1989 was a very special year for young people, because it was the year the United Nations adopted an international human rights treaty called the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This is the most widely signed and ratified human rights treaty in the world. Every child has one thing in common—their rights.
The UNCRC sets out the rights that everyone under 18 is entitled to and what countries must do to ensure that all children enjoy their rights regardless of who they are or where they come from.
There are 42 rights for children, each of which is called an Article of the Convention. There are 54 Articles in total and these detail how adults and Governments must work together to ensure all children can enjoy their rights.
The table below details just some of the Rights of the Child:
Unicef works in nearly every country of the world to help make sure that all the rights of every child are met. Children are born with their rights but sometimes they re prevented from accessing their rights because of poverty, disease, war, conflict, violence, climate change and emergencies.
Article 7 states that every child has the right to be registered at birth, to have a name and nationality, and, as far as possible, to know and be cared for by their parents. For many children, registration at birth doesn’t happen.
Article 27 states that every child has the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and social needs and support their development. Governments must help families who cannot afford to provide this.
Almost 4 million children live in poverty in the UK and, as a result, their life chances suffer. For example, they are over three times more likely to experience mental health problems that their more affluent peers.
Every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity and their rights. Richer countries must help poorer countries to achieve this.93% of primary school aged children in the world are enrolled in school. The remaining 7% (almost 56 million) aren’t. About two thirds of secondary school aged children in the world are enrolled in schools. In the least developed countries it’s only one third.
Every child has the right to the best possible health. Governments must provide good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food, a clean environment, education on health and wellbeing, so that children can stay healthy. Richer countries must help poorer countries to achieve this.
Since 1980, Unicef has helped quadruple immunisation rates for children worldwide, saving up to 3 million children’s lives a year. We in the UK take vaccinations for granted, but many people getting a vaccination is a major challenge. Nearly 1 in 5 children around the world are unable to receive vaccinations because of unequal access to immunization services.
The right to the best possible health includes both physical and mental health. Good health is also a vital part of wellbeing. In a 2013 Unicef survey for child wellbeing for 29 of the world’s most advanced economies, the UK was placed 16th!