“Article 1: If you are under 18 years of
age, you are a child, and you have rights.”
All people have human rights.
Just like adults, every child has rights.
Rights are things that every person needs to survive, to be treated fairly and to reach their full potential. Rights are important because they list very specific things that we have and need to live with dignity and be treated with respect. Human rights are an important part of our everyday lives and they matter for everyone no matter where you come from, your age, culture, religion or any other status.
What are children’s rights?
Human rights are universal and often expressed and guaranteed by law in treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. Children and young people have the same general human rights as adults, but they also have specific rights that recognise their special needs as children.
Just like adults, children have rights. Children’s rights are written down in a special document called The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This was written in November 1989, and it lists all the rights that all children have.
These rights belong to every child in the world. So if you are under 18 years old – these are your rights!
Why do children have special rights?
Even though the rights set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child are very similar to the rights that adults have, this convention explains that adults and governments have extra responsibilities to make sure that children are able to access all their rights. This is because children are growing, learning and sometimes need extra protection because of their age.
What rights do children have?
Nearly every country in the world has agreed to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC). The Convention was the first tool developed to incorporate the complete range of international human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as aspects of humanitarian law, that just apply to children.
The Convention has four guiding principles and they are core requirements for any and all rights to be realised. The principles are:
- Non-discrimination: the 42 articles in the CRC relate to the rights of EVERY child, no matter their religion, race or abilities; whatever they think or say; what their culture is; whether they are boys or girls or whether they are rich or poor.
- The best interests of the child: any decision that is made, or any action that is taken, that may affect children must prioritise the best interests of the child, always.
- Ensuring the child’s survival and development: every child has the inherent right to life, and it is the responsibility of decision-makers to ensure they are provided every opportunity to develop and reach their potential,
- Participation: children are experts in their own lives and experiences, and should be consulted on decisions that affect them. Every child has the right to express his or her opinion, and can provide advice and valuable insight into how their rights can best be protected and fulfilled. You can learn more about the Convention here.
Are there barriers to children accessing their rights?
Even though every child always has rights, sometimes there are big barriers that stop them from understanding and using their rights.
For example, every child has the right to be protected from all kinds of violence. But every day, many children see or experience violence – at home, at school or in their communities.
Every child has the right to be listened to and to have their opinions taken seriously when decisions are being made about their lives. But many adults don’t take the time to listen to children’s views, or work with children to find the best way to solve problems they may face in their lives.
Governments, adults and children need to work together to get rid of these barriers so that children can enjoy all their rights, and be their very best.
Who protects the rights of children?
Adults and governments in countries around the world are bound to protect the rights of children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the group of 18 Independent experts that monitors countries that have signed up to the Convention to ensure that they are upholding the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
What do children’s rights have to do with UNICEF?
UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for the protection of children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential.
Organisations like UNICEF have an important role to play in reminding governments of their responsibilities to children. We work to give governments advice about how best to protect and promote children’s rights. We also work with governments to find the best way to this for the largest number of children.
Sometimes, if a government or adults are not doing a good job of protecting children’s rights or don’t have the things they need to do this well, UNICEF will step in and work with other organisations to provide the things children need to be safe, survive and grow and be treated fairly.