November 20th 2009 is Universal Children\’s Day. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Today 193 states have ratified the CRC.
As trainers and teachers we have a responsibility to inform children of their rights and to inform others that all children have basic rights. Most governments have signed the Convention but may not be active in promoting the Convention, but we can use our influence to implement the Convention on a daily basis. Awareness may be a first step, but without action, awareness has limited effect.
20 November is celebrated as the international day for children. The United Nations General Assembly recommended in 1954 (resolution 836 (IX)) that all countries institute a Universal Children’s Day, to be observed as a day of understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world’s children. The date of 20 November marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in 1989.
What can we do?
Every one of us has a role to play in ensuring that every child enjoys a childhood. If you are a parent, teacher, social worker or other professional working with children, raise awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child among children. If you are a member or employee of an organization working for children’s rights, raise awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, research and document governmental actions and policies and involve communities in promoting and protecting children’s rights. If you are a member of the media, promote knowledge and understanding of children’s rights and provide a forum for children’s participation in society. If you are a parliamentarian, ensure that all existing and new legislation and judicial practice is compatible with your country’s international obligations, monitor governments’ actions, policies and budgets and involve the community—including children—in relevant decision making.
Despite this worldwide consensus on the importance of our children, 70% of the approximately 11 million child deaths every year are attributable to six potentially preventable causes: diarrhoea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth. These deaths occur mainly in the developing world. An Ethiopian child is 30 times more likely to die by his or her fifth birthday than a child in Western Europe. Among deaths of children, South-central Asia has the highest number of newborn deaths, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is taking a huge toll on children, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The number of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is projected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, 18 million of them in Africa. This, along with only modest progress fighting malaria, means the threats facing child survival are as grave as ever.
In 2000 world leaders outlined Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. Though the Goals are for all humankind, they are primarily about children. UNICEF notes that six of the eight goals relate directly to children and meeting the last two will also make critical improvements in their lives. (MDGs, UNICEF.)
As educators, we have a duty to protect the rights of children as well as inform them of their rights and how they themselves can fight for their rights.
United Nations links
- Global Issues – Children
- The UN Works for Children
- Children and Armed Conflict (Special Representative for the Secretary-General)
- Children (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights)
- Secretary-General’s study on violence against children
International Labour Organization
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
- Education – Early Childhood and Family
- Primary Education
- Programme for the Education of Children in Difficult Circumstances
World Health Organization
Some additional resources:
Sources: UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library, UNICEF
Selected learning materials
Children’s Rights Here and Now (Amnesty International-USA)
“How to Protect Human Rights?” Lesson Plan: Children’s Rights in the UN System of Human Rights Protection (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland)
Lesson plan on refugee children (UNHCR)