The four core Articles of the UNCRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)
The four core Articles of the UNCRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) are commonly assumed to account for the following:
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Article 2 (Freedom from Discrimination)
According to this Article, the provisions of the UNCRC apply to all children indiscriminately, with the governments of the state-signatories being held directly responsible for ensuring that no child is discriminated against, within the context of how he or she goes about exercising its basic human rights.
Article 3 (Best Interests of Child)
The article stresses out that, when it comes to addressing a particular legal case, the judiciary branch must prioritize the considerations related to ensuring the well-being of the would-be affected children. However, the Article 3 does not specify how the child’s best interests are to be determined, in the first place.
Article 6 (Survival and Development)
This specific article mandates the state-signatories to establish the basic preconditions for children to be provided with enough nutrients, during the course of their physiological development. It also requires the affiliated countries to guarantee that children have the right to receive some elementary education, as well as some basic medical services.
Article 12 (Free Expression of Opinion)
The article points out to the fact that children are entitled to express their opinions free of any fear, and that these opinions must be taken into consideration by adults. It also implies that, while in the process of designing the domestic socio-economic policies, the governmental officials must be mindful of how these policies may affect the interests of children.
There can be only a few doubts that the mentioned core-Articles do contribute towards strengthening the Convention’s overall systemic integrity. The reason for this is that they provide the discursive framework for defining the practical implications of the rest of the contained Articles. To illustrate the validity of this suggestion we can refer to the hypothetical situation of some parents (who reside in a foreign country) trying to reunify with their children and not being able to do so, because of the applicable immigration-related legal restrictions.
When assessed through the legal lenses of the UNCRC, this situation will appear strongly inappropriate because it is inconsistent with the Convention’s Article 10, which establishes the child’s “right to leave or enter any country for family reunification and to maintain contact with both parents”. However, if the outlined situation continues to remain unresolved for a long time (because of the mentioned legal restrictions), it becomes a legal subject matter itself, because of the provision contained in the Article 2 “rights in the Convention to apply to all children without exception”. Given the fact that the UNCRC has the status of international law, it means that when combined (in the legal sense of this word); both of the mentioned articles overrule the country’s own constitutional regulations, in regards to tackling the cases similar to the described one.
In its turn, this implies that the relationship between the Convention’s core-Articles and the rest is highly systemic – the earlier mentioned core-Article 2 is, in fact, the systemic formula’s ‘independent variable’, which affects the qualitative subtleties of the ‘dependent variable’ Article 10. This again suggests the validity of our earlier suggestion that the Convention’s core-Articles are there to strengthen the discursive soundness of the UNCRC, as international law. They are also there to help to make sure that the Convention’s requirements are perceived obligatory by the national authorities.
The implications of participatory rights for children
As it was implied earlier, the Convention’s Article 12 is very important to ensuring the overall legal legitimacy of the UNCRC, because it provides the actual rationale, as to why children’s rights must be dignified – by being in the position to have their opinions/ideas taken into consideration by adults, children are confirmed to be fully human – despite their reduced physical and intellectual capacities. What is even more, the Article 13 also emphasizes the importance of allowing children to take active part in the process of the executive decision-making, on the part of adults, concerned with shaping the social realities that surround us. As Santos-Pais noted: “Article 12 is a visionary provision, but it also has a very practical meaning…
It indicates the way the process of the realization of the rights of the child needs to be promoted – with children”. This, in turn, explains why during the recent decades, there have been some methodological shifts in the Western educational paradigm, aimed to increase the degree of children’s participative empowerment in the public sphere. For example, as opposed to what it used to be the case during the seventies or eighties, teachers are now expected to pay close attention to what account for the unique learning needs of every individual student in the elementary schools. This, of course, does provide the necessary prerequisites for such students to exert a certain influence (although indirect) on the actual teaching strategy, to which they are exposed in these schools.
The Convention’s Articles, concerned with specifying the participatory rights of children, are also there to help the latter to benefit from being integrated with the society. For example, according to the Article 27, children have the “right to an adequate standard of living”. In its turn, this can only be the case in the countries, whose governments understand the importance of investing into the social welfare policies. After all, the concerned right presupposes that, regardless of what happened to be the social status of their parents, children are entitled to have a share in the society’s wealth. The practice or providing the socially disadvantaged families with the so-called ‘food stamps’ has in part been brought about by the considerations, related to the mentioned provision of the Article 27. Thus, there is indeed a good rationale in believing that, even though they can hardly be enforced at the state-level, the Convention’s participatory Articles do contribute to children’s well-being in a number of different practical ways.
At the same time, however, it can hardly skip anyone’s attention that, due to being concerned with helping children to have their interests prioritized by the society, these Articles are inconsistent with the ideology of Libertarianism (neo-Liberalism), which nowadays defines the socio-political and economic realities in the West. After all, many of this ideology’s main stipulations, such as the ‘minimalist state’, stand in contradiction to the idea that the government may be in the position to benefit children in any substantial way. What it means is that, even though the UNCRC does represent the example of a discursively progressive international law, the concerned legislation is essentially declarative – something that explains why most of the Convention’s Articles do not seem to have much of a positive effect on the socially disadvantaging realities, faced by most children in the Third World countries.
Next steps Canada should take to more fully realize UNCRC
As it was pointed out earlier, the UNCRC has the status of international law, which means is that for it to prove effective; those to whom this law applies must have a good reason to consider it legally binding, in the practical and not merely theoretical sense of this word. However, such a state of affairs can only be ensured, for as long as the subjects of international law (independent countries) believe that the benefits of remaining thoroughly observant of this law’s legal provisions, on their part, are indeed ‘tangible’ enough to be given any serious thought. In its turn, this can only be the case when the very atmosphere in the arena of international politics does not tolerate the instances of non-compliance with the international law, on the part of any of the UN-members.
What appears to be rather problematic, in this respect, is that as of today, the U.S. continues to position itself as the world’s only ‘superpower’, to which the basic provisions of international law simply do not apply. This explains the logic behind our suggestion that, for Canada to be able to contribute to the domestic and global implementation of the Convention’s provisions, it must cease positioning itself as America’s puppet –pure and simple. After all, this will directly result in helping to re-legitimize the concept of ‘international law’ again and consequently – in encouraging Canada and other countries to recognize the legally binding power of most of the UNCRC’s Articles.
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What also should prove rather helpful, within the context of Canada striving to live up to the postulates of the UNCRC, is the governmental officials’ willingness to reassess the validity of some of the current assumptions about the actual nature of child-abuse. For example, even though it is indeed fully appropriate to assume that “more empathy will result in less aggression (towards children)”, the idea that empathy is something that could be taught does not seem to stand much ground. The reason for this is apparent – the sensation in question (or the lack of thereof) is brought about by the unconscious workings of one’s psyche, which means that it is whether a particular person does have what it takes to feel empathetic towards children, or does not. In its turn, this implies that the allocation of money to educate citizens about the importance of treating children with empathy does not make much of a rational sense, except for the fact that it provides employment for the hordes of bureaucrats.
Hence, our second recommendation – instead of indulging in the politically correct but essentially meaningless rhetoric, as to the importance of making it possible for children to grow into the society’s productive members, Canada’s governmental officials should pay more attention to ensuring children’s welfare on the regional/communal level. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to the fact that even though Canada is known for positioning itself as one of the Convention’s most enthusiastic promoters, many children in the country’s Native communities continue to experience a number of the socially incapacitating hardships, concerned with the shortage of food and the lack of educational opportunities. It is understood, of course, that this situation can be hardly referred to as thoroughly tolerable.