20 November 2013 - As the world commemorated Universal Children’s Day today, South Sudan took a major step towards ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) when the national legislative assembly passed the bill in the national capital Juba.
If the president signs the bill, South Sudan will become the latest country to ratify the convention, a legally binding international instrument that spells out basic human rights children everywhere should have.
“By passing the bill for ratification, the parliament of South Sudan has today shown the people of this country, especially our children, and the international community that we are committed to ensuring that the rights of children in the world’s youngest nation are realized,” said Anne Abyei, member of the Parliamentary Committee of Gender, Child, Social Welfare, Religious Affairs, Youth and Sports.
Since its independence, South Sudan has been only one of three UN member states, including Somalia and the United States, which have not ratified the convention.
A statement released today by UNICEF, UNMISS, Save the Children and the Ministry of Gender, Child, Social Welfare, Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management said the organizations had worked hard together to ensure the South Sudanese government ratified the convention.
“The United Nations (family) in South Sudan and its partners congratulate the country on the passing of the bill for ratification of the CRC and the two optional protocols,” said UNICEF Chief of Child Protection Fatuma Ibrahim. “We are committed to continue supporting the government and other partners in its implementation to ensure that children’s rights are realized.”
Speaking to Radio Miraya, UNMISS Head of Child Protection Hazel de Wet said parliament had taken a strong position to protect South Sudanese children by deciding to ratify the convention and its two optional protocols. “Rights are only as important to the extent that we can enjoy them and understand that they exist,” said Ms. De Wet. “Rights are only as important as adults and those in the decision-making aspects in our lives give effect to them.”
Yesterday, on the eve of Universal Children’s Day, a group of South Sudanese school-children at a lobbying event in Juba urged their parliamentarians to approve the bill.
“If the CRC is ratified, more children will be able to go to school, child labour will stop and girls will no longer be married off at a young age,” said 13-year-old John Peter.
Universal Children’s Day, which is celebrated on 20 November every year, also marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the convention.
“Too often, abuse occurs in the shadows: undetected, unreported, and – even worse – too often accepted,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a message to mark the day. “We all have a responsibility to ‘make the invisible, visible’ – from governments enacting and enforcing laws to prohibit violence against children, to private citizens refusing to be silent when they witness or suspect abuse.”