by Rocío Comas
“The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children”
Nelson Mandela, South Africa, 1997
The year 2019 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC or UNCRC), an instrument with almost universal acceptance. Thirty years ago, the General Assembly adopted the CRC on the 20 November 1989 and by 20 September 1990 it was ratified by twenty States while also becoming into force. Currently, 196 Member States have ratified or acceded the CRC and around 43 States have made reservations.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is considered to be a “landmark”, a “milestone”, a “historical commitment”, a “visionary agreement”, a “driver of change” and the most widely and rapidly adopted international instrument of all times. According to a study on Global Status of Engagement, the CRC Committee is the United Nations treaty body with not only the highest number of reporting by its Member States but it also receives the biggest participation of civil society. By way of illustration, around 796 reports by State Parties were made since 1992, an estimation of 4800 NGOs reports have been presented (civil society reports are submitted on over 95% of all countries) and approximately 73 were reports submitted by children.
Furthermore, it is also important to mention that the development of protection of children started before the Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force. In this regard, some scholars defined the historical development as a continuum in the history of legal protection of children. In that matter, milestones can be found over the past century that contribute to the progress of children´s rights standards such as: the Geneva Declaration on the Rights of the Child adopted by the League of Nations in 1924; the establishment of the International Children´s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 1946; the specific entitlement to “special care and assistance and social protection” of art. 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948; the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1959; the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that include education and protection to all children in 1966; the creation of a draft of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1978; the Declaration of the international year of the Child in 1979; and the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice that promotes, among other things, the best interests of the child.
Besides the universal support of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it should be recalled that Member States are obliged to respect and guarantee the rights of children without any discrimination while giving primary consideration to their best interest. It is also worth noting that the UNCRC has defined a child as a human being under eighteen years of age, unless under the domestic legislation of a particular Member State adulthood is attained earlier. Children, under the Convention are holders of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The Convention sets out 54 articles which are considered to be indivisible and interdependent. The international instrument can be based on four core principles: non-discrimination (art. 2); the best interest of the child (art.3 (1)); the right to life, survival and development (art. 6), and the right of the child to be heard (art. 12).
Since 1990 achievements can be seen for instance, in a reduction of more than 50% in children´s death under 5 and with a view to reducing it to less than 25 per 1000 by 2030, and almost halved the proportion of undernourished children.
Despite the mentioned progress, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has not been fully implemented and certain areas are requiring urgent attention in order to fulfil the CRC legal obligations by its Member States. As exemplifications, it can be said that over the past 30 years 650 million girls and women were married before the age of eighteen, and one of four children by 2040 will live in in places with “extremely limited water resources”. In addition, and according to UNICEF´s latest Report on food and nutrition, in 2018 approximately 200 million children under five years of age are affected by stunting (children who are too short for their age) or wasting (children who are too thin for their height) while 340 million children suffered from “hidden hunger”. Particularly, cases of violence against children can take different forms such as in homes, schools or even communities. Consequences of these forms of violence can be seen in children with long lasting trauma, immediate harm from indiscriminate attacks, sexual and gender-based violence, recruitment into armed forces, deprivation of health, nutrition, sanitation affecting their general well-being and dignity, among others. According to UNICEF’s last humanitarian report, children in crisis can be seen all around the world resulting in one of four children living in countries affected by conflict or disaster.
In the global sphere, rapid changes such as international intelligence, climate change, mass migration, expanding inequality, protracted conflicts, child labour and increasing child trafficking, are changing the concept of childhood as it was understood back when the international document was ratified by its member States thirty years ago. In order to implement the CRC more efficiently, initiatives or temporary solutions could be found in overcoming obstacles in policy making in order to address children voices and respect their right to be heard (CRC art. 12), achieving children´s well-being, while also focusing on better investments in a child rights approach. In addition, trying to build bridges not only with the Optional Protocols to the CRC but also with other human rights international instruments, so as to reinforce the protection and monitoring of children´s rights for current and future generations. In that respect the CRC can also be seen as an entry point for the accountability of other States who have not ratified other human rights instruments. In the near future, if States widen the ratification of other human rights instruments, this should have a direct effect in the incrementation of children´s rights and consequently their protection.
Childhood needs a special care and assistance, particularly in those parts of the world where children live in exceptionally difficult conditions. Children, as right holders, should be able to seek redress if their rights are violated within their jurisdiction and regardless of the children or their parents, legal guardians or family members race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status. Significant challenges remain in order to promote, protect and realize the human rights of children, especially those who are in the most vulnerable situations and with urgent needs.
 Hereinafter CRC or UNCRC
 See United Nations Treaty Collection, available in: https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4&lang=en, last visited 11 November 2019. There are 193 States which are members of the UN and 2 non-member States (State of Palestine and Holy See). In addition, Cook Island and Niue are not members of the UN, nevertheless they have ratified the CRC.
 United Nations Secretary General, Remarks on the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Antonio Guterres, UN Headquarters, 25 September 2019
 UN News, Childhood is changing, and so must we, 25 September 2019
 UNICEF, Global action on the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Government commitments to implementing child rights in the 21st century, available in: https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/global-action, last visited 30 November 2019
 UNICEF, Celebrating 30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, available in: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRC30.aspx, last visited 11 November 2019
 The UNCRC as Michelle Bachelet the UN High Commissioner for human rights defines it, it can be understood as powerful driver of change. “Children in vulnerable situations due to conflict, discrimination, poverty, deprivation or other factors” See Michelle Bachelet´s message for the 30th anniversary of the CRC, available in: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRC30pledges.aspx
 UNICEF, What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, available in: https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/what-is-the-convention, last visited 11 November 2019
 Child Rights Connect, Global Status of Engagement in Reporting to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, July 2019,p. 9, available in https://www.childrightsconnect.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Global_Status_Report_Final.pdf, last visited 11 November 2019
 Child Rights Connect, Global Status of Engagement in Reporting to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, July 2019, available in https://www.childrightsconnect.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Global_Status_Report_Final.pdf, last visited 11 November 2019
 Beloff, Mary, Fortalezas y debilidades del litigio estratégico para el fortalecimiento de los estándares internationales y reginales de protección a la niñez en América Latina, Jura Gentium, Rivista di filosofia del diritto internazionale e della poitica globale, 2011,
 UNICEF, History of child rights, International standards have advanced dramatically over the past century – explore the milestones, available in: https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention/history-child-rights, last visted 11 November 2019
 UNICEF, Implementation handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 2007, p. 81
 According to UNICEF´s latest Report, stunting is “used to describe populations of children who are too short for their age (…). It is a stark sign that children in a community are not developing well, physically and mentally “. It is also “a clear sign (…) of past deprivation and a predictor of future poverty. See:  UNICEF, the state of the world´s children 2019, Children, food and nutrition, growing well in a changing world, New York, October 2019, p. 8-37
 According to UNICEF´s latest report. wasting describes a child who is too thin for his or her height.”. Also, “it can be lethal for children, particularly in its most severe forms. Contrary to common belief, most wasted children around the world live in Asia and not in emergency settings.”. See:  UNICEF, the state of the world´s children 2019, Children, food and nutrition, growing well in a changing world, New York, October 2019, p. 8-40
 Harms that children may suffer from hidden hunger deficiencies can be found in “poor growth and development, poor immunity and tissue development, poor health and risk of death”. See UNICEF, the state of the world´s children 2019, Children, food and nutrition, growing well in a changing world, New York, October 2019, p. 6
 UNICEF, Humanitarian Action for Children 2019, Overview, January 2019, p. 6-7. Also, according to the 2019 Report children affected by crises can be seen in the following countries: around 241,000 children require humanitarian assistance in Libya due to protracted conflict, political instability, and dysfunctional economy, among other reasons; around 2,4 million of Venezuelan refugees and migrants have fled to other countries in Latin America; approximately 4000 people (mainly children and women) are displaced every week in Nigeria; around 1,5 million children (two out of three children in the country) will require humanitarian assistance in 2019 in the Central African Republic; some 5,6 million children required humanitarian assistance in Syrian Arab Republic, which more than 2,5 million Syrian children have a refugee status in countries such as Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt; approximately 3,8 children in Afghanistan will need humanitarian assistance during the 2019 year due to increased violence, natural disasters, among other reasons: more than 400,000 children have fled from Myanmar and settled in Bangladesh due to violence, freedom of movement, discrimination and limited access to basic services; 2 million children in Yemen will require food assistance in 2019 due to an ongoing conflict that has been considered as the largest emergency in the world; around 2,2 million children are out of school in south Sudan despite the fact of a peace agreement; 1,5 million children in Ethiopia are displaced and the number is expected to increase within the next years to come.
 The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict has been ratified or acceded to by 168 State parties, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography ratified or acceded to by 176 States parties and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on a communication procedure ratified or acceded to by 44 States parties. See United Nations Treaty Collection, available in: https://treaties.un.org/pages/Treaties.aspx?id=4&subid=A&clang=_en last visited 11 November 2019