What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
You might have heard about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but not many young people really know that much about it…
Here we will try to show you what it is, why it exists and why it is so important. You will see some short video clips to help explain and clear things up. The Convention has many parts and sections and is pretty lengthy but what follows is an outline that hopefully helps.
In 1989 something incredible happened. Against the backdrop of a changing world order world leaders came together and made a historic commitment to the world’s children. They made a promise to every child to protect and fulfil their rights, by adopting an international legal framework – the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Contained in this treaty is a profound idea: that children are not just objects who belong to their parents and for whom decisions are made, or adults in training. Rather, they are human beings and individuals with their own rights. The Convention says childhood is separate from adulthood, and lasts until 18; it is a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. The Convention went on to become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives.
Here are the different “Articles” or parts, within the Convention. This video highlights them with a brief description on each – match them up with the poster below…
What has the Convention achieved?
The Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. It has inspired governments to change laws and policies and make investments so that more children finally get the health care and nutrition they need to survive and develop, and there are stronger safeguards in place to protect children from violence and exploitation. It has also enabled more children to have their voices heard and participate in their societies.
Childhood today: new threats, new opportunities
Despite this progress, the Convention is still not fully implemented or widely known and understood. Millions of children continue to suffer violations of their rights when they are denied adequate health care, nutrition, education and protection from violence. Childhoods continue to be cut short when children are forced to leave school, do hazardous work, get married, fight in wars or are locked up in adult prisons.
And global changes, like the rise of digital technology, environmental change, prolonged conflict and mass migration are completely changing childhood. Today’s children face new threats to their rights, but they also have new opportunities to realize their rights.
What needs to happen
The hope, vision and commitment of world leaders in 1989 led to the Convention. It is up to today’s generation to demand that world leaders from government, business and communities end child rights violations now, once and for all. They must commit to action to make sure every child, has every right.
But still not every child gets to enjoy a full childhood. Still, too many childhoods are cut short.
It is up to our generation to demand that leaders from government, business and communities fulfil their commitments and take action for child rights now, once and for all. They must commit to making sure every child, has every right.
Over the past 30 years, children’s lives have been transformed…
More than 50%
reduction in deaths of children under 5 since 1990
the proportion of undernourished children since 1990
more people have cleaner drinking water today than in 1990
…but millions are still left behind and childhood is changing rapidly.
children and youth people are out of school
girls and women were married before their 18th birthday
1 in 4 children
will live in areas with extremely limited water resources by 2040
How many countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
More countries have ratified the Convention than any other human rights treaty in history – 196 countries have become State Parties to the Convention as of October 2015.
Only the United States of America has not ratified the Convention. By signing the Convention, the United States has signalled its intention to ratify, but has yet to do so.
How does the international community monitor and support progress on the implementation of the Convention?
The Committee on the Rights of the Child, an elected body of independent experts that monitors the Convention’s implementation, requires governments that have ratified the Convention to submit regular reports on the status of children’s rights in their countries. The Committee reviews these reports and makes recommendations to States. Where necessary, the Committee calls for international assistance from other governments and technical assistance from organizations like UNICEF.
What are some of the areas in which the Convention on the Rights of the Child has been most effective?
In the 30 years since the adoption of the Convention, the lives of millions of children have been improved through the progressive realization of rights and fulfillment of obligations enshrined within the Convention and its three Optional Protocols.
The Convention has inspired changes in all parts of the world, including:
- Incorporating child rights principles into legislation so that they are LAW and MUST be followed
- Establishing interdepartmental and multidisciplinary bodies to address child rights – there are groups who represent the rights and wishes of young people.
- Developing national agendas for children
- Promoting ombudspersons for children or commissioners for children’s rights – these people check young peoples rights are being followed
- Restructuring of budgetary allocations for the realization of children’s rights – money is set aside by Governments to make sure this happens
- Interventions targeting child survival and development
- Addressing discrimination and other barriers to the realization of child rights including socio-economic disparities among children – ALL YOUNG PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD HAVE THE RIGHTS EXPLAINED IN THE CONVENTION!!
- Creating opportunities for children to express their views and be heard – groups make sure young people have a VOICE
- Expanding partnerships for children
- Assessing the impact of measures on children.
How does UNICEF use the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
UNICEF is the UN organization required to protect the rights of every child, everywhere, especially the most disadvantaged.
As expressed in their Mission Statement, “UNICEF is mandated (required) by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.”
UNICEF is the only organization specifically named in the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a source of expert assistance and advice.
The Convention provides UNICEF with guidance as to the areas to be assessed and addressed, and is a tool to measure the progress achieved in those areas. In addition to maintaining a focus on child survival and development, UNICEF must consider the situation of all children, analyse the economic and social environment, develop partnerships to strengthen the response (including the participation of children themselves), support interventions on the basis of non-discrimination and act in the best interests of the child.
So, UNICEF MUST do their best to ensure the safety and development of all children and young people.
Here are some short videos that help to explain the Convention.
In this first these inspiring children are speaking out, claiming their rights and leading the way to the world they deserve – as laid out in the Convention!
This second video is from 2019 in which UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador David Beckham calls on world leaders to keep their promise to children and young people