20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
20 November 2009 -- The Convention is the key piece of international law for the protection and fulfilment of the health, developmental, social, economic, and cultural needs of all children. WHO uses the Convention and works with countries to get the right laws and policies in place so that all children get the food they need, the right treatment when they get sick, and grow up to be healthy adults.
Transcript of the podcast
Children’s voices: We are really lucky to have mums and dads that love us and take care of us when there's something wrong, especially when we're sick. We can go to the doctor and get the medicine that we need to make us better. We go to school and learn lots of interesting things, and play with our friends. All kids in the world - no matter where they come from - should be able to grow up being safe and loved, and have enough food to eat.
Veronica Riemer: This week marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. The Convention is the key piece of international law for the protection and fulfilment of the health, developmental, social, economic, and cultural needs of all children from newborns to 18 years old. Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO’s Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development talks about the progress made over the last 20 years.
Dr Elizabeth Mason: Over the last twenty years there has been an increasing recognition by countries of the importance of involving children, looking at issues such as children's parliaments and listening to their needs, the importance of reducing inequity that is making sure all children get access to health, all children are protected and the growing realization of countries that they do need to address this issue as a fundamental right of the children rather than, for example, providing education, but not providing education for all, providing health, but not providing health for all.
Veronica Riemer: The CRC emphasizes an urgent need to focus on the millions of children who, due to their socio-economic status or their cultural origin, have been excluded. Savitri Goonesekere, Professor of Law at Colombo University in Sri Lanka, and prominent women’s rights lawyer, talks about how the Convention has changed young lives in Sri Lanka.
Professor Savitri Goonesekere: Sri Lanka has a record of achievement with regard to children, particularly in the area of what the Convention refers to as a right of a child to survive, develop and reach his full potential. We had visionary policies on health and education, which meant that every child had the right to go to school, had a right to basic health and that has reflected itself in very good social indicators for children.
However, over the years other problems had emerged including exploitation of children, particularly in domestic service, small children being employed as domestic servants when they should be in school despite our education policies. Again sexual abuse of children within the family, in the community, those were areas where there were gaps.
Veronica Riemer: One emerging problem in Sri Lanka concerns the welfare of adolescent girls.
Professor Savitri Goonesekere: We have had years of conflict, we have displaced people and this has also surfaced a new problem of a push in the families for early child marriage and the desire to see their children married off very young, and that of course is a total violation of both constitutional commitments on gender equality as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child standards, the right to develop, the right to health, the right to participate, the right to be protected from abuse, because children who get married are clearly more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Veronica Riemer: Marcus Stahlhofer is a Child Rights Advisor with the World Health Organzation. He talks about how WHO uses the Convention to improve children's lives.
Marcus Stahlhofer: WHO uses the CRC and works with countries to get the right laws and policies in place so that all kids get the food they need, the right treatment when they get sick, and grow up to be healthy adults. An example of this is to make sure that when a child gets sick with pneumonia, they can get treated as close as possible to home. One way we make sure this happens is to encourage and help countries to adopt laws and policies which explicitly allow health workers in the community to prescribe antibiotics.
Another example is the work we're doing to make sure that the health rights of teenagers are legally protected by countries, so they can get the information, advice and means they need, such as condoms, to prevent pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections.
We also help countries to make sure that doctors and other health workers respect the rights of kids in their daily work by teaching them about children's rights and how to treat children and adolescents according to the CRC.
That's all for this episode of the WHO podcast. Thanks for listening. If you have any comments on our podcast or have any suggestions for future health topics drop us a line. Our email address is Podcast@who.int.
For the World Health Organization, this is Veronica Riemer in Geneva.