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What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a United Nations agreement that spells out the range of rights that children everywhere are entitled to. It sets basic standards for children's well-being at different stages of their development.

Countries that ratify the Convention agree to be legally bound by its provisions. They report regularly to an expert Committee on the Rights of the Child as to steps they have taken to comply with the provisions of the Convention.

The Convention is the first legally binding code of child rights in history. It brings together in one treaty all the relevant child rights issues, rather than having them scattered among a number of international treaties.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child contains 54 articles, each of which entails a different type of right. These can be broken down into four broad categories:

Survival rights cover a child's right to life and the needs that are most basic to existence; these include an adequate living standard, shelter, nutrition and access to medical services.

Developmental rights include those things that children require in order to reach their fullest potential. Examples are the right to education, play and leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Protection rights require that children be safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation. They cover issues such as special care for refugee children, torture, abuses in the criminal justice system, involvement in armed conflict, child labour, drug abuse and sexual exploitation.

Participation rights allow children to take an active role in their communities and nations. These encompass the freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations and to assemble peacefully. As their abilities develop, children are to have increasing opportunities to participate in the activities of their society, in preparation for responsible adulthood.

Children can only exercise their rights if they learn about them. Discover ways you can help young people learn about their rights.

Also, you can read a detailed analysis on the educational implications of the Conventions on the Rights of the Child.

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Last revised May, 2001
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