Lawmakers took a step Tuesday to assure youngsters that they could complain to the United Nations about any breaches of their rights.
The legislature approved on first reading the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. The addition to the existing rights of children treaty provides special consideration by persons skilled in rights of young people when the complaint reaches the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Costa Rica is seeking to be among the first 10 counties to ratify the Optional Protocol. That is the number needed so that the agreement takes effect.
“The Third Optional Protocol is an important step in strengthening the protection of children’s rights but it is no substitute for strong and effective remedies for violation of children’s rights at the domestic level,” said Paula Gerber. She is a professor at Monash University Law School in Australia where she teaches children’s rights and is a deputy director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law. She has written extensively on the topic.
The protocol is basically a backstop when countries do not respect the rights of their children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has little real power but it can instruct national leadership to take some action.
Nearly every country in the world except the United States, has ratified the original Convention on the Rights of the Child, which entered into force in 1990. Unlike Costa Rica, the U.S. Constitution is superior legally to international treaties. But there still are concerns about erosion of national sovereignty.
The protocol, approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2011, also strengthens economic, social and cultural rights, according to a summary by Professor Gerber. She pointed out that although children have rights under other treaties, none was developed specifically with them in mind.