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It's only right

(The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in November 1989. As of 1993, all countries, apart from two, have ratified the Convention. Information in these sections is taken from It's only right, by Susan Fountain, UNICEF 1993.)

Why should children learn about their rights?

Every society hopes and expects that its children will grow up to be capable and responsible citizens who contribute to the well-being of their communities. Yet around the world, children are denied the rights that would enable them to survive, develop fully, and participate actively.

In both developing and industrialised countries, children cope daily with street violence, pressure to use drugs, and sexual exploitation and abuse. They work long hours at jobs that are often damaging to their health, without the opportunity for rest and education.

Millions more who begin school never finish. Even in countries where enrolments are increasing, children of ethnic and linguistic minorities, girls and children with disabilities may find that their chance to receive an education is limited or non-existent.

Too many children still die of preventable diseases. Malnutrition has yet to be eradicated; access to clean water and sanitary facilities remains a luxury in many places. In industrialised and developing countries alike, pollution and environmental damage take a toll on children's health that is only beginning to be measured.

And in some parts of the world, children of school age face conscription into the armed forces, torture, unjust punishment, imprisonment and lack of legal guarantees.

Children whose basic needs and fundamental rights are denied cannot be expected to mature into caring, productive adults who will respect the rights of others. Rights violations are not only the cause of personal suffering; they also sow the seeds for political and social unrest, even for violent conflict Rights issues touch everyone's life, whether directly or indirectly.

For the sake of both individual and global development, children around the world need to understand the concept of rights, to know what rights they are entitled to, to empathise with those whose rights have been denied, and to be empowered to take action on behalf of their own rights and those of others.

Learning about just What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child? is one way to begin.

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Last revised April, 1999
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