DCI – Child Rights 3

Defence for Children International

United Nations Convention on the Rights of

the Child

Wide scope

The Convention covers the whole range of human rights. Traditionally,

these have been classified as civil and political on the one hand, and economic,

social and cultural on the other. Although reference is made to this

classification in article 4 of the treaty, the substantive articles themselves

are not explicitly divided in this way. Indeed, the whole thrust of the

Convention is to emphasise the inter-connected and mutually-reinforcing nature

of all rights in ensuring what UNICEF terms the “survival and development”

of children. In this respect, it can be more useful to describe the range of

rights covered by the Convention as the three “Ps”: provision,

protection and participation. Thus, essentially, children have the right to be

provided with certain things and services, ranging from a name and nationality

to health care and education. They have the right to be protected from certain

acts such as torture, exploitation, arbitrary detention and unwarranted removal

from parental care. And children have the right to do things and to have their

say, in other words to participate both in decisions affecting their lives and

in society as a whole.

In bringing together all these rights in a single cohesive text, the

Convention sets out to do three basic things:

to reaffirm, with regard to

children, rights already afforded to human beings in general through other

treaties. Some of these rights, such as protection fom torture, are

non-controversial in terms of their applicability to children. Others, like

freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and the right to

social security, gave rise to heated debate during the drafting process as to

whether or not, and under what conditions, children could and should be the

explicit beneficiaries. Consequently, reaffirmation was by no means a

superfluous exercise, but a very necessary means of underlining the fact that

children are human beings too.

to upgrade certain basic human

rights in order to take account of the special needs and vulnerability of

children. An obvious example here is that of acceptable conditions of

employment, where standards must be tighter for children and young people than

for adults. Another is the conditions under which children may be deprived of

their liberty.

to establish standards in areas that

are pertinent only, or more specifically, to children. Safeguarding the child’s

interests in adoption proceedings, access to primary education, prevention of

and protection from intra-familial abuse and neglect, as well as the recovery of

maintenance payments, are among the child-specific issues addressed by the


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