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UNICEF celebrates Convention on the Child Rights

UNICEF NZ celebrates 18th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Eighteen years ago, on the 20th November 1989, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) was first ratified. Today, the first generation of children to grow up under the protection of UNCROC has reached adulthood.

UNCROC is the most widely recognised and supported treaty in the history of the world with 192 countries signatory to it. New Zealand adopted UNCROC as a framework for children’s rights in 1993.

Simply put UNCROC argues for fairness for people under eighteen, treating those people well and ensures the best start in life for children. UNCROC is needed because it recognises that the position of children in society is unique and that they have distinct needs and vulnerabilities that are different from adults.

Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ says:

“We know that children’s lives are shaped by their early experiences. Their physical, social and emotional environments are vital to their ability to thrive and grow into responsible adults. There is much that can be done at local/community level to ensure that children develop well, are protected from harm and can actively participate in community life.”

New Zealand signed up to UNCROC in 1993 which accords with our history of taking bold collective steps in the directions of fairness and decency.

New Zealand has often led the way and just this year, we repealed section 59 of the crimes act and became the very first English speaking country to afford children the same legal protection against assault enjoyed by adults and animals.

Every five years governments who are signatory to UNCROC send a report to a United Nations committee on how well the country is doing in living up to what UNCROC promises. New Zealand’s next report is due in 2008.

This five yearly wake-up call gives us a child-focused standard to measure our countries growth against. It operates against the kinds of adult complacency that can too easily forget that a good economy is not a guarantee of good childhoods.

While there are signs of improvement in the general well being of our countries children, there is no doubt that New Zealand does still need to do better. Despite good initiatives such as Working for Families and a Taskforce focused on reducing our appalling rates of family violence far too many New Zealand children still suffer abuse or live in poverty.

In comparison to other rich countries our rates of child-deaths are very high. There is no starker measure than this to tell us as a nation that we still have a long way to go.


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