Every child should have a safe place to live, food and water to eat, clean clothes, education and health care. Children also deserve to be free from discrimination based on race, religion, nationality or economic status.
These rights are written into international law in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
The Convention recognises the unique status and special needs of children. It lays down specific, inalienable and irrevocable rights for children that cannot be given up or denied.
Childhood (the stage of life before adulthood) is a time when children develop physically, emotionally and socially to their fullest potential. It is the period of development in which they gain their rights to independence and a sense of self.
A child’s development is a process which must be respected and nurtured. Consequently, governments should support the development of early learning and child care, ensure children have access to health services and protect them from abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Many countries around the world still fail to ensure that all children have their rights protected. These violations can be caused by poverty, exploitation and violence against children. They are not inevitable, however; enlightened policies and interventions can help to alleviate some of the worst cases of children’s rights violation.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has helped to bring a new awareness of children’s rights to millions of people worldwide. It is a landmark document in the history of children’s rights and it has changed the way children are viewed and treated.
Articles 1 to 12 of the Convention describe rights that all children should have, no matter their age, gender, race, religion, wealth or birthplace. All states must make sure that these rights apply to all children, without exception.
One of the rights in this document is the right to a name and nationality, which means that all children have an official record of who they are. This information should never be taken away from them, but if it is, they have the right to get it back as soon as possible.
Another basic right is to be able to speak, read and write in their own language and have their thoughts heard. This right is important for the development of a child’s ability to learn and to understand the world.
A third right is to be able to choose where to live and what school to go to. Governments should make this easy for children to do and should provide them with the best opportunities they can have.
This right is for all children who are unable to live with their parents or with their grandparents. This can include children with disabilities, children whose parents have died or those who are born in refugee camps.
This right can also apply to children who have been separated from their families by force. If this happens, they should be reunited with their families as quickly as possible. This can involve helping them find a safe place to live and supporting their families.