Congratulations to all children on the anniversary of their very own human rights convention!
Three things that make the Convention on the Rights of the Child absolutely unique to our work.
We are thrilled to congratulate every child in the world on an international human rights treaty that is absolutely unique and is as important today as when it was first born thirty years ago. Congratulations and a very happy birthday to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)!
Today on its 30th anniversary, we want to celebrate the uniqueness of the CRC and the progress that it has led to in protecting, respecting, and fulfilling the rights of children, especially progress in the fulfilment of the right to education.
In the years since the adoption of the CRC in 1989, there has been significant progress in the numbers of children accessing education, with out of school figures for primary education alone dropping by around 40 million. There has also been a significant, positive shift in policy, coordination, and funding of education for children affected by conflict and crisis to enjoy their rights. Notable events include the establishment of the education cluster for education in 2007 to support global and national coordination for education in humanitarian responses, and the establishment of the Education Cannot Wait Fund in 2016, to support education in crisis contexts.
Today we should celebrate the CRC. As the most widely ratified human rights convention in the world, the CRC is a powerful as it was 30 years ago. The obligations it establishes cannot be denied; governments have made a legally binding promise to deliver on the CRC. This includes ensuring all children, including those affected by conflict and crisis, enjoy all their rights, including their right to quality education. We should remind ourselves why the CRC is so unique and important for INEE and why the CRC is still as needed as ever.
The CRC is vital for many reasons, but perhaps primarily these three:
The CRC is absolutely unique in placing the child at the centre as the primary rights-holder; it takes children seriously and affirms that children have a dignity, agency and a voice, that they have a right not to be violated or discriminated against, and that all efforts of States, parents, and communities must be in the best interest of the child. No other document like this exists globally and it has inspired multiple regional and national child-rights charters, laws, and policies.
The CRC is also unique in that it combines international human rights law (‘the law of peace’) and international humanitarian law (‘the law of war’) and refugee law. For a humanitarian network like INEE, that work on standards, policy, and advocacy, this is very powerful. While the CRC has core articles applicable at all times, such as on non-discrimination (Article 2) and education (Articles 28 and 29), the CRC is able to combine these with emergency-relevant articles, for example on the rights of refugee children (Article 22), rights of children in armed conflict and those at risk of being recruited into armed forces (Article 38 and the 1st Optional Protocol). This is absolutely unique in the world of human rights and helps us work across the Humanitarian and Development Coherence, and to focus our work on integrating refugees and displaced children and youth into the national education systems where they belong.
Lastly, the CRC, like other human rights documents, is legally binding and ratified by 196 States in the world – which is a record. In a world of shifting politics and priorities there is a base-line that is not negotiable, not open for politics, not in need of renegotiation by 2030. Governments, donors, and the international community try in various ways to re-address the challenges facing the attainment of quality public education in times of emergency and recovery, yet this common standard of achievement is always with them, guiding them and holding them to account. This is tremendously powerful and gives INEE and other child-rights oriented networks a unique tool in setting global standards, such as the INEE Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery.
The CRC’s 30th anniversary is a good time to reflect that for millions of children, and in particular for the most marginalized children, including those affected by conflict and crisis, enjoyment of their rights often remains elusive. So, while we celebrate progress, we must also recognize that we still need the CRC as much now as we did 30 years ago.
Significant challenges remain for millions of children affected by conflict and crisis:
- maintaining access to safe inclusive education, including for children who are forcibly displaced, such as refugees, half of whom globally still have no access to education;
- securing the right to education for all vulnerable and discriminated-against groups;
- getting and keeping girls in school, as girls are two and a half times more likely to be out of school in conflict settings than boys;
- keeping youth at school and vocational training and/or ensuring refugee youth have access to higher education, as currently only 3% of all refugees are accessing higher education; and
- making sure that education and places of learning are safe and provide the best psychosocial support possible to survive and thrive, even amidst emergency and trauma.
In 2008 the Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that in situations of emergency:
the child’s need to enjoy his/her right to education is reinforced by the fact that it is a protection measure, as well as a relief measure and a life saving measure that provides physical, psychosocial, and cognitive protection. Education mitigates the psychosocial impact of conflicts and disasters by giving a sense of normalcy, stability, structure and hope for the future.
- Committee on Rights of the Child, 2008, p.8
Over a decade later, millions of children are still missing out on their education because of humanitarian emergencies. More than 75 million children and youth in crisis contexts have their education disrupted each year. Half of the world’s registered refugees of school age are not in school, and 75% of adolescent refugees are out of school. Across low income countries, 85% of young children are not in pre-primary education, and in countries affected by crisis, the situation is even worse. For example, in the Central African Republic, Chad, and Yemen, gross enrolment in pre-primary is under 3%. For children with disabilities, the challenges are even greater, made worse through a lack of data that renders children with disabilities invisible, denying them their rights and opportunity to reach their full potential. Find out more about these challenges, and how we are facing them in our new advocacy brief.
Throughout the INEE network of more than 16,000 members and the many, many more who we come into contact with through our partnerships, trainings, and work on standards, policies, and advocacy, the CRC is the rock to which we can refer and upon which we can build.
On this historic day, we say again: congratulations to the children of the world, and we celebrate the progress the CRD has led to. Most importantly, as INEE, we reaffirm our commitment to work together to ensure that all individuals have the right to a quality, safe, relevant, and equitable education. We call on all stakeholders to honor their commitments and meet their obligations, and we look forward to celebrating the full realisation of the right to education – of all rights – and allowing children to reach their fullest potential.