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" Of course the Convention claims that children are a special interest, with the need for special rights, but in the world of public opinion, special interests are too often framed as only benefiting one interest at the expense of others. Acknowledging that the establishment and maintenance of special rights for children is merely the development of further tools for the successful maintenance of an equitable society precludes this pigeonholing, because it frames helping children as a means of helping everyone.
Nonetheless, a potential drawback of using an NGO to work for the rights of the child remains in the fact that focusing on this issue does mean that other specific issues will not be granted the same time and money, but even here one may note that focusing on the rights of the child can actually work towards improving the time and money available for other issues, because once again, child represent a special case. In the same way that children require extra care and protection, those who provide this care and protection must similarly receive support, economically and politically. By elevating the rights of the child and acknowledging that it is a universal responsibility of every citizen to care about children in his or her country (or on his or her planet), an NGO would be laying the social framework necessary for ensuring that undue strain is not placed on certain individuals such as parents and teachers, thus giving those individuals more of their own time and money to spend on other endeavors. Thus, while focusing on the rights of the child means that in the short-term the NGO's time and money will be diverted from other causes, the rights of children in one specific area in which success means exponential benefits in all areas of society.
Specifically, one of the most important things an NGO could do to work for the rights of the child as outlined in the Convention is education, not of children, but rather the general public, both in regards to the contents of the Convention and the implications it would have for individual's lives. Of the two countries which have not yet ratified the treaty, the United States and Somalia, Somalia has indicated that it plans on ratifying it soon (UNICEF 2011). The main focus for the NGO then, should be the United States, and in particular educating those groups who see ratification of the Convention as a threat to their religious freedom. By definition, religious groups have altogether different goals from the general community, because their worldview is oriented around assumptions regarding the ideal structure and function of society based not on observation and evaluation, but rather preordained rules and regulations that people believe to have divine authority. As mentioned before, all human production is inherently meaningless, so the fact that religious groups base their opinions on society on wholly fabricated descriptions of the world is not that remarkable, or even important.
Rather, the important thing to note is the difference in the process by which these opinions are formed, and an NGO hoping to work for the rights of the child must acknowledge this difference and react accordingly. Ideally, the NGO could focus on a public advertisement and education campaign with two main points. Firstly, it would focus on how elevating child rights elevates the rights of all humans, but more importantly, it would attempt to demonstrate that far from infringing on religious freedoms, elevating the rights of the child would serve to ensure that society is as equitable and just as possible, thus maintaining the expressive space in which religion can be freely practiced. A third possible approach could be to educate and inform about the ways in which religion already highlights some of the special rights of the child, but this approach is more problematic as it risks encouraging continued religious belief, so the NGO would have to decide if the short-term acceptance of the rights of the child on the part of some American religious groups is worth the long-term encouragement of those religious groups. Even then, however, it seems difficult to argue that improving the immediate conditions of children is not worth the future risk of continued magical thinking and regressive social organizations.
An NGO working to support and protect the rights of the child as laid out in the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child must first begin with an honest appraisal of the limitations of legal and political documents as well as the true purpose and function of those documents in relation to society. Acknowledging that rights, far from being essential or inherent, are merely a means by which society can ensure its successful and equitable function, would allow an NGO to begin an education campaign that focuses on highlighting the ways in which child rights affect everyone in society, not just children and parents. Framing the issue in this way helps forestall two of the biggest drawbacks of an NGO focusing on any specific issue, because it prevents the fight for child rights from being pigeonholed as a special interest and ultimately ensures that there will be even more time and money to support other issues in the future.
"Convention on the Rights of the Child." UNICEF. UNICEF, 3 June 2011. Web. 21 Nov 2011.
United Nations. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the Rights
of the Child. 1990. Print.
United States. U.S. Constitution. Print.
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