organization (ILO) in its commitment to eliminate child labour. In the case of UNICEF, the Convention has become more than just a reference, but a systematic guide to the work of the organization. As expressed in its Mission Statement, UNICEF is mandated to "advocate for the protection of children's rights" and it "strives to establish children's rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children." UNICEF promotes the principles and provisions of the Convention and the mainstreaming of children's rights in a systematic manner, in its advocacy, programming, monitoring and evaluation activities.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides UNICEF with guidance as to the areas to be assessed and addressed, and it is a tool against which UNICEF measures the progress achieved in those areas. Integrating a human rights approach in all UNICEF's work is an ongoing learning process that includes broadening the framework for UNICEF's development agenda. In addition to maintaining a focus on child survival and development, UNICEF must consider the situation of all children, better analyse the economic and social environment, develop partnerships to strengthen the response (including the participation of children themselves), support interventions on the basis of non-discrimination and act in the best interests of the child.

Q: What steps do the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of the Child encourage governments to undertake?
A: Through its reviews of country reports, the Committee urges all levels of government to use the Convention as a guide in policy-making and implementation to:

  • Develop a comprehensive national agenda for children.
  • Develop permanent bodies or mechanisms to promote coordination, monitoring and evaluation of activities throughout all sectors of government.
  • Ensure that all legislation is fully compatible with the Convention.
  • Make children visible in policy development processes throughout government by introducing child impact assessments.
  • Carry out adequate budget analysis to determine the portion of public funds spent on children and to ensure that these resources are being used effectively.
  • Ensure that sufficient data are collected and used to improve the plight of all children in each jurisdiction.
  • Raise awareness and disseminate information on the Convention by providing training to all those involved in government policy-making and working with or for children.
  • Involve civil society – including children themselves – in the process of implementing and raising awareness of child rights.
  • Set up independent statutory offices – ombudspersons, commissions and other institutions – to promote children's rights.
Q: In addition to support of country programmes, how does UNICEF assist governments in promoting children's rights?
A: UNICEF's work involves advocacy, cooperation and technical assistance.
  • UNICEF undertakes advocacy – through publications, awareness campaigns and participation in major international conferences and in public statements – and works with those responsible for the development and implementation of legislation and public policy.
  • UNICEF cooperates with both donor governments and governments in the developing world. UNICEF-assisted programmes seek to ensure the social and economic rights of children by delivering essential services such as health and education and improving access to good nutrition and to care. UNICEF also focuses attention on national budget spending, encouraging governments to allocate 20 per cent of budgets to basic services. Further, UNICEF supports efforts to redress inequitable practices and discrimination, which are direct and underlying causes of children's and women's deprivation.
  • UNICEF cooperates with other international organizations – particularly those within the UN system, as the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) process illustrates – and international financial institutions.
  • UNICEF works to build partnerships with civil society organizations, involving children, families and other members of communities.
  • UNICEF provides technical support and assistance to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
  • UNICEF focuses on sustainable results and encourages ongoing monitoring and evaluation of programmes.
Q: What are some of the areas in which the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been most effective?
A: The Convention has inspired a process of national implementation and social change in all regions of the world. Achievements towards the realization of child rights can be seen in the areas below. The Examples cited are merely a sampling and are not exhaustive.
  • Incorporating human rights principles into legislation. The almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has stimulated the ratification of other fundamental human rights instruments and the reflection in local legislation of the principles embodied in these instruments.

    Examples.

    Among the key developments are changes in the legal procedures on the international adoption of Burundian children; ratification by Sao Tome and Principe and Mozambique of the landmine-ban convention (its full name is the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction); a review of the Child Care Act in South Africa; and the passage of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998 in the United Republic of Tanzania. Child rights as well as human rights principles are reflected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's new draft constitution, which grants free education and prohibits conscription into the army before age 18. In Ethiopia, provisions for children's and women's rights have been written into the new constitution and legislation. In Mauritius, 23 pieces of national legislation were amended and adopted under the National Assembly for the Protection of Children (Miscellaneous) Act and other legislation in accordance with provisions of the Convention. In Azerbaijan, a law on the rights of the child was approved in 1998, while in Romania, a national policy reform is related to children in public care. Malaysia enacted a new law, the Malaysian Child Act, which is within the framework of the Convention. In 16 countries in the Americas and Caribbean region, national laws have been adapted to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; among them, Venezuela has passed significant child rights legislation and Chile, Panama and Uruguay have drafted children's codes; Panama and Uruguay have also enacted legal reforms in the field of juvenile justice. Constitutional amendments in Brazil reflect child rights. Recently, the Mexican Congress agreed to support the National Law for Children's Rights Protection.

  • Establishing interdepartmental and multidisciplinary bodies. Several countries have set up interdepartmental and multidisciplinary bodies to promote policy initiatives, to ensure policy coordination and to monitor progress towards implementing the Convention. These bodies often include local authorities – for example, mayors 'as defenders of children's rights' – as well as representatives of civil society.

    Examples.

    In Sri Lanka, a presidential committee mobilized national and international media, religious groups and NGOs to draw government attention to the issue of child abuse. In Sweden, a committee has been specifically established to follow and promote actions relevant to child rights. A high-level, intersectoral working committee in Malaysia drafted the new Malaysian Child Act. In Gabon, an ad hoc committee on childhood has been established, while in Mauritania, UNICEF supported the creation of a parliamentary commission for child rights. In India, a children's parliament and children's courts have been established. Sri Lanka established a Child Protection Authority to plan, budget and coordinate programmes as well as a parliamentary lobby for child rights. In Bangladesh, an interministerial committee has been established to regularly monitor the process of fulfilling children's rights.

  • Developing national agendas for children.

    Examples.

    In South Africa, the National Programme of Action, launched in 1996, is designed to achieve coordination of governmental and non-governmental plans in favour of children and to ensure the convergence of such plans within the frameworks of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the World Summit for Children and the national Reconstruction and Development Programme. Mozambique has initiated a similar process in an Agenda for Action, identifying priorities and goals to be achieved in specific time frames; the process has been developed in parallel with the process of reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and in the context provided by the Convention.

  • Widening partnerships for children.

    Examples.

    In Africa, the Sara Communication Initiative, an animated film series that covers child rights themes, has generated a wide range of partnerships – including with local and international NGOs, other UN agencies, the World Bank, bilateral donors, prominent media outlets, community groups and other local institutions. In the Middle East and North Africa region, a revived dialogue with the League of Arab States, the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, the Arab Institute for Human Rights, Rotary International, the United Nations Development Programme and UNICEF is providing new opportunities for partnerships and is strengthening the regional movement for children. In Botswana, the 'Molaletsa' project seeks to mobilize private-sector business interests around children's issues and to attract cash and in-kind contributions. Apple Computer, Inc. supported the establishment of an educational facility for pregnant teenagers and architects designed primary school hostels for children living in remote areas; the architects' contribution leveraged an additional $4.8 million in government support. The Sialkot Initiative in Pakistan brings together the public and private sectors in an effort to combat child labour; partners include the International Labour Organization, the Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the International Save the Children Alliance and several other NGOs and UNICEF. The media and other communicators play a strategic role in national programmes awarding prizes for communication on child rights issues – in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Peru and countries in the English-speaking Caribbean. In countries in the East Asia and the Pacific region, business communities have provided free media placements for campaigns against child domestic labour. In areas experiencing conflict in the Philippines, activities involve the private sector and religious organizations, most notably the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

  • Promoting ombudspersons for children or commissioners for children's rights. Independent institutions such as ombudspersons are guided by the best interests of the child and offer an opportunity to monitor and evaluate – in an impartial manner – policies undertaken in favour of children and to challenge decisions that may disregard their rights.

    Examples.

    Georgia, for example, has established an Ombudsman's Office for Human Rights, with one person designated to cover children's rights. National commissions on human rights have been created in more than 10 countries in Western and Central Africa – including Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Zambia. Zambia's Human Rights Commission (established in 1997) formed a subcommittee on child rights in 1998; the subcommittee has identified child abuse and education as key issues of concern. Rwanda recently created the National Assembly for Child Rights and Sao Tome and Principe established the National Commission on Youth and Children. Madagascar newly established the Independent Commission on Human Rights and South Africa has established the Child Rights Committee, a statutory body of the South African Human Rights Commission; UNICEF is an official member of both bodies. In Mauritius, a task force co-chaired by UNICEF is charged with reviewing the role and status of the National Children's Council, which was established in 1991.

  • Assessing the impact of measures on children. In a few countries, the need for a serious monitoring process has led to the establishment of systems to assess child impact. Through these systems, countries assess the extent to which any measure, even when it is not directly targeted at children, promotes or impedes implementation of the Convention and the impact such measures have on children.

    Example.

    In Belgium, the Flemish Parliament instituted an impact report with regard to children and monitors government policy in terms of its respect for the rights of the child.

  • Restructuring of budgetary allocations. The way budgets are structured and allocations made can promote the realization of children's rights – or impede it. 'State of Our Children' reports and 'children's budgets' are becoming the rule rather than the exception.

    Examples.

    Brazil now reports on its budget expenditure on children and Norway published a 'children's annex' with its annual budget.

  • Targeting child survival and development. The systematic and progressive reporting required by the Committee on the Rights of the Child has spurred activity towards child survival and development targets set by the World Summit for Children and by successive global conferences. Capacity-building through involvement of the community in water and sanitation projects is key to UNICEF's human rights approach.

    Examples.

    In the Middle East and North Africa region, a rights-based approach to basic education has been promoted within the Global Education Reform Initiative, currently being implemented in six countries. The Initiative seeks to make learning more interactive and the classroom more 'child-friendly' while also promoting tolerance, respect and cooperation among teachers, pupils and parents. In Bangladesh, the mass media has given priority to 'Facts for Life' and messages on children's and women's rights. Zambia's 200 community schools, supported by communities, churches, NGOs and UNICEF, give an opportunity to thousands of children who might otherwise be deprived of a basic education. Five countries in sub-Saharan Africa – Burkina Faso, C�te d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal and Togo – have elaborated laws prohibiting female genital mutilation. Cape Verde has increased the penalties for the crime of paedophilia. In spite of war, birth registration campaigns continue in Angola and other countries. Uganda has developed subnational plans to guide actions at the municipal level to improve the situation of children.

  • Implementing the principle of non-discrimination. The Convention on the Rights of the Child requires States to acknowledge, care for and reintegrate forgotten and marginalized children: children languishing in institutions, children living or working on the streets, unaccompanied refugee children, children in hidden forms of exploitative child labour, children bought and sold across frontiers.

    Examples.

    In Romania, a Roma (Gypsy) community development project is upgrading the knowledge and life skills of Roma children and their parents in order to integrate Roma children into society and improve their access to education, health and protection services. In Iran, over 150 children with disabilities participated in a planning and programming workshop to help the national government set priority policy issues. A number of countries are working to establish child protection networks that reach the village level; models include the Philippine Barangay Council for the Protection of Children; the Indonesian National Child Protection Body; Local Protection Teams in Malaysia; and Community Volunteers for Child Rights in Thailand. In Pakistan, the media coverage – in editorial comments, columns and weekend magazines – of child labour, violence against women and discrimination against girls has helped put these issues higher on the national political agenda.

  • Listening to children's voices. For the first time, children are being seen and heard in government, through children's elections and children's parliaments, youth councils and child mayors' meetings, summits and seminars of children.

    Examples.

    In Colombia, the Children's Social Movement for Peace is a marvellous example of children's participation, spurring a popular mass movement of over 400 civil society organizations that have rallied the nation with activities and messages supporting peace. Elsewhere, children's referendums provide an important experience in learning about democracy.

  • Developing justice systems for children. Together with the detailed United Nations standards on juvenile justice, the Convention's principles are leading States to develop distinct systems of youth justice. Such systems seek to avoid, wherever possible, treating children as criminals and depriving them of liberty. They focus instead on rehabilitation and reintegration and seek to check the populist punitive policies that actually lead to greater criminality and violence.

    Examples.

    In Chad, Ghana, Guinea and Mauritania, a reform of penal codes and penal procedural codes was undertaken. In 1998, police in Cambodia, Malaysia and the Philippines and 'juvenile delinquency officers' in Mongolia were given child rights sensitization and training. The partnership among the 'five pillars of justice' (law enforcement, prosecution, court, correction and community) continued in the Philippines and took a new step towards sustaining efforts by integrating the Convention on the Rights of the Child into the law curriculum at Manila University. In Bangladesh, judges and police officers were trained in protecting juveniles in conflict with the law and improving the conditions of juveniles under detention.

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