The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Children everywhere are entitled to the highest standard of living possible, with health care, education, and protection. They also have the right to freedom of expression and the right to play, as well as the right to rest, relax and participate in cultural and other creative activities. Children must be free from violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation. They have the right to be protected, nurtured and encouraged to grow and develop mentally, physically, morally, spiritually, socially and emotionally, and to have their opinions taken seriously by adults.

This means that governments should help to protect every child – including the most vulnerable, such as refugees, children with disabilities, indigenous children, and other minority groups. They should do this by ensuring that their laws and policies give them the best chance of survival, development and wellbeing. They should make sure that all children are registered at birth, have a name officially recognized by the government and have nationality (belong to a country). If they are ever deprived of their identity, the government should help them get it back quickly. Children have a right to an education, and that school should be accessible to them. This includes primary education, secondary education and university level education if they can afford it. They have the right to be taught in a safe environment, with a teacher who is qualified and has good teaching skills. The education should be of a high quality and should give children the tools to live in the world and make a contribution to society.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child also says that children have a right to be protected from violence and that they should be free from physical, sexual or emotional abuse and other forms of maltreatment (being taken advantage of). One billion children experience violence in some way every year – one child in seven dies from violence – which is why it is so important for families, schools, community organisations and governments to take action to prevent it.

They should try to keep families together, unless it is better for the child to be separated from them. This should happen only when there is a good reason and it must be reviewed regularly to see whether it is still the best thing for the child. They have the right to a family home, to know their parents and relatives and to have a safe place to stay with them. Every child who has been placed away from their family – whether in care or with other people – should have their situation checked regularly to see whether it is still the best for them. They have the right to have clean water to drink and healthy food to eat. They have the right to a good standard of health, with medicine if they need it. They have the right to a job if they want to and to be paid for their work.