of the U.N. General Assembly’s Conventionnon the Rights of the Child, annaim that was partly achieved on Mayn18, 1990, when Brian Mulroneynsigned it.nThere are two stages. Signing impliesna commitment to review the U.N.ndocuments and compare them to thensigning country’s own laws. Ratification,nwhich is expected by Canadaneariy in 1991, binds the ratifying countrynto abide by the U.N. Conventionnunder international law. (In order thatna U.N. Convention can be enteredninto international law, it must be ratifiednby at least 20 countries. This wasnachieved for the children’s rights conventionnby September 1990.) At thentime of this writing, 61 countries hadnboth signed and ratified, 72 had signednbut not ratified, and the United Statesnhad “initialed” it but neither signednnor ratified.nWhen Canada ratifies, it will bindnitself to comply with the articles (therenare 54) of the U.N. Convention,nwhich applies to “every human beingnbelow the age of eighteen years” —nunless local laws establish majority earlier—nand covers a full range of rights:nnondiscrimination, rights to life andnidentity, the basic freedoms, access tonhealth care and education, and protectionnfrom economic exploitation.nTo back this up — and to fill in thendetails of the ratifying countries’ commitment—nthe U.N. issued a Plan ofnAction for national governments.nAmong its requirements:n— increase development financenfor debtor countries;n— create a more open andnequitable trading system;n— redirect resources fromnreduced military expenditures tonaid programs, including thosenbenefiting children;n— target debt-relief schemesntoward children’s programs;n—target more development aidnto primary health care, basicneducation, low-cost water andnsanitation programs;n— aid to children to be part ofnstrengthened developmentnprograms “combining revitalizedneconomic growth, povertynreduction, human resourcendevelopment and environmentalnprotection”;n— statistics to be shown “byngender” so that any inequitableneffect on giris and women cannbe monitored and corrected;n— achieve, by nominated years,ngoals set for the attainmentnof better health care,nimmunization, and eliminationnof preventable diseases.nThroughout, the emphasis is on whatngovernments are to do. Since it wasnnon-governmental organizationsn(NGOs) that had so big a hand innsetting up the summit, perhaps wenshould take another look at them.nAn NGO is a non-profit organization,nand the combination — nongovernmentnand nonprofit — conveys annimpression of dedicated volunteersnputting freely given contributions tonwork for the charitable purposes tonwhich they devote their lives. On closerninspection, your average NGO may bennonprofit, but its distance from thenpublic purse is somewhat shorter thannarm’s length.nThe Canadian government’s InternationalnDevelopment Agencyn(CIDA) provides NGOs and theirnpartners with “matching” governmentngrants in a ratio of three from thengovernment to one from privatelynraised funds toward overseas projects,nand one-for-one grants to cover theirnoperating expenses in Canada. CIDAnalso fosters “partnerships and networking”namong international volunteerngroups, improves the skills of staff volunteersnby helping them diversify theirnfunding sources, and focuses on organizationsnthat “complement and enhancenCanadian development initiatives.”nPrompted by the umbrella NGO —nthe Canadian Coalition for the Rightsnof Children — Canada was one of sixninitiating countries that brought thensummit to life; the others, all of whichnhad ratified the convention by Septembern1990, were Egypt, Mali, Mexico,nPakistan, and Sweden. Thus it’s safe tonsay that the Canadian Coalition’snStatement of Principles is a pretty goodnguide to what’s in store for the governmentsnof other ratifying countriesndown the road.nFor instance, since every child, bynvirtue of the convention, is guaranteednthe right to an adequate standard ofnliving, the Coalition recommends thatnnngovernments commit, through socialnassistance, education, and health careninitiatives, to protecting all childrennadequately from the effects of poverty.nWithin Canada, the three levels ofngovernment are called on to implementn”a comprehensive preventive socialnpolicy which includes such componentsnas prenatal and postnatal healthncare, affordable housing programs, parentalnsupport, particulariy in respect ofnsingle parents and child refugee claimants,nand educational and social programsnincluding those providednthrough public education institutions.”nProgress is to be monitored fromnannual reports to the House of Commonsn”in a detailed manner” on thenstate of children in Canada and also onnwhat the federal and provincial governmentsnare doing toward attainment ofnthe summit’s goals for children in Canadanand abroad. To this end, the federalngovernment is asked to improve thencollection of statistics relating to childnpoverty within Canada.nOnly once, in this shopping list ofnwhat governments are supposed to do,nare parents mentioned, and then onlynas subjects for whom governments providen”parental support, particularly innrespect of single parents.” It is as ifnwhat used to be called fathers andnmothers were not around anymore andnhad abdicated to the state responsibilitynfor the children they gave birth to.nSurprisingly, the government ofnCanada admits, in the introduction tonits summit brochure, that while it hasn”a major role to play in ensuring thenwell-being of children, it cannot carrynout this mission alone. Many areas ofnpublic policy and services affectingnchildren are the responsibility of thengovernments of the provinces and territoriesnthat make up Canada, whilenothers are shared by the federal, provincial,nand territorial governments. Innaddition there are hundreds of municipalnand town councils, school boards,nother public agencies and nongovernmentalnorganizations. All play criticalnroles in ensuring the well-being ofnCanada’s children.”nNowhere in any of this is the recognitionnthat government interventionnhas made it harder for people to createnthe wealth that all societies need innorder to function; that governmentnborrowing for social programs hasnfueled inflation and diminished peo-nAPRIL 1991/43n