The objective of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is to protect children from discrimination, neglect and abuse. It is the principal children’s treaty, covering a full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
The convention is the first legally binding international treaty to give universally-recognised norms and standards for the protection and promotion of children’s rights in a single text.
The UN General Assembly adopted the CRC and opened it for signature on November 20, 1989 (the 30th anniversary of its Declaration of the Rights of the Child). Ghana was the first country to sign the convention in January 29, 1990, and ratified it in February, 1990.
It came into force in September 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. Currently, 193 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations except Somalia, South Sudan and the United States.
Foundation of CRC
The convention rests on a foundation of four general principles that express its philosophy and offer guidance to national programmes for putting that philosophy into effect.
These principles are non-discrimination, best interests of the child, right to life, survival and development and views of the child.
Enactment of the Children’s Act
Ghana followed up the ratification of the CRC with the enactment of the Children’s Act, 1998 (Act 650) to reform and consolidate the law relating to children, to provide for the rights of the child, maintenance and adoption and regulate child labour and apprenticeship.
A statement issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to mark the 25th anniversary of the CRC touched on some of the striking inequities facing children.
It said although Ghana had made progress on child well-being, the latest data from the 2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) showed that disparities still needed to be bridged.
According to the MICS, in spite of the economic growth, huge disparities still exist, and unequal distribution of resources among the north and the south, rural and urban, poor and rich continue to grow rather than decline.
Children living in rural areas
As a result, Ghanaian children living in rural areas experience higher levels of infant and under-five mortality compared with those living in urban areas.
A child in the Upper West Region is nearly three times more likely to die before the age of five than a child born in the Greater Accra Region.
Evidence revealed from the MICS survey also showed that even though primary net education rate was about 84 per cent for Ghana, nearly half a million children were still not enrolled despite universal free basic education.
The UNICEF report, ‘Every child counts – revealing disparities, advancing children’s rights’, throws light on the importance of data in showing where the most pressing issues mitigating against children are and how data can be utilised in making progress for children.
“In Ghana, UNICEF is a knowledge centre on children because of the various surveys we have undertaken in collaboration with the government. These have helped to expose where the conditions are worse for children and to advocate for more work to be done,” said Susan Ngongi, UNICEF Ghana Representative.
Worse conditions that some children encounter are children who find themselves in exploitative labour that affects their health, education and growth and development.
Parents have an obligation under the CRC and the Children’s Act to exercise their parental responsibilities. It also acknowledges that children have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate, to be protected from abuse or exploitation, and to have their privacy protected, and it requires that their lives are not subject to excessive interference.
The report says that a lot of progress have been made since the CRC was signed, and in the run up to the culmination of the Millennium Development Goals. However, it calls for much more to be done.
The report notes that “being counted makes children visible, and this act of recognition makes it possible to address their needs and advance their rights.”
The convention deals with the child-specific needs and rights. It requires that states act in the best interest of the child.
For this reason, the governments of countries that have ratified the convention are required to report to and appear before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress with regards to the advancement of the implementation of the convention and the status of child rights in their country.
Ghana’s Children’s Act provides a very powerful legislation for the protection and promotion of children’s rights.
While it is necessary to commend the government for ratifying the CRC and enacting the Children’s Act, there is still the need for all those who have the interest of children at heart to show the commitment to improve the situation of children and do more in helping them to reach their full potential.
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