On November 21, the Holy See gave a statement before the United Nations General Assembly at the High-level meeting on the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The statement was delivered by Msgr. Fredrik Hansen.
In its statement, the Holy See reiterated its support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child in a context in which the dignity and rights of many children’s rights across the world are still not respected. To mark this anniversary, the Holy See has hosted a Seminar in the Vatican on promoting and protecting the dignity of every child in today’s digital world and will be holding a panel discussion in Geneva on the rights of children to education. The Holy See emphasized three points crucial for the correct implementation of the Convention: fostering and protecting the dignity and rights of children, beginning with the right to life, and sticking to the obligations as set forth in the Convention, modified by each State’s reservations; the recognition that children’s rights cannot be achieved unless the family and its rights are respected; and increasing vigilance to protect children from new forms of violence, abuse and exploitation.
The full statement follows:
The Holy See is pleased to participate at this high-level meeting to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Upon ratifying the Convention in 1990, the Holy See praised the instrument’s goal of protecting the rights and interests of children and affirmed its intention “to give renewed expression to its constant concern for the well-being of children and families”.
While the importance of the Convention is unquestionable and its thirtieth anniversary should indeed be celebrated, the Holy See also welcomes the fact that this celebration does not shy away from the reality that despite the near-universal ratification of the Convention, many children are not respected nor protected around the world. That any child suffers violence, abuse, exploitation and that any child’s rights are violated, rejected or ignored is unacceptable and among the gravest of injustices. The Holy See has therefore chosen to contribute to this anniversary by hosting a Seminar at the Vatican on promoting and protecting the dignity of every child in the digital world  and by holding a panel discussion in Geneva on the right of children to education.
As we redouble our efforts to give full effect to the Convention, my Delegation wishes to take this opportunity to highlight three points that are crucial for the correct implementation of the Convention:
First, the Convention’s fundamental purpose and object is to protect the inherent dignity of every child as a human person. That dignity is the underlying source of children’s rights, beginning with the right to life, which should be respected and protected by parents in the first instance, society and the State. Thus, the faithful implementation of the Convention requires fostering and protecting the inherent dignity of every child, for the child and for the common good of society. On the other hand, we must always bear in mind that the Convention is a legally binding instrument that sets forth, in carefully negotiated language, the obligations that State parties have voluntarily undertaken. Thus, the State parties’ obligations are exclusively those set forth in its text, as modified by each State’s reservations.
Second, the Convention recognizes that the rights of the person have a fundamentally social dimension. In the case of children, this finds an innate and vital expression in the family, the natural and fundamental unit of human society. Thus, the realization of children’s rights cannot be achieved unless the family and its rights are also respected. This includes, as recognized by the Convention itself, safeguarding the primary and inalienable rights of parents regarding, inter alia, the right to education, the freedom of religion and belief, the freedom of association and the right to privacy. Furthermore, the contention that children must be protected in cases of proven abuse or neglect within the family, acknowledges that the “State has a delicate balance to respect between protecting the child in the family, on the one hand, and avoiding undue State interference into the family, on the other hand.” Children’s rights should be considered within the context of the family and never in contraposition with the family, a subject of rights and duties.
Third, the States Parties to the Convention must remain vigilant in the face of new forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children, including those coming from the fields of digital information and communication technologies. Reflecting on those developments, Pope Francis recently noted that, “the challenge before us is to ensure that minors have safe access to these technologies while at the same time ensuring their healthy and serene development and protecting them from unacceptable criminal violence or grave harm to the integrity of their body and spirit”. He emphasized, in that regard, the important role that parents, educators, institutions, and centers of formation will and must play in protecting the rights of the child in our digital world.
In closing, the Holy See applauds the work undertaken by all who are engaged in protecting the dignity of children and assures them of its unrelenting support.
Thank you, Mr. President.
1. The Holy See ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict in 2000.
2. Declaration of the Holy See upon ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
3. Congress on “Promoting digital Child Dignity – From concept to action, 14-15 November 2019, Casina Pio IV, Vatican City.
4. The right to education: towards a renewed commitment to education, 19 November 2019, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
5. Replies of the Holy See to the List of Issues from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1, January 9, 2014.
6. Pope Francis, Audience with the participants in the Congress on “Promoting digital Child Dignity -From concept to action”, 14 November 2019.
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