The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been described as a Magna Carta for children. it has fifty-four articles detailing the individual rights of any person under eighteen years of age to develop his or her full potential, free from hunger and want, neglect, exploitation or other abuses.
The outcome of ten years of negotiations, the Convention was adopted by the United Nations on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990 after being ratified by twenty States. So far 139 countries have either signed the Convention or have become States Parties to it by ratification or accession*. When ratified by a State, the Convention becomes binding law in it. A Committee of ten experts will monitor compliance in the States Parties to the Convention.
The Convention goes beyond previously existing instruments by seeking to balance the rights of the child with the rights and duties of parents or others who have responsibilities for child survival, development and protection, and by giving the child the right to participate in decisions affecting both the present and the future.
Among the pressing issues addressed, some of which appear for the first time in an international convention, are obligations to children in particularly difficult circumstances, such as the needs of refugee children (article 22), protection from sexual and other forms of child exploitation articles 34 and 36), drug abuse (article 33), children in trouble with the law article 40), inter-country adoptions (article 35), children in armed conflicts (articles 38 and 39), the needs of disabled children (article 23), and the children of minority and indigenous groups (article 30).
Education is the subject of two major articles (27 and 28), which were reinforced by the World Conference on Education for All, held at Jomtien (Thailand) from 5 to 9 March 1990. Primary education is to be compulsory, free to all, and should be directed to the development of a child's personality, talents and natural abilities, with due respect for cultural identity, language and values. Stress is placed on equality of educational opportunity for girls and boys.
The inherent strength of the new Convention lies in its flexibility, its …