The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Children are the future and therefore have specific rights that must be taken into consideration by adults, especially in decisions affecting them. They are not just ‘little people’ but human beings with a right to life, education, medical care and a decent standard of living.

As such, they deserve quality health care, nutritious food, safe housing and social security. They must have the opportunity to express their opinions and ideas in matters that affect them. They should be protected from violence, sexual exploitation, economic exploitation, harmful work and wars. Children should also be able to seek legal and medical help if they are abused or injured. They must be able to speak out against abuse without fear of reprisal, and their abusers should face punishment to the fullest extent of the law.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been ratified by more countries than any other treaty and has set international standards for how governments should protect children and promote their well-being. Yet, despite this significant progress, millions of children worldwide continue to live in conditions that violate their rights. They are denied adequate health care, nutrition and education; they are subjected to physical, emotional and sexual violence; and their childhoods are cut short when they are forced to leave school, flee disasters, do hazardous work, get married or fight in wars.

The CRC recognises that children are particularly vulnerable and have special needs. It is for this reason that the Convention requires governments to take effective measures to ensure that every child can enjoy his or her fullest potential and is free from all forms of discrimination, neglect and harm. This is known as the ‘best interests of the child’ principle, which is at the heart of the convention.

Every child has the right to have his or her views heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting him or her, either directly or through a representative, in accordance with the procedural rules of the law of the country where such proceedings are taking place.

It is the responsibility of each state to ensure that children have access to good quality health care, including preventive health care and primary care, in order to achieve their full mental, physical and spiritual development. They have the right to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, clean and affordable energy, and adequate housing. They should be able to freely participate in cultural activities and creative works, as well as in sports and other recreational activities. Children should be able to learn and practice their own beliefs, religions or spiritualities, provided they do not cause harm to others.

The family is the child’s primary source of love and affection, and parents have the duty to protect their children and provide for their material needs and emotional and psychological well-being. They must teach them the value of their rights and respect their diversity. If a parent feels they are unable to fulfil their duties, the state has the obligation to assist them in doing so.