All children (under the age of 18) have rights that are specific to them. These rights are recognized in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Why do we need child-specific rights when we have human rights?
Children have specific rights because of their age and dependency on others, which makes children vulnerable in ways that adults are not.
A short history
In 1924, the League of Nations (currently known as the United Nations) adopted the Geneva Declaration on the Rights of the Child. This first declaration included 5 points, and gave children the right to food, to be helped first in the event of a catastrophe, to be assisted with their needs, and the right to an education.
In 1959, the United Nations expanded the declaration to 10 points and named it the Universal Declaration on the Rights of a Child. Unfortunately, this document was only a ‘declaration’, which meant that it was not mandatory for countries to implement the rights outlined in the 10 points.
It was the country of Poland who first introduced the idea of a Convention for children’s rights. This happened on February 7, 1978.
That spring the Commission on Human Rights created a working group that would be in charge of writing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The working group was made up of many different people that were invested in the protection of children – including the United Nations Children’s Fund, different non-governmental organizations and forty-eight member states of the Commission on Human Rights.
Once the UNCRC was written, it took Poland and the United Nations nearly 10 years to convince other countries to adopt the legally binding document!
One year later- The International Year of the Child (1979)
In response to the hesitation, the United Nations declared 1979 as “The International Year of the Child” with the intent to increase awareness of the convention and to encourage other countries to adopt the legally binding document.
On November 20, 1989, after some technical revisions, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (resolution 44/25). It took effect on September 7, 1990 when 20 countries ratified it.
The UNCRC is the world’s committment to protecting children
Every single country in the world has ratified the convention, except for the United States of America.
All countries who sign the UNCRC need to ensure that their laws and policies are meeting the standards outlined in the convention.
Every two years, governments write a report to the Committee on the Right’s of the Child outlining how they are meeting the rights of children. The committee is made up of elected, independent experts.