Report of the Secretary general on status of the convention on the Rights of the Child

Summary: The General Assembly, by its
resolution 44/25 (11/20/1989),
adopted the Convention on the
Rights of the Child. On 12 December
1998, it adopted resolution 52/107 in
which it tackled the issues of its
implementation. It requested the
Secretary-General to submit to the
GA at its fifty-third session a report
on these issues.
Report on the Secretary-General on status of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child : . 20/08/98. A/53/281.

General Assembly A/53/281
20 August 1998

Fifty-third session
Item 109 of the provisional agenda*A/53/150.
Promotion and protection of the rights of children

Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Report of the Secretary-General


Introduction 1–2
Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 3
Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 4–6
Children with disabilities 7–8
Prevention and eradication of the sale of children and of their
sexual exploitation, including child prostitution and child
pornography 9–10
Protection of children affected by armed conflict 11–13
Elimination of the exploitation of child labour 14–18


1. The General Assembly, by its resolution 44/25 of 20 November
1989, adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The
Convention was opened for signature in New York on 26 January
1990 and entered into force on 2 September 1990, the thirtieth
day after the deposit with the Secretary-General of the twentieth
instrument of ratification or accession.

2. On 12 December 1998, the General Assembly adopted
resolution 52/107 entitled "The Rights of the Child", in which it
tackled the issues of the implementation of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child; children with disabilities; the prevention
and eradication of the sale of children and of their sexual
exploitation, including child prostitution and child pornography;
the protection of children affected by armed conflict; refugee and
internally displaced children; the elimination of the exploitation of
child labour; and the plight of children living and/or working on
the streets. It requested the Secretary-General to submit to the
General Assembly at its fifty-third session a report containing
information on the status of the Convention on the Rights of the
Child and the problems addressed in resolution 52/107.

Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

3. As at 1 August 1998, the Convention had been ratified or
acceded to by 191 States. In addition, one State had signed the
Convention. (For the list of States that have signed, ratified or
acceded to the Convention, as well as the dates of their
signature, ratification or accession, see A/52/348, annex.)

Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

4. The Commission on Human Rights, at its fifty-fourth session,
adopted resolution 1998/76 of 22 April 1998, in which it
welcomed the role of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in
creating awareness of the principles and provisions of the
Convention and in providing recommendations to States parties
on its implementation; called upon States parties to accept the
amendment to paragraph 2 of article 43 of the Convention, and
called upon States parties and organs and bodies of the United
Nations as well as intergovernmental and non-governmental
organizations, the media and the community at large to make the
principles and provisions of the Convention widely known and to
encourage training on the rights of the child for those involved in
activities concerning children, for example through the
programme of advisory services and technical cooperation in the
field of human rights; decided to request the Secretary-General
to ensure the provision of appropriate staff and facilities for the
effective and expeditious performance of the functions of the
Committee, while noting the temporary support given by the Plan
of Action of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights to strengthen the implementation of the Convention and
requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
to brief Governments regularly on the implementation of the Plan
of Action.

5. The Committee on the Rights of the Child held its sixteenth,
seventeenth and eighteenth sessions at the United Nations
Office at Geneva from 22 September to 10 October 1997, 5 to 23
January 1998 and 18 May to 5 June 1998, respectively (for the
reports of the Committee on these sessions, see CRC/C/69,
CRC/C/73 and CRC/C/75).

6. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) continues to
provide support to States parties at all stages of the
implementation and reporting process. An in-built child rights
thrust is now evident in most country programmes and projects.
Country offices actively advocate for legislative reform and offer
technical assistance in the drafting of new laws and constitutional
amendments to bring national law into conformity with the
Convention. In January 1998, UNICEF also launched the
Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of
the Child, a practical tool which records the interpretation of the
Committee on the Rights of the Child in relation to its examination
of reports of States parties. UNICEF has placed increased
emphasis on the fulfilment of article 29, the right to education,
focusing on improving access to education for all. This will be
reflected in the 1999 State of the World's Children report, which
will specifically address education. UNICEF organizes an
Education for Development programme, aimed at helping young
people develop democratic values such as global solidarity, anti-
racism, peace, tolerance and social justice. It has also supported
initiatives to promote children's participation, which have focused
on the parliamentary process, including children's elections and

Children with disabilities

7. At its sixteenth session, the Committee held a general
discussion on the issue of children with disabilities. The thematic
discussion was organized around the following three main topics:
the right of children with disabilities to life and development; self-
representation and participation of children with disabilities; and
the entitlement of such children to inclusive education. The
discussion day attracted a record attendance of about 100
representatives from various United Nations organs and bodies
(including the Special Rapporteur on Disability of the Commission
for Social Development) and specialized agencies, non-
governmental organizations, research institutions, individual
experts and children, including disabled children. It generated a
lively debate, centred on ways to challenge the widespread
abuse of the fundamental rights of disabled children, through the
promotion of a process of participation and inclusion.

8. Protection underscores the UNICEF-backed initiatives to
prevent childhood disability. Efforts are currently being made to:
(a) prevent disabilities among 20 per cent of the child population
who are hardest to reach; (b) prevent disabilities, trauma and
injuries from landmines and protect children at risk in countries
affected by armed conflict; (c) prevent birth-related trauma and
injuries and brain damage; and (d) ensure and sustain
preventive health and nutrition measures for the care and
development of the young child. UNICEF is assisting States
parties in taking the necessary measures to protect the human
rights and fundamental freedoms of children with disabilities by
raising awareness of disability issues among intergovernmental
and non-governmental organizations, etc., providing information
and guidelines and highlighting areas for reform. In order to
promote an integrated approach, ensuring the active
participation of disabled children in all aspects of life but
particularly in education, UNICEF is strengthening its capacity to
support innovative community-based rehabilitation projects.

Prevention and eradication of the sale of children and of their
sexual exploitation, including child prostitution and child

9. The Commission on Human Rights in its resolution 1998/76
welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of
children, child prostitution and child pornography, Mrs. Ofelia
Calceta Santos (E/CN.4/1998/101 and Add.1 and 2), which
contained a general overview of the latest developments at the
national and international levels on the themes under her
mandate, and focussed on the role of the media and of education
in the prevention of the problem of commercial sexual exploitation
of children and in the assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration
of the child victims; it also decided to request the working group
on draft optional protocol on the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography to meet for a maximum of two
weeks prior to the next session of the Commission and redouble
its efforts with the aim of finalizing the draft by the tenth
anniversary of the Convention.

10. In accordance with the request of the General Assembly for
States to implement measures in line with the Declaration and
Agenda for Action of the World Congress against Commercial
Sexual Exploitation of Children (A/51/385, annex), UNICEF has
supported country-level activities leading towards the
development of national plans of action. UNICEF is collaborating
in a number of countries to address commercial sexual
exploitation with specific emphasis on trafficking of women and
children, and the problem of sex tourism. UNICEF also supports
an initiative aimed at creating an international framework for
legislation to protect women and children from commercial sexual
exploitation as well as capacity-building efforts in the area of
psychosocial care and reintegration of child victims.

Protection of children affected by armed conflict

11. The appointment for three years of the Special
Representative of the Secretary-General on the impact of armed
conflict on children was welcomed by the Commission on Human
Rights, which also decided to request the working group on the
draft optional protocol on the involvement of children in armed
conflicts to meet in early 1999, primarily to consider the
Chairman's report on the status of informal consultations to be
held with the aim of promoting an early agreement and to
request the working group to meet for a maximum of two weeks
if the group decides that an agreement on the draft optional
protocol is possible at the fifty-fifth session of the Commission.

12. UNICEF is acting as a catalyst in efforts to ensure the
adoption of the Optional Protocol on raising the age limit for
recruitment. UNICEF is supporting projects on the prevention of
the recruitment of children in armed conflict, the demobilization of
ex-child soldiers, the reunification of children separated from their
family and the protection and psychosocial reintegration of
children affected by armed conflict and organized violence.
Central to all UNICEF's activities in this area is the inclusion of
respect for child rights within emergency and humanitarian
policies and programmes. UNICEF is fully committed to: (a)
ratification of the 1997 Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of
the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel
Mines and on Their Destruction; (b) mine awareness and
education through the production of an animated film and comic
books on the danger of landmines; and (c) programmes of
national and international non-governmental organizations and
local governments on the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation
of landmine survivors. In relation to child soldiers, UNICEF is
currently developing strategies to prevent the recruitment of
children, including improving access to alternative services, such
as education and vocational training and access to income-
generating activities, for children most at risk of recruitment. The
physical and psychological well-being of children during and after
armed conflict is also a priority for UNICEF. In this regard, UNICEF
is developing strategies to prevent family separation and to
support family reunification, as well as psychosocial interventions
in a number of countries.

13. As regards refugee and internally displaced children, the
policy on refugee children of the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), applicable to all persons of
concern to the Office under 18 years of age, acknowledges that
the Convention on the Rights of the Child serves as
UNHCR's "normative frame of reference". The consequential
revision of the guidelines on refugee children, the handbook
Refugee Children: Guidelines on Protection and Care, adopts a
human rights perspective using the articles in the Convention to
set UNHCR's standards. Similarly, the "Action for the Rights of
Children" (ARC) training and capacity-building initiative on behalf
of refugee children and adolescents, which is a collaborative
effort between UNHCR and the International Save the Children
Alliance, adopts the framework of the Convention in its series of
training modules. The protection and care of children in times of
armed conflict remains a high priority for UNHCR. UNHCR is often
the first to respond to emergencies and is therefore in a unique
position to exercise leadership regarding humanitarian assistance
to displaced children. UNHCR has formulated a wide-ranging
strategy to implement the recommendations of the Machel study
(A/51/306), concentrating on five key areas: under-aged military
recruitment, sexual exploitation, education, separated minors and
adolescents. Four new Regional Policy Officers (Children) have
been deployed in critical regions –Central Asia, the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Horn of Africa
and West Africa – to help the field operations with needs
assessments and protection-based programme innovations.
UNHCR, in collaboration with UNICEF and non-governmental
organizations, also continues to make strides in improving its
efforts on behalf of separated refugee children. Indeed, owing to
the special vulnerability of unaccompanied minors, UNHCR gives
priority to programmes for family tracing and reunification, and
greater attention is given to separated minor asylum-seekers,
training for field staff on protection and programming for
separated children, the establishment of regional networks for
tracing and reunification, and increased focus on community-
based care for separated children. To assist in the proper
implementation of age-appropriate status determination
procedures and the identification of durable solutions, UNHCR
also issued guidelines in 1997 on policies and procedures in
dealing with unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

Elimination of the exploitation of child labour

14. The exploitation of child labour has been a matter of deep
concern to the international community for many years and
various measures have been envisaged to guarantee the right of
the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from
performing work likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the
child's education or to be harmful to the child's health or physical,
mental, spiritual, moral or social development. The Commission on
Human Rights in its resolution 1998/76 welcomed measures
taken by Governments to eliminate the exploitation of child labour
and the efforts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in the
area of child labour.

15. The number of countries which have ratified International
Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age
has increased to 64; the number of ratifications of ILO
Convention No. 29 on Forced Labour has increased to 146. To
complement the existing international labour standards, ILO
member States, at the International Labour Conference held in
June 1998, discussed the issue of child labour with a view to
establishing new international instruments aimed at the
prohibition and immediate elimination of the worst forms of child
labour, which should comprise:

(a) All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, such as the
sale and trafficking of children, forced or compulsory labour, debt
bondage and serfdom;

(b) The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the
production of pornography or for pornographic performances;

(c) The use, procuring or offering of a child for illegal activities, in
particular for the production and trafficking of drugs;

(d) Any other type of work or activity which, by its nature or the
circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to jeopardize the
health, safety or morals of children.

16. The need for tripartite consultation at all levels of
implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was
stressed, as was the importance of effective enforcement,
including penal and other sanctions; monitoring mechanisms;
programmes of action; and time-bound measures to prevent
children from engaging in the worst forms of child labour, to
remove them from these situations and to offer appropriate
rehabilitation and social reintegration through, among other
things, access to free basic education. ILO member States were
also called upon to assist one another in giving effect to the
provisions of the Convention through international cooperation or
assistance. At the end of the Conference, a resolution was
adopted to place this item on the agenda of the next session, in
June 1999, with a view to adopting a Convention and
Recommendation on the subject.

17. The International Programme on the Elimination of Child
Labour (IPEC) provides ILO with an operational arm to assist
countries in formulating national policies on child labour in line
with international standards and to build the national capacity to
combat child labour. IPEC has drawn strength and inspiration not
only from ILO Conventions but also from the work of the United
Nations system in general. It is an action-oriented programme
and its priority is to prevent child labour, withdraw children from
work and provide alternatives to them and their families. The
programme's operational approach is multi-sectoral and broad-
based: motivating a broad alliance of partners; carrying out
situational analyses; assisting in the development and
implementation of national policies; strengthening existing
organizations and setting up institutional mechanisms; creating
awareness on the problem; promoting the development and
application of protective legislation; and replicating and
expanding successful projects into programmes of partners. IPEC
is active in over 50 countries and is implementing programmes in
Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. The programme
has also been active at the global and regional levels, organizing
and participating in important child labour conferences and
undertaking ground-breaking work in the areas of research and
statistics. IPEC activities are increasingly focusing on the
elimination of hazardous and the worst forms of child labour on a
priority basis.

18. UNICEF is continually strengthening its partnerships with ILO
and the World Bank in the area of child labour. In order to assist
Governments in implementing their international obligations to
eliminate child labour, UNICEF has been instrumental in
formulating national action plans. As a result, UNICEF, with the
financial support of the Government of Norway, will be able to
embark on a global programme of action focused in a number of
strategic countries. As recognized by the General Assembly,
education must play a key role in the global strategy against child
labour. UNICEF has therefore used education grants to help
reduce drop-out rates; supported community-based primary
education projects and provided educational alternatives for
working children.


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