On the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Department of Social Development in collaboration with the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, UNICEF, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, SA Human Rights Commission, Save the Children SA, Graca Machel Trust and the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights convened a special session between Child Ambassadors and Chairpersons from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Select Committees and the National Assembly Portfolio Committees in Parliament, Cape Town.
The CRC was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 November 1989 and came into force on 2 September 1990. The celebration of the #CRC@30, as the convention is commonly referred to, takes place under the theme: “Thirty years of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Challenges and Opportunities”.
The guiding principles of the CRC include non-discrimination; best interest of the child; the right to life, survival, and development; and respect for the views of the children in all matters that affect them.
The 30th Anniversary of the CRC coincides with the 25 Years of Freedom and Democracy in South Africa. The two anniversaries that commemorate significant milestones in our nation’s history give us the opportunity to reflect on how far South Africa has come, when in 1995 and barely a year old, the first democratically-elected Government ratified the CRC, making it the first human rights instrument to be ratified under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela.
The Child Ambassadors represent children from all nine provinces and are elected by their peers during the annual Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament. The purpose of the session is to build on the Child Ambassadors’ advocacy skills by giving them the platform to be heard by the Chairpersons of both the NCOP Select Committees and the National Assembly Portfolio Committees, as defined in the CRC.
This will enable the Child Ambassadors to express their views and raise their concerns on various issues affecting children throughout South Africa, including those articulated in the Children’s Manifesto. As representatives of constituencies, children included, Members of Parliament have a constitutional obligation to hold the Portfolio Committees and the departments and entities upon which they exercise oversight, to account and to deliver on programmes and services that uphold the best interest of the child.
Since ratifying the CRC, South Africa has made significant progress in advancing children’s rights to protection, development and participation in decisions affecting their lives. The CRC has inspired the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which is world-renowned for its advances in pursuing legislation, programs and targeted interventions that safeguard the best interest of the child. Key amongst these is the expansion of the Early Childhood Development (ECD), with 1 in 3 children accessing ECD and the progressive implementation of the Child Support Grant, which to date reaches over 13 million children, contributing significantly to the reduction in a child, improving their educational and health outcomes.
Progress has been recorded through the expansion of free primary health care and access to primary and secondary schooling has reached near-universal enrolment, with the participation of girls being the highest in the world. The government has declared ECD a public good and has prioritised its expansion to all children as part of the 1000 Days Campaign.