DCI – Child Rights 2

Defence for Children International

United Nations Convention on the Rights of

the Child

More than a catalogue of rights

The fact that this Convention is an international human

rights instrument has important ramifications. Being international, it

necessarily has to take account of the wide range of beliefs, values and

traditions of the world’s population, and cannot reflect or promote the

standpoint of any individual group. Because it falls within the field of human

rights, it at last takes children’s issues out of the realms of well-intentioned

but ill-judged sentimentalism and sensationalism into which they have generally

been thrown, often with disastrous results. And the fact that it is an

instrument implies that it has to be used — with perseverence and skill —

if it is to be in any way effective.

Rather than a catalogue of children’s rights, the Convention in fact

constitutes a comprehensive listing of the obligations that States are prepared

to recognise towards the child. These obligations may be of a direct nature —

providing education facilities and ensuring proper administration of juvenile

justice, for example — or indirect, enabling parents, the wider family or

guardians to carry out their primary roles and responsibilities as caretakers

and protectors. In other words, the Convention is in no way a “children’s

liberation charter”, and neither does its existence or content deny or

reduce the importance of the family. This is clear when the Convention is —

as it must be — read as a whole. However, there have been attempts in

certain quarters to prove the contrary by pinpointing selected provisions which,

taken on their own, could be interpreted as being hostile to parents and the

family or designed to bestow on children a questionable level of autonomy. It is

important to remember that the spirit and letter of the Convention are in no way

intended to do either.

The conventions wide scope