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Sun, Apr 02, 2000 - Page 2 News List

NGOs push for children's rights

HUMAN RIGHTS In an effort to increase awareness of children's rights, a campaign is under way to have Taiwan become a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -- one of the UN's most strongly supported conventions

By Liu Shao-Hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

Two days before National Children's Day, a non-governmental organization (NGO) alliance appealed to the newly-elected government to campaign for Taiwan so it could join the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by 2003.

The Steering Alliance of Taiwan's Acceding to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, composed of 23 NGOs and endorsed by 57 legislators, asked president-elect Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to honor his election pledge to campaign for Taiwan's entry into the UN.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN in 1989 and has been signed by more than 167 member states.

It was dedicated to every child under the age of 18 and is one of the most strongly supported UN human rights conventions.

"Joining the UN convention is a new starting point for establishing human rights diplomacy as well as public diplomacy," an alliance statement read.

Liao Fu-te (廖福特), an international law lecturer at Tunghai University, who now serves as advisor to the alliance, said becoming a signatory to the convention would increase awareness of children's rights nationwide.

"In Taiwan we do have a specific welfare policy for children. However, compared to the UN's recognition of children as subjects and respect for their inherent rights, our concept of `welfare' does not favor adults over children," Liao said. "Every child is an individual and is entitled to their own rights."

Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟), a DPP lawmaker and convener of the Alliance proposed a timetable for the campaign. Lai appealed to the new Cabinet to initiate a national report on children's rights and to hold a conference on the issue within a year.

A timetable was also scheduled to incorporate children's rights into the curricula of primary and high schools, as well as establish a budget for foreign aid for the children in developing countries by 2002, regardless of whether they have diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

"We hope to submit the application to the UN in 2003," he said.

Aware of Taiwan's pariah status in the international community, the alliance also considered the campaign's possible hurdles but did not expect to encounter hostility auch as Taiwan faces when it attempts full membership in the UN.

"Although China has veto power in the UN Security Council, it has none in the General Assembly," said Liao, adding that the campaign would not be easy.

Liao urged the government to seek support for the campaign from UN member states in Europe, the US and Japan.

"The European countries are most concerned with human rights and we believe few countries would deny Taiwan's entry to the convention," he said.

In 1996, End Child Prostitution Association Taiwan (ECPAT) launched a similar campaign on a smaller scale same but was stalled by opposition from UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund).

"We wrote letters to UNICEF demonstrating our efforts to join the convention," said Lee Li-feng (李麗芬), secretary-general of ECPAT. "But UNICEF was as political as all the international organizations and denied our application. However, they suggested Taiwan restart its campaign from the private NGOs and then connect with international NGOs."

"Submitting to the UN is the last stage. We still have a long way to go," she said.

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