Almost 20 years on from the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we are still failing children. Around the world, millions of children continue to suffer widespread and severe violations of their rights. Why? Often, because of the way governments allocate resources and make policy decisions. These governments, as ‘duty-bearers’ responsible for delivering children’s rights, together with donors and civil society, need to do much more to promote and safeguard children’s wellbeing.
What are children’s rights?
Children’s rights are the fundamental freedoms and inherent rights of every child and young person under 18. Children have many of the same rights afforded to adults, as well as some additional rights that reflect their status as children. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (UNCRC)1 incorporates children’s rights into an internationally agreed human rights treaty that contains 54 legal articles.
Every country in the world, except the USA and Somalia, has ratified the Convention. It includes social, cultural and economic rights (eg, to
health and education) and civil and political rights (eg, to freedom of thought, conscience and religion). It also includes the right to be heard, the right to be cared for by parents, and the right to protection from all forms of violence and abuse – including recruitment into armed groups, child pornography and child prostitution.
The UNCRC is a challenging document. It does not just state what children’s rights are – it goes much further, obliging all governments that ratify it to take all necessary steps to ensure that children’s rights are realised. Collectively, these obligations form an agenda for action. They require governments to analyse the situation of children in their countries, to identify where and why children’s rights are not being realised, and to ensure that attention and resources are appropriately focused. Furthermore, the Convention places obligations on the international community to help poorer Making children’s rights a reality
countries, where resource constraints are a barrier to the realisation of children’s rights.
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