Each year the 20th November marks World Children’s Day in recognition of, and to promote, children’s rights.
This date is significant because on the 20th November in 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and, on the same date in 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
The Declaration on the Rights of the Child set out 10 principles aimed specifically at protecting children from violence and discrimination as well as their rights to life, good health and education. The UNCRC expands on these principles and includes 54 articles aimed at protecting children’s civil, political, social economic and cultural rights. The Convention applies to all children from birth to 18 years and has been ratified by all countries across the world apart from the USA, making it one of the most widely adopted international treaties of all time. The Convention was ratified by the UK government in 1991.
World Children’s Day is an opportunity for those working with and on behalf of children to organise activities and events aimed at celebrating children’s rights, and to raise awareness of rights that apply specifically to children. It is also a day when governments, teachers and other professionals and organisations across the world draw attention to situations where children’s rights are not being met.
Although many children live have happy and fulfilled childhoods, countless children do not. For millions of children across the world their rights are not acknowledged or met. Unicef report that approximately one in three children across the globe – that equates to roughly 663 million children -live in households that lack necessities such as basic nutrition or clean water and, furthermore, an estimated 385 million children live in extreme poverty. They also report that even in the world’s richest countries, one in seven children live in poverty and one in four children in the European Union are at risk of falling into poverty.
The United Kingdom (UK) is not exempt from these worrying statistics. Data from The Children’s Society reveals that four million children in the UK live in poverty and, even more concerning, they predict that this figure is set to reach five million this year – this equates to an average of nine children in a classroom of 30 who are predicted to be living in poverty.
These figures reflect some of the difficulties facing children across the world in relatively wealthy, as well as less wealthy, nations. However, they are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to children’s rights not being met. As well as issues of poverty, many children across the world also face challenging issues including violence, neglect, child labour, child prostitution, human trafficking and lack of food, shelter, health care and education.
The examples are a stark reminder of the urgent need to take action to improve the lives and experiences of millions of children to ensure children’s rights are acknowledged, understood and realised.
Carol Robinson is a Professor of Children’s Rights in the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University.
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