21 March 2011
In 1889, legislation was passed in Britain which gave the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) the power to enter homes to rescue children at risk of harm, thus violating a long-held view of family sanctity.
While the development of Western countries’ concern for the welfare of children can be traced historically through the establishment of charities, legislation barring child labour, universal education and the abolition of cruel punishments, at key moments, there have been – as in 1889 – rather more radical, far-reaching revisions to the perception of the problem and how government and society should respond to it.
And although each country has adopted its own policies, there have also been some international initiatives, the most significant of which is the Convention of the Rights of the Child. This was adopted by the UN in 1989 and was enforced the following year. It gives the right of protection and personal fulfilment to every child and all the world’s countries have signed up to it, with the exception of the USA and Somalia.
But while international agreements are good at producing an apparent consensus at gatherings of world leaders, they are less effective at actually preventing abuse and neglect that is still manifest in many parts of the world. Examples of institutionalised abuse, war atrocities, racism, brutal punishments, sexual exploitation, high infant mortality and so on abound. A sceptical observer might well ask, therefore, precisely what the point is of agreeing to an international convention while terrible things continue to occur at home.
The answer is, in part, provided by two researchers who have recently reviewed the effects of the Convention 20 years after its implementation. They are, moreover, generally complimentary about its contribution and optimistic about the future. They acknowledge the barriers to progress caused by structural factors, such as poverty and disease, and the restrictive cultures and corruption endemic in many countries. They are also aware of the cynicism of governments that pay lip service to welfare while running repressive regimes.
They argue that international conventions are important in laying down universal standards and establishing a system equivalent to peer review. Countries may choose to ignore the requirements but the existence of the Convention makes their decision more salient, and that can lead to change for the better.
Examples of success are found in South America where most countries have incorporated the Convention into their national legislation, undertaken legislative and constitutional reforms, including setting up budgets, and given the Convention pre-eminence over internal law, a process obviously aided by the ending of repressive regimes and coming of democracy*. FULL STORY
This is why the US needs to pass the Parental Rights Amendment. See Best interest of the child- A new "Civil Right" and the AFRA UNCRC page
*democracy in the Communist Manifesto