Children's rights in Somalia

Up to now, Somalia, South Sudan and the USA are the only three member countries in the United Nations which have not ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The newly independent Republic of South Sudan joined the U.N. in July 2011. The difference between Somalia and the USA is that there is widespread support for ratification in Somalia, while in the United States Congress a majority of Republican Senators are opposed to it (source - Library of Congress).

Somalia, Somaliland and Puntland map

The situation that impedes ratification

Somalia has experienced a continuing civil war since 1991. In the northern part of Somalia there are two states: the state of Somaliland, which wants to be recognized as a separate nation, and Puntland, which is content to be part of the Somali Federation. In early 2010 the militant Islamic extremist group Harakat Al-Shabaab controlled most of southern Somalia, including a large part of the capital, Mogadishu, where it imposed a harsh form of Sharia law.

Historical note:
The British protectorate of Somaliland gained independence on 26 June 1960, but just days later, on 1 July 1960, it joined the former Italian Somaliland territory to form the Somali Republic. Then in 1991, after the breakdown of central government in the Somali Republic, Somaliland declared independence as the Republic of Somaliland. However, Somaliland's self-declared independence remains unrecognized internationally. French Somaliland became independent as the Republic of Djibouti in 1977. Djibouti ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1990.

Support for children's rights in Somalia

Somalia's Ambassador to the United Nations signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on behalf of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in May 2002. On the 20th of August, 2012, Somalia's first formal parliament in more than two decades was sworn in, marking an end to the 8-year transitional period (BBC news article).

The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN) lists many organizations that work in Somalia to promote children's rights. For example, for Somali Child Protection and Development (SOCPD) it says:

“The organization was established in 1999 by a group of Somalis who sought to protect children involved with the fighting forces in the Somali conflict. At that time, children were commonly recruited into the local militia. Since then, SOCPD has been engaged in child rights advocacy, child protection programs and other support services. ... ... SOCPD is now [in 2007] working with Shabelle FM radio in Mogadishu by releasing daily messages regarding the promotion of child protection and the protection of Somali children from violence, exploitation and discrimination.”

Support in Somaliland

In 2008, Somaliland introduced a Juvenile Justice Act which is fully compatible with the CRC.

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the CRC a day of activities was organized in the major towns of Somaliland, with active participation by children. It was organized by Somaliland's Ministry of Justice, ANPPCAN, Save the Children Denmark and UNICEF. A photo album is available online.

The Somaliland Lawyers Association has established a Child Rights Unit and plans to create a legal aid center for vulnerable groups in the community, including children, when financial support becomes available.

Related post:  Children's Ombudsmen in Africa.