13 November 2001


Press Release


United Nations Legal Instruments on Rights of Child,

Migratory Fish Conservation Reach Required Number of Supporters

The week-long series of treaty signings and ratifications is continuing at United Nations Headquarters.  Concurrent with the General Assembly’s general debate -– in which a number of heads of State and government are participating -– arrangements were made for some 100 treaty actions -– signatures, ratifications and accessions -– to take place.  More than 70 countries have indicated an interest in participating in the event.

Some of the instruments to be acted upon are terrorism-related Conventions which have been deposited with the Secretary-General.  Others relate to such areas as transnational organized crime, the nuclear-test-ban treaty and action on anti-personnel mines.

Two treaties signed in recent days came into force on reaching the required number of signatures –- a protocol to the rights of the child Convention, relating to children in armed conflict, and an agreement on fish conservation.

Yesterday (12 November), New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Phil Goff, triggered the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  He deposited the tenth instrument of ratification of the Protocol.  Having reached the required number of ratifications or accessions, the Optional Protocol will enter into force on 12 February 2002 –- three months after this tenth ratification.

On Sunday (11 November) the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, Dr. Joe Borg, deposited the instrument of accession to the Agreement on Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.  The Agreement needed 30 instruments of ratification or accession for its entry into force.  It will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the thirtieth instrument.

Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Protocol, adopted by the General Assembly on 25 May 2000, has been signed by 86 countries.  Its key provisions are:

-- States are to take “all feasible measures” to ensure that members of

their armed forces who are under 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities and that no one under 18 years is compulsorily recruited;

-- In terms of voluntary enlistment, the treaty raises the minimum age to at least 16 and includes specific and verifiable safeguards, including the provision of reliable proof of age and the informed consent of both volunteer and parents; 

-- As for insurgency groups and rebels, the treaty prohibits the recruitment or participation of anyone under 18 “under any circumstances”.

The day after the Protocol was adopted, the Special Representative of the

Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Under-Secretary-General Olara A. Otunnu, said that “a momentous step has been taken in the global effort to eradicate the use of children as soldiers" and he urged Member States to ratify the agreement as swiftly as possible.

According to the Office of the Special Representative, some 300,000 young persons under the age of 18 are currently being exploited as child soldiers in as many as 30 areas of conflict around the world, particularly by insurgent groups and rebels.  The entry into force of the Protocol will be a major step in the efforts to end the practice.

Agreement on Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks

The Agreement was adopted on 4 August 1995 in New York by the United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.  It has been signed by 59 countries.

The treaty includes groundbreaking provisions to ensure compatible conservation and management measures between high-seas areas and coastal zones under national jurisdiction.  A major feature is its "precautionary approach", by which States are obligated to act conservatively when there is doubt about the viability of stocks.

Other provisions establish detailed minimum international standards for conservation and management of fish stocks.  They also include effective measures for compliance and enforcement on the high seas, and recognize the special requirements of developing States for assistance in conservation and management.

In the case of conflicts between nations over fishing rights, the treaty calls for compulsory and binding third-party dispute settlement, which is not currently provided by regional organizations.  States can choose from the options for dispute-settlement established under the Law of the Sea Convention -- the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Court of Justice or an ad hoc tribunal.

Further information on United Nations Conventions may be obtained from the United Nations Treaty Web site at  The Treaty Section has also activated a special Web site for the treaty-signing event, at

For further information on the event, please contact Palita Kohona, Chief, Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs, tel. 963-5048.

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For information media. Not an official record.