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  • Monitoring the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: The Challenge of Information Management
  • Cynthia Price Cohen (bio), Stuart N. Hart (bio), and Susan M. Kosloske* (bio)

I. Background

The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights concluded with the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (Declaration). 1 The Declaration, which called for a number of initiatives to be undertaken in support of human rights, contains a separate subsection devoted to the rights of the child. 2 The first paragraph restates the child’s right to “survival, protection, development and participation.” 3 The second paragraph begins with the assertion: “Measures should be taken to achieve universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by 1995.” 4 The Convention came amazingly close to achieving that goal. [End Page 439]

As of 1 December 1994, there were 182 states parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 5 far more than any other UN human rights treaty. Considering that the Convention is one of the most recently adopted of these treaties, it is somewhat surprising that this new instrument has surpassed so completely the other treaties in numbers of states parties. Equally surprising is the fact that this overwhelming world approval and adoption of the Convention’s standards has taken place in what is actually a very short period of time.

When drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child began in 1979, no one, including those who had proposed a children’s rights treaty as part of the 1979 International Year of the Child, 6 could have predicted the enthusiasm with which the world community would embrace the Convention. 7 Once the Convention was adopted by the General Assembly, interest in the Convention—which had been slow to develop—began to gain momentum. The Convention’s treaty-signing ceremony in January 1990 broke UN records for numbers of nations taking part in such an event. The Convention also set a record when it entered into force on 25 September 1990, just over six months after its signing ceremony. 8 This was nearly a month before the World Summit for Children was held in New York (Summit). 9 Interestingly, the Summit originally had been planned as an effort [End Page 440] to keep children’s rights on the international agenda because no one had anticipated that this would happen spontaneously.

Although children’s advocates view this broad endorsement of the Convention as a major step forward in the recognition of children’s rights, it is not without its complications. World support for the Convention will not be meaningful unless compliance with the Convention’s standards can be adequately monitored. Effective monitoring demands careful information management. As will be explained below, both the comprehensiveness of the Convention and the number of nations that have become states parties make this a formidable task.

Supporters of children’s rights, buoyed by international cooperation, are currently taking steps to assist the Committee on the Rights of the Child (Committee) in coping with enormous amounts of information which are a necessary component of the monitoring process. Described below are the Convention’s monitoring mechanism, the Committee’s reviewing processes, monitoring difficulties encountered by the Committee, measures being devised by various groups to assist the Committee in ameliorating these difficulties, and recommendations for a program of information management which can coordinate and maximize these efforts.

II. Monitoring Mechanism of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The monitoring mechanism of the Convention on the Rights of the Child can be found in Articles 43–45. Basically, the Convention follows the standard UN human rights treaty practice of requiring states parties to submit to a committee of experts periodic reports outlining the progress that the nation has made toward implementation of the Convention. Article 43 calls for the establishment of a Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is to be made up of ten experts “of high moral standing and recognized competence in the field.” 10 Article 44 requires each state party to submit its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child two years after the Convention goes into force for...

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