Children are in particular need of protection. Common wisdom would have it that one's true face is shown by the way one treats children. This is as true for adults as it is for societies and nation states. Children have been misused and exploited throughout history. This represents a particularly serious violation of human rights.
It is for this reason that the United Nations have been paying special attention to this field since the organization's beginnings. The children's relief organization UNICEF was set up by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 11 December 1946, one year after the founding of the UN.
Faced with massive encroachment upon life chances and violation of children's rights, the "Declaration of the Rights of the Child" was adopted as a first step on 20 November 1959. The 20th of November has been known as Children's Rights Day ever since. The preamble to the declaration states clearly:
"Mankind owes to the child the best it has to give".
20 years later in 1979 - Year of the Child - a proposal was made to expand this declaration and to make it binding under international law , because its status until now had been mainly one of recommendation. After years of slow negotiation, the Convention on the Rights of the Child including 54 articles was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations a decade later. This convention, to which over 180 states have now signed up, can be found on the document pages in full length, in addition to a shortened version.
Other material that you will find in addition to the documents already mentioned:
Two central questions still need addressing:
The exact wording of the Convention is available on our document pages in several languages. An illustrated overview is provided by the illustration entitled "children have rights". These rights can be summed up in 10 points:
1. All children and young people have the same rights. No child or young person may be put at a disadvantage because of sex, color of skin, language or religion.
2. Children and young people have a right to the best health possible, as well as health care and medical care.
3. Children and young people have the right to free basic education. The possibility to attend schools to further their education should also be made possible.
4. Children and young people have the right to rest, leisure, play and participation in cultural and artistic activities.
5. Children and young people have the right to information, freedom to express their opinions and to be heard.
6. Children and young people have the right to a good upbringing. Their parents or guardians may not use physical force against them; ill-treatment and misuse is forbidden.
7. Children and young people have the right to receive special protection and help during war.
8. Children and young people have the right to protection against exploitative work and sexual abuse.
9. Children and young people have the right to live with their parents and to have contact to both their mother and father if they live apart.
10. Disabled children and young people have the right to special support and promotion, as well as the right to play an active part in society.
[taken and translated from: terre des hommes, Kinderrechte. Mach mit!"]
The question is often asked as to why - in addition to human rights - other agreements providing children with special rights are necessary. After all, isn't the right of mother and child to special help and assistance clearly referred to in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948. Doesn't article 25, par. 2 state: "All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection". And anyway: Children are people too, so surely human rights apply to children.
Experience shows, unfortunately, that children in particular often stand helpless in the face of stressful situations and tragic circumstances through no fault of their own. A few examples should serve in demonstrating the seriousness of this catastrophic situation:
[taken from a brochure by terre des hommes]