New York – As a society from time immemorial, from the Head Caveman to Caesars, kings and emperors to all the way to present-day democratically elected presidents and prime ministers and public-sensitive rulers, we are judged by how we treat our children and another’s child. After all, humanity has a history of abuse – not only of misguided consenting adults, but worst of all, innocent children being polluted by their environment, natural and human.
This Memorial Day USA, May 25th 2015, the United Nations will celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of its First and Second Optional Protocols, OP1 and OP2, to its Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – which itself was adopted more than twenty five years ago on November 20, 1989. Last April, 2014, the United Nations adopted OP3 – a communications procedure empowering abused children to directly plead to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child if the relevant member state ignores its obligations, assumed by ratification. The enhancements, OP1 (OPSC), OP2 (OPAC) and OP3, are needed to effectuate UN’s core humanity-saving role in developing international norms, the floor, so to speak, below which member states may not allow children to be abused, hurt or defiled.
Memorial Day, however, is a day reserved to celebrate and honor soldiers who fought just wars to protect, not enslave, and in whose debt we shall forever remain. What, one may ask could be more noble than a soldier protecting a tender child from the misery of war or a failed nation-state. As the song, Greatest Love of All, sung by the late great Whitney Houston goes, “Children are our future…”. Hence, celebrating CRC and its now three Optional Protocols on Memorial Day is a fitting tribute to every soldier who fought a just war with honor. (This, albeit, that nation-states have steadily eroded honor from the battlefield since Caesar’s front line soldiers, with long rectangular shields forming the Iron Wall, decimated Egypt’s rank-is-honor based army, which sought out and fought an enemy of equal rank, is for another day and another op-ed given today’s precise and cheaper-by-the-dozen drones making war bloodless & quite palatable for its owner-controller.)
The enhancements are the three Optional Protocols to the CRC: OPSC, OPAC and OP3, to wit: the Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC), on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC), and on a communications procedure OP3. Worthy of definition is a child, which the UN defines gender-neutral as below eighteen years of age or a different age, as a ratifying member-state establishes by its domestic law.
What cannot be a bone of contention is that no nation ought allow her children to be sold or defiled by servitude as a prostitute or in pornography. Hence, OPSC is obviously right, and every nation needs to ratify same and pass national laws to criminalize such behavior of the aiders and abettors that turn children to prostitution or pornography. The UN says, “[t]he Protocol on the sale children, child prostitution and child pornography provides detailed guidance to support States in the implementation of their obligations to prohibit, criminalize, prevent, and ensure accountability for offences of sexual violence and exploitation. Furthermore, States must provide access to child-sensitive justice, as well as recovery, reintegration and compensation for child victims of sexual exploitation and sale for the purposes of forced labor or illegal adoption, among others.” To stress the point Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography said “[t]hese abhorrent crimes of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography call for a strong legal framework in all Member states criminalizing these offences and putting in place a robust child protection system in order to eradicate them.”
Given DASH’s, aka ISIS’, success in attracting children from Asia, Europe and the Americas to its ranks, the second Protocol takes on double importance: not just the protection of children, but to protect member-states from being attacked by its own Benedict Arnold children-warriors engulfed in rhetoric and infected by ideology, satisfying their tender need to merely belong to simple dogma in a world gone crazy-smart, with smart phones, and precious little time to think for oneself and develop an independent judgment of “right” vs “wrong.” Constant deliberation, due each issue by its size and scope is necessary to grasp incrementally elusive nuances worthy of expenditure of precious moments of one’s life, is a concept seemingly lost to those children who feel “alone” and “left out” despite being in a family and a nation’s citizen.
According to the UN, “[t]he Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict prohibits children from taking part in hostilities, encourages all States to set their minimum age of conscription at eighteen years, and raises awareness of States’ obligation to criminalize the recruitment and use of girls and boys. It also prohibits the recruitment under the age of eighteen by armed groups, who are the main recruiters of children.”
Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, recently said “fifteen years ago, with the adoption of the OPAC, governments agreed that children do not belong in national security forces. However, recruitment and use of children remains of concern and much more remains to be done to protect children growing up in countries affected by conflict.” In line with the UN’s campaign “Children Not Soldiers” that aims to end the recruitment and use of children by government armed forces by 2016, the Special Representative calls on all Member States to fulfill the promise made to children by making sure that national legal frameworks are aligned with international standards and by ensuring accountability for those who violate children’s rights.”
Last, and perhaps most child-empowering, is the Third Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC). For what is a child or children to do, when their own nation dishonors or defiles them or let others do so profitably and without statutory liability. OP3 empowers the child to ask the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for help. Hence, the OP3 to the CRC sets out an international complaints procedure for child rights violations. It entered into force in April 2014, allowing children from states that have ratified to bring complaints about violations of their rights directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child if they have not found a solution at national level.
The CRC along with Optional Protocols is a solid normative foundation, along with the critical role of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child jointly serve to safeguard all children’s rights across the world so that every every family’s and every nation’s future – our children – are protected.
The UN says “[p]rotecting children from violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse, in all settings and contexts, including in situations of armed conflict, is a strong moral and legal imperative Member States are required to respect and uphold. Furthermore, sustainable development and durable peace will only be achieved in a world in which children can grow up and develop to their fullest potential in an environment free from violence, fear and discrimination. For this reason, we call upon all countries who have not done so to ratify and effectively implement the two first Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a matter of urgent priority, and to consider ratifying the third Optional Protocol on a communications procedure to ensure access to justice for children whose rights have been violated.”
I agree, and as a father and an American, living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” publicly thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his meaningful, substantive and durable legacy of service to humanity – be it saving the child, or mother earth from climate change, and as a collective, that is our future on the line. While the UN at times may seem the “theater of the absurd” to some, especially before a domestic election or because of rockets falling from the sky, the CRC with its three Optional Protocols represent nobility and ancient honor, including, that hallowed “sacred honor” pledged in the Jeffersonian Declaration of Independence. As Egypt of old’s Pharaohs used to mandate: Let it be written; let it be done. Can’t you just hear Whitney Houston belting out “The Greatest Love of All.”
No? Well, then try harder.
Note: This Op-Ed is the personal opinion of the author.