Child rights making progress under UN convention

Safaa Abdoun
7 Min Read

CAIRO: The annual number of child deaths under five years old has dropped 28 percent from 1990 to 2008, as a result of the global commitment by governments and civil societies to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a UN report said.

The special edition of the UNICEF global flagship report “The State of the World’s Children 2010, (SOWCR) which was presented on Sunday to Minister of Family and Population Moshira Khattab, said that the number of deaths fell from around 12.5 million in 1990 to an estimated 8.8 million in 2008.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The accomplishments and achievements of the CRC on a global and local level were discussed by Khattab and UNICEF representative and UN Goodwill Ambassador Khaled Aboul Naga.

“This year the report focuses on the ground-breaking treaty the CRC [which] is the most ratified human rights treaty in human history, said UNICEF Egypt Representative, Erma Manoncourt.

“By signing this revolutionary convent on children’s rights, nations throughout the world promised to set basic standards in health care, education, protection and social services; they also grant children the right to play, express themselves and have a say in decisions that affect them, she explained.

According to the report between 1990 and 2006, 1.6 billion people worldwide gained access to improved water services. Children are also no longer the missing face of the HIV and AIDS pandemic.

Furthermore, around 84 percent of primary school-aged children are in classes today and the gender gap in primary school enrollment is narrowing between boys and girls.

The report also states that the age of children getting married is rising in some countries and the number of girls subjected to genital mutilation is gradually falling.

Manoncourt also added that important steps have been taken to help protect children from serving as soldiers or trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude.

“All the world’s countries, 193 countries, have signed CRC, except for the United States and Somalia, but I believe that President Obama won’t let this celebration pass by without the US signing the CRC, Khattab said.

“The importance of this convention [lies in] the legal responsibility the countries have, each country is bound by law to protect children and give them all their rights, she said.

Egypt was one of the first countries to sign the convention and has also ratified all optional protocols and since then the government has been working on improving the lives of children.

“Due to the enlightened vision of President Mubarak and the First Lady there has been a breakthrough in child rights, said Khattab who added that granting children their rights is no charity or sympathy but an investment to have a sound society.

There are many achievements Egypt has made, according to the report, these include reducing maternal and infant mortality rates significantly over the past 20 years to the point that currently the country is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of Reducing Child Mortality by 2015.

In the education sector, over the last 20 years, the country has witnessed an increase in the enrollment rate from 89 percent to 96 percent and a decrease in drop-out rates from 3.85 percent to 0.49 percent.

It was also noted that one of Egypt’s greatest achievements is the amendments to the Child Law in 2008, which included the establishment of Child Protection Committees, the ban against the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and the establishment of a Ministry for Family and Population.

“UNICEF is pleased that Egyptian children now have a champion at the ministerial level in government to advocate for a child-focused agenda that is rights-based and results-oriented, said Manoncourt, referring to the ministry.

Khattab highlights that during the past 20 years, having the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood established in 2000 has been a major breakthrough as it comprised all children in Egypt without overlooking any group. In addition, the amendments to the Child Law in 2008 have been crucial as they placed a foundation for the protection of children.

Aboul Naga who has been working with UNICEF and was one of many celebrities who took part in UNICEF’s video “Every Child Counts, listed five dreams he has for children in Egypt. First, “An Egypt free from Female Genital Mutilation, clean water and proper sewage systems nationwide, equality between all children, gender equality in education and protecting children from the effects of climate change.

“Despite the global achievements, the rights of children worldwide are still far from assured, said Manoncourt, adding that “it is unacceptable that children in some countries are still dying from preventable causes like pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition.

She continued, “Many of the world’s children will never see the inside of a [classroom] and millions lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect.

As she was presenting the SOWCR to Khattab, Manoncourt affirmed that UNICEF will continue to assist national efforts in putting children at the heart of the development agenda. “We will push and advocate that every child in Egypt has the right to a childhood, every child is healthy, every child [receives] education, every child is treated fairly and has a voice.

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