Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting The Convention on the Rights of the Child, a “proper and laudable instrument” that today has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped to protect and promote the dignity and the interests of children throughout the world.
This declaration was made by Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, in a statement dedicated to the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children.
The Holy See considers the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention as “a good occasion for a serious reflection on the steps taken to protect the welfare of our little ones and their social and intellectual development, as well their physical, psychological and spiritual growth.”
This reflection is very important because despite the progress achieved, too many children are still denied their rights because of extreme poverty, inequalities, conflict situations, and humanitarian crises.
Mons Auza thanked the Secretary-General for the special focus on “children without parental care” in his report on the Status of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This theme could not be timelier, as children and societies continue to suffer severe negative consequences following the breakdown of the family and consequently parental care.
The report clearly shows that children without parental care are more likely to experience exclusion, violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation. It also shows that some States are investing in carefully planned and implemented reforms dedicated to supporting family life, which help prevent family separation or divorce and reduce the need for residential alternative care.
A global study report on children deprived of liberty has clearly indicated that “children should not be institutionalized to receive care, protection, education, rehabilitation or treatment, as it cannot substitute for the benefits of growing up in a family”. The guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child recognize the family as the natural and fundamental unit of society. Everything should be done to ensure that children grow up in a family environment where they experience love, protection, and security.
As Pope Francis says: “a society grows stronger and better, it grows in beauty and it grows in truth when it rises on the foundation of the family”. If children, for whatever reason, cannot grow up in a family, States should be extremely vigilant and dedicate the best available resources so as to ensure that they are cared for in the most suitable environment for their education, integral development, and overall well-being.
The Holy See representative reminded the assembly that the Convention likewise recognizes the principle that “both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child.” They have prior rights “to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” and education should include “development of respect for the child’s parents.”
In this regard, the Holy See remains deeply concerned about educational programs labeled “comprehensive sexuality education” that are not respectful of the rights of parents and that often promote agendas that do not correspond to the educational needs of the child.
In 2015, Pope Francis lamented that “school relationships between parents and teachers have been compromised. At times there is tension and mutual distrust; and naturally, the consequences fall on the children.” This must change. The “parents’ duty and right to educate their children includes the free choice of schools or other necessary means, in keeping with parental moral and religious convictions.” The education of children, boys and girls, including teaching about authentic human love, human sexuality, married love, and related matters is primarily and fundamentally the right, duty and responsibility of parents.
The Holy See affirmed in its Declaration upon ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that “the Convention represents an enactment of principles previously adopted by the United Nations, and once effective as a ratified instrument, will safeguard the rights of the child before as well as after birth.” This remains the Holy See’s constant commitment and hope.