Issue International Code Instruments

Related international instruments

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions

of the World Health Assembly have been further strongly endorsed by a series of international

declarations and policy recommendations.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on

20th November 1989.

The then Executive Director of the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) James Grant wrote in December 1990 that the CRC “came into force on September 2nd, 1990, in less time than any other human rights convention. The World Summit for Children, which strongly endorsed the Convention, was, in a real sense,

the first global action for its implementation.” (Preface to First Call for Children).

The CRC marks the United Nations move beyond the basic struggle for child survival to a rights-based approach, including childrens well-being and the “right to the highest attainable standard of health”.

The CRC “ratified by 191 countries at the end of 1997, is the most universally embraced human rights instrument in history” (State of the Worlds Children, UNICEF, 1997).

As a Convention, the CRC is binding on governments which have a legal, and not just a moral, obligation to

fulfil their commitments.
Article 24 of the CRC spells out the obligations of governments (States Parties) to diminish infant and young child mortality and combat disease and malnutrition by taking measures to ensure that all sectors of society, particularly parents,

“have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding…”

According to UNICEF the CRC means that, “States Parties are placed under an obligation to ensure that the advantages of breastfeeding are universally understood and to take appropriate measures to achieve this goal.

This can only be accomplished if the information reaching the general public, and parents in particular, is

factual, objective, and not prepared with a view to persuading mothers to forgo or diminish breastfeeding and use an artificial product in the mistaken belief that it is equivalent to breastfeeding.” Progress Report on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, UNICEF New York, January, 1998.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child

UNICEF “encourages all concerned parties to join UNICEF in urging the Committee on the Rights of the Child to ask every government reporting on the CRC whether it is enforcing the International Code….” UNICEF Press Release January 14th, 1997.

State Parties have to report their progress in fulfilling their obligations under the CRC to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee reviews progress and makes recommendations. In the case of Article 24, national programmes for breastfeeding and the state of Code implementation are among the endeavours examined. The reporting process is a long-term one and NGOs such as IBFAN have an important role to play in contributing to country reports and in monitoring government action.

The Innocenti Declaration and the Goals of the World Summit for Children

“The effort to protect, promote and support breastfeeding is one of our World Summit for Children goals; it is part of our country programmes; it has been endorsed by our Executive Board; it is explicit in the Convention (CRC); it is implicit in our Mission Statement. There is too much at stake for the International Code to be ignored.” UNICEF, 14 January 1997. Press Release

The expanding policy framework was further strengthened by the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding issued in August 1990 by 30 governments meeting in Florence, Italy. In September 1990, the World Summit for Children endorsed the Innocenti Declaration and its operational targets became part of the Summits goals for the year 2000.

“Together, the Declaration and Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children and the Convention on the Rights of the Child constitute an ambitious but feasible agenda for the well-being of children to be achieved by the year 2000” (James Grant, ibid).

The Innocenti Declaration sets four important operational targets:

“All Governments should have:

  • appointed a national breastfeeding coordinator of appropriate authority, and established a

    multisectoral breastfeeding committee composed of representatives from relevant government departments, non-governmental organisation, and health professional associations;


  • ensured that every facility providing maternity services practises all ten of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding;

    taken action to give effect to the principles and aim of all Articles of the International Code and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions in their entirety;

  • enacted imaginative legislation protecting the breastfeeding rights of working women and established means for its enforcement.”

All these instruments focus on the International Code as the minimum requirement, the starting-point for effective action.

The Innocenti Declaration was revisted on its 15th anniversary. Much progress was noted. 20,000 hospitals

in 150 countries have become aby friendly and more than 60 countries had implemented the Code and Resolutions in legislation. Global breastfeeding rates had risen by at least 15%, but if the Innocenti goals

were met in full one-fifth of all child deaths could be prevented – saving over 2 million children every year in addition to the 6 million deaths being prevented due to the protection afforded by breastfeeding.

A cycle of international governmental conferences organised between 1992 and 1995 by United Nations agencies produced detailed plans of action for implementation at national level. IBFAN groups can use these platforms for action to ensure that the following international declarations by their governments do

not remain empty words, but are translated into national ten-year policies which are regularly monitored.

The Plan of Action of the International Conference on Nutrition, Rome, 1992 raised the promotion of breastfeeding as one of eight major nutrition themes.

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 1994 emphasises the beneficial aspects of breastfeeding for womens health through its child-spacing effect.

The Platform of Action of the World Conference on Women and Development, Beijing, 1995 stresses the

need to facilitate breastfeeding for working mothers.