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close this bookOutreach N° 96 - Children in especially Difficult Circumstances - Part 1: Working and Street Children (OUTREACH - UNEP - WWF, 68 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentOUTREACH information packs
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentLocation map
View the documentHow to use OUTREACH packs
View the documentOUTREACH packs on Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances
View the documentHow to use OUTREACH pack no. 96
View the documentArticle: Street children
View the documentFacts and opinions: Street children: the numbers
View the documentEducational resources: In the shadow of the city
View the documentClass activity: Who is a street child?
View the documentQuestions and answers: Where do street children come from?
View the documentClass activities: Urban and rural life
View the documentArticle: Child labour
View the documentClass activity: The causes of child labour exploitation in poor countries
View the documentArticles, interviews and activities: Lives of children in especially difficult circumstances: Part 1: street children and child labourers
View the documentArticle and activities: Street educators
View the documentArticle: Informal education for Nairobi's street children
View the documentEducational resources: A comic about street children
View the documentQuestions and answers: Questions children ask about sexual exploitation
View the documentPractical guidelines: Practical advice for AIDS educators working with street children
View the documentArticle: Helping street children
View the documentArticle: A self-help project for street children in India
View the documentActivities: Child-to-Child activities for children who live and work on the streets
View the documentArticle and activities: Convention on the Rights of the Child
View the documentArticle: Empowering children
View the documentEducational resources: African jigsaw
View the documentArticle: The children's movement in Brazil
View the documentSuggestions for action: How city mayors can help
View the documentRadio spots: Life is harder in the city
View the documentVideo resource: The Karate Kids project
View the documentPublications: Innocenti Studies: the urban child in difficult circumstances
View the documentFilm, video and radio resources: Children in difficult circumstances: street and working children
View the documentOrganisations: The Consortium for street children
View the documentOrganisations: CHILDHOPE

Article and activities: Convention on the Rights of the Child


Adapted from the following:

Children's Rights and You: a short introduction to the Convention on the Rights of the Child prepared and published by the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Group brings together a wide range of non-governmental organisations - professional associations, advocacy groups, development assistance agencies, etc. - who first joined forces to participate effectively in the drafting of the Convention, and are now focusing on its promotion and implementation. The full text of the Convention and a list of concerned organisations will be sent free on application to:

NGO Group for the Convention, c/o DCI, PO Box 88, CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland. Tel: [+41 22] 734 05 58; Fax: [+44 22] 740 11 45

Convention on the Rights of the Child, a package produced by UNICEF and the United Nations Centre for Human Rights. For further information, contact: UNICEF, UNICEF House, 3 U.N. Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA or UN Centre for Human Rights, United Nations, New York, NY 10017, USA

Keep Us Safe, one of three books designed to introduce the UN Convention on The Rights of the Child to 8-13 year old, this book covers Protection of the child from abuse and exploitation. The series is published by UNICEF-UK (55 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3NB United Kingdom) and Save the Children (Mary Datchelor House, 17 Grove Lane, London SE5 8RD, U.K.), 1990

The Rights of the Child: a resource guide for grades 4 to 8 produced by UNICEF Canada (1989), 443 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto, Ontario M4S 2LS Canada.

Who are the street children? produced by the United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF (1993), 55 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3NB, UNITED KINGDOM


teachers, community workers, NGOs, radio broadcasters, journalists: To increase awareness of children's rights, and to stimulate action to promote and protect children's rights.

A human rights treaty - for children

Everyone is born with human rights. Laws are written to protect those rights.

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1989. It took effect on September 2, 1990, after it was accepted as law by the governments of twenty countries. By the end of 1993, 154 countries have ratified it.

The Convention covers all human beings under 18 years of age unless they have attained the age of majority earlier. The rights it contains are to be granted to all children, without discrimination of any kind. The way the Convention is drawn up takes account of the different cultures, religions, political systems and degrees of economic development of countries throughout the world, so it should be applicable universally.

Several “children's rights” are in fact the same as those that every human being has, whatever his or her age, for example, protection from torture, access to health care and freedom to express an opinion or belief.

Many of the rights, however, are special. Some of them deal with situations and issues that concern children in particular, such as primary education, opportunities for play and adoption. The others are designed to take account of the vulnerability and special needs of children, for example, protection in armed conflicts and arbitrary separation from parents.

The Convention is an international human rights treaty. This means that, when governments ratify it, they are formally indicating their agreement to respect the rights set out and their acceptance of all the obligations involved. In this case, governments are committing themselves to ensuring that:

* the child's basic needs are met;

* the child is protected from cruelty and exploitation;

* parents are in a position to care properly and to the best of their ability for their children's needs;

* particularly vulnerable children, including those who cannot be with their families, for whatever reason, receive the best possible care;

* children are given appropriate opportunities to play an active role in society and to have a say in their own lives.

In short, the Convention aims to promote greater respect for the child as a human being than has been the case up to now.

Governments' commitments

Below are set out some of the main rights that governments commit themselves to upholding when they ratify the Convention:

Provide the child with...
health care
vocational training
social security
opportunities for play and recreation
the guarantee of due process of law

Ensure special care for...
disabled children
refugee children
children of minorities
indigenous children
child victims of abuse, neglect, torture and armed conflicts
children without families

Support the family by...
respecting its responsibilities, rights and duties in protecting and caring for the child
ensuring common respect of parents for the child's development
ensuring an adequate standard of living
enabling the child to stay in contact with both parents when the latter have separated
promoting child-care facilities

Protect the child from...
exploitation at work
sexual exploitation
abduction, sale and trafficking
abuse and neglect within the family
drug abuse
unlawful detention
capital punishment
unjustified removal from the family
traditional practices harmful to health

Allow the child to...
express his or her views in matters affecting him or her
seek and distribute information
participate in cultural life and the arts
meet together and join or form associations
practise a religion
in accordance with the child's age and maturity

Balancing children's rights and the role of the family

The Convention on the Rights of the Child introduces two important concepts into international laws:

* that henceforth the best interests of the child becomes a major criterion in deciding on any question involving a child. This is particularly important, of course, when considering whether or not a child should be removed from the care of his or her parents, but in many other instances as well.

* that, as children grow older, they become increasingly able - and so must be allowed - to have an effective say about how their rights are applied in practice. This principle is essential if the Convention is realistically to cover babies, young children and adolescents alike.

This Convention sets out to balance the rights of the child as an individual and the vital caring and protective role that his or her family should play. So it gives special importance to the responsibilities of parents and guardians in bringing up and providing for their child. That is why governments ratifying it undertake not only to do certain things directly for children (like making education services available and combatting exploitation), but also to do things indirectly for them, by helping the family carry out its tasks - and not interfering unless the child's safety and well-being are in danger.

Although the Convention is first and foremost a legal text binding governments, it is already regarded as a comprehensive set of guidelines for all actions directed towards child welfare and protection. Obviously, the more those guidelines are known and respected by everyone, the greater the Convention's impact will be. But the implementation of the rights of the child is dealt with in the Convention as well....

How are the rights in the Convention to be put Into practice?

* The governments of States that become parties to (i.e. ratify) the Convention - but only those States - have to submit regular reports on their compliance with its provisions.

* These reports are reviewed by a Committee on the Rights of the Child made up of ten independent experts elected by the States' parties. The Committee can also take into account pertinent information received from reliable sources, e.g. inter-governmental bodies such as UNICEF and the International Labour Organisation, and non-governmental organisations recognised by the United Nations.

* If a government points to particular obstacles that prevent it from ensuring certain rights, or if the Committee is concerned about certain questions, the aim is to find acceptable solutions that may involve various forms of international cooperation and technical assistance. More emphasis is placed on dialogue and finding ways to facilitate implementation than on trying to enforce it by denunciation and confrontation.

* However, the Committee may always ask a government to provide more detailed information on areas of special concern, or may request the United Nations to carry out studies on specific problems.

* As is invariably the case in the human rights field, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a key role to play in making children's rights a reality. Their tasks are many and varied: making the rights in the Convention known, mobilising support, investigating alleged abuses, reporting on violations, proposing changes in policy, legislation and practice, etc.

* But, in the end, the Convention's impact on the lives of children depends upon how well each and everyone learns to use this tool for bringing about change, and how well we ourselves respect children in our own lives.

What can you do to help make the rights of the child a reality?

· As an individual

- First of all, learn more about the rights in the Convention and the thinking behind it.

- Find out if your government has ratified the Convention or plans to do so.

- Encourage groups in your community - such as child welfare organisation, churches, women's and youth groups, schools, civic clubs and service organisations - to become aware of the Convention, make it known and look for practical ways of supporting the rights it contains.

- Become involved in their efforts. Joining forces works better.

· As a group or association

- First and foremost, if your government has not ratified the Convention, find out why, and start campaigning with others for it to do so.

- The Convention requires States parties to make principles and provisions widely known; take advantage of this to learn how the Convention can back up efforts on behalf of children worldwide.

- Schools should be encouraged to integrate the Convention into their curricula in ways (including understandable language) that will stimulate children's interest and be relevant to their lives.

- The media should be encouraged to bear the Convention in mind when reporting on children's issues.

- Contribute to training in children's rights for the wider range of professionals directly or indirectly concerned by promoting or organising relevant workshops and seminars.

- Encourage the setting up of National Commissions, open to a wide range of participation, aimed at coordinating information about the Convention and monitoring its implementation. Make certain that the Commission's findings are made public wherever possible.

- See whether, in your country, an individual or body should and could be appointed to act as spokesperson on behalf of children and their rights.

- See how your organisation could link up better with national and international groups with similar concerns.

· Some activity suggestions for students

- As a class/group, discuss the things that you think children need in order to live happy and healthy lives. Then, write out your own list of Children's Rights on a piece of paper. Decorate it to turn it into a special 'scroll' or 'charter'. Discuss how children can be sure of having these rights.

- Read the Profiles of street children and child labourers on pages 19-26. For each case, do the following:

* Decide what rights are being violated.

* Decide what needs to be done to improve the child's situation. What should the government do? What should NGOs do? What could the child do?

- Discuss in your class/group the terms “love” and “friendship”, “affection” and “understanding”. Outline their opposites, and discuss the effect such emotions can have on the everyday lives of you and other people in your class/group. Sit in a circle and take turns to recount evidence of affection, love or understanding that each of you received the day before from your family, from friends, teachers, shopkeepers, strangers. Then, take turns to describe the love, affection and understanding that each of you have shown to others.

- What do the terms “neglect” and “cruelty” mean? Discuss how these can be both physical and emotional. How do you think neglect and cruelty affect the healthy development of a child? Put two plants in the corner of your classroom. Water, fertilise and talk to one while “neglecting” the other for one week. What happens to the plants? What conclusions can be drawn? Use a chart to show results.

- Investigate child protection agencies in your area (e.g. police, Children's Aid Societies, drop-in centres, shelters, churches etc.), and find out all the things that these agencies do to help protect children. You could visit one or two, or invite speakers to visit the class/youth group. The information you collect may be helpful to children, especially children living on the street. Think of ways you can let them know what you have found out. One way is to prepare an information booklet. You may need to make sure the booklet is understandable to children who cannot read.

- Your friend is being treated cruelly by a person he thought was his/her friend. There are positive and negative ways for your friend to deal with the situation. Discuss how he/she should handle it. Where can he/she go for help? What would you do if you saw a child being badly treated?

- Below are summaries of some of the Protection articles in the Convention. Protection Articles are those rights which require adults to care for children by protecting them from psychological, emotional, physical and sexual maltreatment. Select one of these articles, and design a poster to illustrate the right. Place the poster in a public area such as a community centre, health centre or library for everyone to see:

* The right to protection from maltreatment by parents or others responsible for her/his care (Article 19)

* The right to protection from economic exploitation and work that is hazardous, interferes with her/his education or harms her/his health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development (Article 32)

* The right, if below 18 years of age, not to be sentenced to capital punishment or imprisonment (without the possibility of release) for offences committed. (Article 37)

For further Information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, please write to:

Centre for Human Rights,
United Nations Office at Geneva
8-14, avenue de la Paix,
1211 Geneva 10,

Palais des Nations
1211 Geneva 10,

Division of Public Affairs,
3 U.N. Plaza,
New York, NY 10017,