Children’s Rights Advocates Celebrate U.N. Protocols

Children’s rights advocates across the globe came together May 25 to call for universal endorsement and implementation by 2012 of two United Nations protocols aimed at protecting children against exploitation during armed conflicts or at the hands of human traffickers.

“In too many places, children are seen as commodities. In too many instances they are treated as criminals instead of being protected as victims. And there are too many conflicts where children are used as soldiers, spies or human shields,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, according to the U.N. News Center.

The Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, were both adopted 10 years ago by the General Assembly as optional additions to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To date, 132 countries have ratified the former and 137 the latter. More than two dozen countries have yet to ratify either one.

A group of 12 major rights groups — including Amnesty International, Save the Children and World Vision — sent joint letters to the U.N. ambassadors of all countries yet to ratify the protocols to mark the anniversary, according to Human Rights Watch.

“It’s remarkable that nearly two-thirds of the world’s countries have ratified the children’s rights protocols in just a decade. Countries that have not ratified them should do so quickly so that no child will be without these basic protections,” said Jo Becker, Human Rights Watch’s children’s rights advocacy director.

Even with the growing international acceptance of the protocols as norms, and changes by individual countries in domestic laws to reinforce them, the U.N. estimates that 1.2 million children are still trafficked every year. Children also continue to serve in more than a dozen armed conflicts in countries such as Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Sudan, according to a U.N. report released May 21.

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