Sixty-five years ago, on 10th December 1948, the leaders of the world proclaimed that human beings, by virtue of their birth are bestowed with certain inalienable rights. Since then, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has served as a beacon for humanity and a common standard for the promotion and protection of basic rights and fundamental freedoms in every country. This milestone document is recognized universally as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
Today, countries across the world celebrate the International Human Rights Day to mark the occasion of the adoption of the Universal Declaration. This is also a time for a moment of pause and self-reflection, not only of the incredible journey of millions of people who have fought for basic human rights, but also of the continued struggle of millions more, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized in our societies, especially children.
The Maldives is one of the earliest state parties to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Children (CRC) and since then, children’s rights have been a key area of focus for successive governments – both in improving the situation of Maldivian children, and in promoting child rights abroad. The Maldives has also ratified its first two optional protocols.
Maldives signs newest child rights convention
Fresh from being elected to the Human Rights Council in 2010, the Maldives led negotiations in the United Nations to establish a Third Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communications Procedure. The Maldives signed this Protocol in 2012, but has yet to ratify the instrument, which requires the approval by the Cabinet and consent of the People’s Majlis.
This newest human rights instrument would allow Maldivian children, groups of children or their representatives to submit complaints to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, if they feel that their rights under the Convention or its protocols had been violated, and if all domestic legal and judicial remedies to seek justice have been exhausted.
Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) believes that today, International Human Rights Day, provides an opportune moment to reinvigorate efforts to enhance government policy and existing mechanisms, to strengthen the child protection system in the country. ARC therefore reiterates its call for the ratification of this Optional Protocol by the Maldives, and hopes this can be realized before the 10th of May 2014, Children’s Day.
Disconnect between Maldives’ international efforts on child rights and domestic implementation
For rights to have meaning, all victims must have access to a justice system that will protect their rights and address violations. Despite noteworthy efforts by the Maldives internationally, domestic justice for child victims remains elusive due to reasons such as lack of funding and training on the implementation of the Convention and its provisions, absence of comprehensive laws to deal with the issues, and lack of awareness on Maldives’ own international obligations in the judiciary, amongst other actors.
Maldivian governments have continued to enthusiastically co-sponsor various UN resolutions on child rights, signed numerous treaties, and promoted the rights of the child as a priority area, including in its membership in the UN Human Rights Council recently. While these efforts should be commended, much more needs to be done to ensure that these initiatives are reflected domestically.
The implementation of the country’s international commitments must be made a priority, in order to strengthen the existing child protection and legal systems, and effectively safeguard the rights of children in the country.
Call for ratification
Communications procedures are increasingly becoming a practical tool to close the gap between human rights aspirations and human rights realities. In June 2013, ARC joined an International Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations ‘Ratify OP3 CRC’ which supports the ratification and early entry into force of the Third Optional Protocol. This particular human rights instrument is extremely important as it is designed specifically to assist child victims of abuse, violence and other violations of their rights, and also to encourage local and national institutions to create good options and solutions for children.
While the Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed in 1991 under the Presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the diplomatic negotiations for this new Optional Protocol began during President Nasheed’s Administration in 2011, in which the Maldives played leading role in the UN Human Rights Council. The Protocol was subsequently signed in 2012 during President’s Waheed’s Government. ARC calls on the Government of President Yameen and the People’s Majlis to complete the ratification process of this Optional Protocol at the earliest, as a genuine effort to demonstrate the country’s strong commitment to advancing the rights of children. ARC believes that this will add further impetus to all ongoing efforts, and that it will provide important safeguards to all Maldivian children.