Present Conditions of Children’s Rights and what is expected of the religious people – (continued)
Lack of experience was not seen as an obstacle but a strength from which all concerned wanted to learn from each other. As a result, early in 1983, three NGOs (Defense for Children International, the International Catholic Child Bureau and Save the Children Sweden) took the initiative to convene an NGO consultation.
This was attended by more than 20 agencies leading, to the formation of the ‘Informal NGO Ad Hoc Group on the Drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child’.
Encouraged by this, the NGOs produced a report to UN Commission on Human Rights adding articles to the conventions.
Several NGO Consultations followed as they soon learnt that there was strength in numbers in the lobbying arena in the UN fora.
By 1989, the NGO Group had grown in size and experience leading to the proposal of 13 substantive articles of the Convention. For example, the article on protection of child victims of exploitation (Article 39), the abolition of traditional practices prejudicial to health (Article 24), protection from abuse and neglect (Article 19), protection from torture and deprivation of liberty (Article 37) and juvenile justice (Article 40). These proposals came out of first experience of working with children from disadvantaged groups whom later UNICEF nicknamed – “Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances” (CEDC). This included street children, orphans, child workers, child prostitutes etc.
Not all of the NGO’s proposals were successful, for example, there was no agreement on the age of recruitment into armed forces. (Article 38), despite massive pressure from NGOs and others.
This failure has been the strength of the Civil Society under the code name – “Coalition to stop the use of Child Soldiers”. The membership to this coalition includes religious organizations such as the Quakers, Catholics, Muslims and many others.
The strength of men and women to stop the use of children in armed conflicts comes from the understanding that:
“Children, neither start wars nor perpetrate them. They should not pay the price for adults.” Quote – Stuat Eldon – Deputy British Ambassador to the United Nations.
The Civil Society has continued to play an active role on CRC, pressurizing governments to take its role of providing and protecting its children seriously. They are credited for being responsible for securing a more active role from UNICEF in advocating for the Rights based programming approaches as opposed to the welfare approaches of the late James Grant period.
The basic need of children such as food, shelter, clothing, education are basic rights which they are entitled to under the CRC.
Religious people and organizations in the 21st century must be prepared to move away from a welfare approach to the rights based approach. I note this is a step which may mean entering into a political arena to demand on behalf of children, that states implement CRC to the letter.
It may also mean, a departure from the missionary approach of feeding the poor to asking:
Why are our people poor?
What kind of environment do they need to raise from their poverty?