Convention on the Rights of the Child

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Convention on the Rights of the Child
Opened for signature 20 November 1989 in -
Entered into force September 2, 1990
Conditions for entry into force 20 ratifications or accessions (Article 49)
Parties 193 (only 2 non-parties: USA and Somalia)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, often referred to as "CRC", is an international convention setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. It is monitored by the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child which is composed of members from countries around the world.

Governments of countries that have ratified the "CRC" 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 "CRC" and the status of child rights in their country. Their reports and the committee's written views and concerns are available on the committee's website.

Most member nation states (countries) of the United Nations have ratified it, either partly or completely. Two notable exceptions are Somalia and the United States . The United Nations General Assembly agreed to adopt the Convention into international law on November 20, 1989; it came into force on September 2, 1990, after it was ratified by the required number of nations. The Convention generally defines a child as any person under the age of 18, unless an earlier age of majority is recognized by a country's law.

The Convention acknowledges that every child has certain basic rights, including the right to life, his or her own name and identity, to be raised by his or her parents within a family or cultural grouping and have a relationship with both parents, even if they are separated.

The Convention obliges states to allow parents to exercise their parental responsibilities. The Convention 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, to have their privacy protected and requires that their lives not be subject to excessive interference.

The Convention also obliges signatory states to provide separate legal representation for a child in any judicial dispute concerning their care and asks that the child's viewpoint be heard in such cases. The Convention forbids capital punishment for children.

The Convention is child-centric and deals with the child-specific needs and rights. It requires that states act in the best interests of the child. This approach is different from the common law approach found in many countries that had previously treated children and wives as possessions or chattels, ownership of which was often argued over in family disputes. In many jurisdictions, properly implementing the Convention requires an overhaul of child custody and guardianship laws, or, at the very least, a creative approach within the existing laws.

The Convention also has two Optional Protocols, adopted by the General Assembly in May 2000 and applicable to those states that have signed and ratified them: The Optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Optional protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

State Parties and Signatories

According to UNICEF, 193 states are party to the Convention , almost all the members of the United Nations.

U.S. status

The United States and Somalia have signed the Convention, but never completed their ratification processes. On February 16, 1995, Madeleine Albright, at the time the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, signed the Convention. President Bill Clinton chose to submit the Convention to the Senate for ratification by a two-thirds majority; nevertheless, this never happened.

The United States has had particular difficulties in ratifying the "CRC" mainly due to strong opposition by conservatives to the treaty. The administration of president George W. Bush has explicitly stated its opposition to the treaty:

"The Convention on the Rights of the Child may be a positive tool for promoting child welfare for those countries that have adopted it. But we believe the text goes too far when it asserts entitlements based on economic, social and cultural rights. ... The human rights-based approach ... poses significant problems as used in this text."

Canada status

Canada has ratified the "CRC" but has not fully implemented the Convention in Canadian domestic laws. The Canadian Children's Rights Council has a full section with related parliamentary references on the implementation of the "CRC" in Canada.

Youth criminal laws in Canada underwent major changes resulting in the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) which went into effect on April 1, 2003.

In 1989, the Canadian House of Commons voted unanimously to pass a non-binding resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000. However, the child poverty rate did not change between 1989 and 2000; 16% of Canadian children still live in poverty.

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