By Raúl Mercer
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. In other words, it is irrefutable proof of the will of nations to recognize children as the basis for societies built on fairness and solidarity. In this sense, Latin America and the Caribbean are poised at a unique moment in their histories in which children are being recognized within the social policy framework of most countries in the region.
What does it mean to live in a culture of rights?
According to the doctrine of comprehensive protection, all children are equal, and they must all enjoy the same conditions to achieve full development. To that end, it is necessary for nations and society as a whole to offer assurances of their responsibility to children to be able to freely exercise and demand respect for their rights. Ratifying the Convention involves a series of binding actions to implement political, legal, and programmatic measures, as well as institutional redesign. Obviously, these actions must be accompanied by monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
Are some rights more important than others?
Naturally, the answer is no. All rights have the same importance and status. They are interrelated and interdependent, and they are universal in nature (i.e., no one is exempt from the possibility of exercising them). But an interesting and perhaps little-known fact is that the value and extent of human rights remain unchanged throughout an individual’s lifespan. No matter if it is a newborn (premature or otherwise), an infant, a preschooler, a schoolchild, a teenager, an adult or a senior citizen; ultimately, they all enjoy the same rights.
It is important to highlight this aspect since there is a trend in society—the product of growing materialism and consumerism—to assign less value to people at both ends of the spectrum (whether children or seniors). Unfortunately, this perception extends to gender differences, people living with a disability, those who come from a different culture, and the poor and marginalized, among others. In terms of rights, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of a particular attribute. On the contrary, diversity is a precious commodity that elevates societies. However, those differences that result from unfairness (inequities) should be addressed and eliminated immediately.
What does the Convention say about early childhood development?
Article 6 of the Convention refers to the responsibility of nations as guarantors of the survival and development of the child. Other articles indirectly refer to early childhood development through the promotion of play, education, participation, freedom of thought, and the support of family. In short, the Convention is clear in recognizing the inalienable rights of children that must be protected to ensure their comprehensive development.
In view of the above, is it possible to dream of a better present and future for children?
Protecting the rights of children means thinking about more cohesive, less violent, more inclusive and healthier societies. This approach stems from the growing awareness of the importance of investing in children’s early years. The current challenge involves finding a way to transform these words into deeds, bringing policies closer to reality, reshaping our societies based on the promotion of equity from cradle to grave, and recognizing the importance of doing so at home, in school and through the government. How are children’s rights protected in your community?
Raúl Mercer, Pediatrician and epidemiologist. He is the Coordinator of the Social and Health Sciences Program at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO)-Argentina; a Researcher at CISAP (Population Health Research Center, Hospital Durand, Buenos Aires) and a member of the Southern Cone Initiative on Health and Children’s Rights