Why do children need extra protection? The short answer is that they are less equipped to protect themselves – they lack a lot of the resources and skills adults have, and their lack of autonomy means that they are very vulnerable and can easily be exploited and abused. Additionally, children are in the process of development, cultivating the knowledge, attitudes, and skills we need to become responsible, productive and well-functioning citizens. Development is a crucial phase: the conditions we experience during childhood will affect us for the rest of our lives and shape the people we become.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
To protect children and ensuring they get the development they need, we have the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which gives every child certain rights and protections that goes beyond the rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The CRC has 54 articles, which details every children’s right to survival, health, welfare, leisure and free time, participate in family, social, and cultural life and protection from abuse and exploitation – in short, everything a child need for a healthy development.
The CRC is the most widely signed human rights document in the world: every single country except for the U.S. have signed it as of 2017. The CRC comes with two optional protocols that gives children specific protection against being used in war and conflict and against being sold and exploited in prostitution. With a few exceptions, every country that have signed the CRC has signed the optional protocols as well. This makes the CRC unique in a human rights context: it is both legally binding and widely adopted, meaning that the government in almost every single country in the world have a legal obligation to protect its children. It does not matter what country the child is from or whether he or she has a citizenship in that country; the government of every country is responsible for all the children that are within its borders at any time.
Worldwide Childhood Suffering
Many of the rights in the CRC reiterate basic human rights: the right to education, the right to health, the right to non - discrimination and so on. Sadly, these are being broken on a daily basis: millions of children suffer from hunger, die from preventable diseases because of lack of medicine, or are not able to go to school. Children in conflict zones and refugee children are especially vulnerable. These are serious human rights issues that often affect adults too, but their effect on children are especially devastating as human rights violations in early age – such as lack of medicine or education – may affect children for the rest of their lives.
Upholding the CRC
Almost every single government in the world have signed the CRC and its optional protocols, meaning that they are obligated to do everything they can to protect the rights of children. But it is up to us to make sure that governments and authorities keep this obligation. Furthermore, we are all responsible for the welfare of the children we meet– listening to a child who seems to have a tough time at home, helping a child who comes to the country as a refugee to settle, and preventing bullying is a part of upholding the CRC just as much as pressuring our governments to honour their promise to protect children at home and abroad. We have the power and responsibility to not buy from companies that use child labour, to speak out when our government is breaching the CRC, and to treat every child with the respect they are entitled to. There are also organisations like UNICEF and Save the Children, which works specifically on promoting and preserving children’s rights – they are well worth our support.
Activity: The CRC Wall. Annex 1.
- UNICEF: What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child? (https://www.unicef.org/crc/)
- Child Soldiers International: Whoa are Child Soldier? (https://www.child-soldiers.org/who-are-child-soldiers)
- International Labour Organisation: Child Labour (http://www.ilo.org/childlabour)