Children’s rights are defined as human rights specific to those of a child under the age of eighteen years old. These unique rights are designed to protect the physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing of those who are underage and who may not be prepared to advocate for themselves. It is due to the inherent fragility and vulnerability of children that the need for specified, age-appropriate rights have become so important. Without the establishment and protection of children’s rights, those without a voice or independent agency may be at greater risk of maltreatment, neglect, or abuse.
It is the responsibility of parents, caretakers, educators, and the greater community to understand and protect children’s rights to the best of their ability. Beyond upholding the rights of children, those in positions of power have the responsibility to champion for causes that positively impact change and the further development of children’s rights. Public servants and those holding public office carry the weight of their constituents and their families on their shoulders and must carry out their responsibilities with the best interests of those they serve in mind.
Important Moments in the Recognition of Children’s Rights
The 1924 Declaration of Geneva
For the first time ever, children were recognized as having rights. The League of Nations (LON) formally affirmed the rights of children and the responsibility of adults to children. The declaration provided a five-point summary of children’s needs and while this was not a legally binding document, it helped to form the basis of laws that addressed children’s rights and the protection thereof.
The 1959 Declaration of Children’s Rights
The United Nations (UN) unanimously adopted a second draft of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which outlined not five, but ten basic needs/rights of children and acknowledged the responsibility of adults to provide legal protection for and special care of children.
The 1989 International Convention on the Rights of the Child
The International Convention on the Rights of the Child was a 1989 treaty adopted by the UN’s General Assembly. The treaty legally guarantees the protection of Human Rights of children. It was the first internationally, legally binding document of its kind. Made up of 54 articles establishing children’s political and civil rights, the document also advocates for the rights and protection of children with special needs and minority and refugee children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child established four principles governing all of the individual rights advocated for:
- The best interest of the child
- The child’s right to life, survival, and development
- Respect for children’s views
In the spirit of community growth and education, we have collected for you a handful of important resources that may help you to better understand children’s rights and all that they encompass. We challenge you to become an educated advocate of children’s rights in your community. Be it through advocacy, lobbying, or educational programming, use your talents and passion for children’s rights to better the lives of children within your community.