The Perfect World Book - The Law

Message of the Perfect World

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Setbacks and Successes

More progress was made in realizing and protecting children's rights in the decade following adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child than in any other comparable period in human history and children's rights are now higher on public and political agendas than ever before. Gains in democratic governance and rising respect for human rights in many countries have contributed to this progress.

The near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has encouraged the ratification by States of other fundamental human rights instruments and more and more States are committing to honoring and implementing human rights agendas by establishing National Plans of Action, including specific targets on the basis of which progress can be monitored.

Major achievements in the area of child rights can already be seen:

Special institutions, structures, agendas and measures in the interest of promoting child rights have emerged in all corners of the globe. NGOs and other actors in civil society have emerged as innovative and powerful voices for children's rights.

Wholesale legislative reform in favor of child rights often has been the outcome of the mandatory comprehensive review of national legislation under the Convention's reporting process. Also as a result of this process, States have acquired new impetus to achieving child survival and development goals.

States have begun to respond to the extreme violence and exploitation, abuse and neglect that is a reality for millions of children. The principles requiring that children be protected from 'all forms of physical and mental violence' have sparked new hope for reducing the many forms of adult violence against children.

Because of the Convention's non-discrimination principle, States have moved to better realize and protect the rights of forgotten and invisible children – children who are refugees, children who have been institutionalized, children who work or are otherwise exploited, children living or working on the streets and children who have been bought and sold across borders.

States have been obliged to ensure that their definitions of childhood meet the standards outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

States have developed distinct systems of youth justice that focus on reintegration in society and avoid – wherever possible – criminalizing children and depriving them of liberty.

Progress has been made in ensuring that children's views are being heard, respected and taken into account – within families, communities and States – when actions are undertaken, policies shaped and results assessed.

Challenges ahead:

In spite of the remarkable achievements in advancing child rights, much remains to be done. Progress has been uneven, with some countries lagging considerably behind others in giving child rights its deserved prominence on national agendas.

Globally, an estimated 12 million children under the age of five die every year, mostly of easily preventable causes.

Some 130 million children in developing countries are not in primary school and the majority of them are girls.

About 160 million children are severely or moderately malnourished.

Some 1.4 billion people lack access to safe water and 2.7 billion lack adequate sanitation.

Some States are moving toward increasingly punitive systems of juvenile justice, with children beaten and arbitrarily detained by police and forced to share prisons with adults in inhumane conditions.

Many unwanted children languish in orphanages and other institutions, denied education and adequate health care. These children are often physically abused.

An estimated 250 million children are engaged in some form of labor. There are few examples of systematic actions to end child exploitation that are sensitive to children's needs.

Armed conflicts around the globe continue to shorten and ruin the lives of millions of children. In 2004, about 300,000 children served as soldiers in national armies. Many of these children were killed or maimed in combat; and many children were forced to kill and maim others.

At the close of the 20th century, there is a growing global consciousness of the issues affecting children and a commitment to address them. New and growing problems – for example, of HIV/AIDS, which has already orphaned millions of children and daily afflicts thousands more – threaten to reverse hard-won health and other social gains in a number of countries. But the world's children have been made a promise that still stands. Millions of children's lives will be affected if that commitment is not met.