CRC 20th Anniversary
Dear Convention on the Rights of the Child,
Congratulations! You are 20 now and we at the Right to Education Project want to say how much we enjoy working with you every day!
Your focus is specific, yet your scope is great and wide, being one of the first to encompass all the rights included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a legally binding document. This was the result of an opportune moment, 1989, when East and West came together, which also meant that you, lone amongst international treaties, have almost universal ratification (we are only missing the US and Somalia!).
Some say that such universality only came because it was about children, an issue no-one would have any objection to. That is a cynical view with which we disagree: you have proven to be more powerful than most, staunchly confirming that children have rights because they are human, not at the benevolence of parents or adults. Your recognition of the child as a rights-holder also bridges the views of those who ask for protection and those who advocate for autonomy. You do so in many ways, but particularly through your four general principles: non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child. All of these are essential for the realization of education rights and we are delighted that you and your principles provide us with a powerful framework for action.
However, sadly, much more remains to be done and we would like to express our best wishes for you for the years to come: since you are no longer a teenager, isn’t it perhaps time you even got an individual complaints mechanism of your own?! The ICESCR just got one! And there is a movement gathering for you to have one too. Let’s hope we will be able to celebrate your next birthday with some more good news!
Article 28: obliges all state parties to establish educational systems and ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to them. Especially primary education must be compulsory and free to all, but also secondary, vocational and higher education must be made progressively available. Education must be provided in a way that respects the dignity of the child at all times. Lastly, article 28 obliges States to encourage and promote international cooperation, with particular account taken of the needs of developing countries.
Article 29 defines the aims of education, chief amongst these being that education shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. This echoes the over-riding principle of the CRC, as stated in Art. 3, of the best interest of the child. It requires that schools be child-friendly in the fullest sense of the term and that they be consistent in all respects with the dignity of the child. Lastly, that education must be for “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”.
These 2 articles must be read together with almost all other key articles in the Convention:
Especially Article 2: on non-discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
But also Article 3 (best interest of the child); Article 6 (right to life); Article 7 (birth registration); Article 9 (separation from parents); Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child); Article 13 (freedom of expression); Article 17 (access to appropriate information); Article 19 (Child’s right to protection from all forms of violence); Article 22 (Refugee children); Article 23 (children with disabilities); Article 30 (minorities or indigenous children); Article 32 (child labour); Article 38 (protection during armed conflict); Article 40 (juvenile justice); and the 2 Optional Protocols (On the Involvement of children in armed conflict, and On the sale of children, prostitution and pornography).
Here are a couple of areas where we specifically work with the CRC: