Why have a Convention on the Rights of the Child?
In November 1989, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) radically changed how children are treated and respected around the world. Before the convention was drawn up, children were considered as property, or 'chattel' in the law books of many nations. Adults 'owned' children, and therefore could loan them out as labourers, remove them from school, or use physical punishment against them.
When the UNCRC was created 25 years ago, children were finally respected as being his or her own person, with unique and absolute rights. This included the rights to citizenship, dignity, security, safety, self-determination and participation.
194 countries agreed with (ratified) the UNCRC, which means that they must follow the standards set out in the convention. All of these countries can be reviewed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and are told off when children in their country are not receiving all of their rights.
Special rights for children without parental care
The UNCRC recognises that children who have lost parental care, or are at risk of doing so, have special rights to protection and quality care (see Articles 20, 21 and 25).
Five years ago, SOS Children worked with the UN to develop the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (pdf).
We've also produced a child-friendly version of the guidelines, with language that everyone can understand. You can download it by clicking here (pdf).
Children denied their rights
Great progress has been made, and many countries have brought in new laws to protect children's rights. As a result, more children are enjoying a happy and safe childhood. However, there is still much work to be done.
- Worldwide, 67 million school-aged children are not in school (UNESCO).
- Between 20% and 60% (depending upon region) of children worldwide suffer physical abuse in their own homes (UNICEF)
- One in every five children in developing countries is undernourished (World Bank, UN).
Some of the countries that signed the UNCRC still allow corporal or even capital punishment of children. Some of these countries no nothing when children become soldiers, when they become labourers with poor working conditions, or when they are denied the opportunity to go to school. Much still needs to be done to make sure every child, where ever they live, grow up with dignity, security and respect.
Kids, know your rights!
Do you know what the rights of children are? To help all children receive their rights, it is important that everyone - children and adults - know what they are.
When children know their rights, they can speak up when those rights are not being respected, they can hold their governments accountable, and they can participate in shaping policies that affect them.
Written in child-friendly language, here is a poster that's perfect for sharing with the children in your life. It lists all of the rights of the child, so that everyone can understand what they are. Please download the poster, email it, print it off, and post it to spread awareness!