It has only been since 20 November 1989, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that the world has benefited from one set of legal rights for all children and young people. Today, 193 States parties have ratified the Convention, making it the most widely ratified human rights agreement in the world.
A convention such as this is an agreement between people or countries where everyone agrees to follow the same law. The CRC spells out the range of rights to which children everywhere are entitled. It sets basic standards for children’s well-being at different stages of their development and is the first universal, legally binding code of child rights in history.
The Convention states that everyone under the age of 18 (the definition of a child), regardless of gender, origin, religion or possible disabilities, needs special care and protection because children are often the most vulnerable.
Although the Convention has 54 articles in all, it is guided by four fundamental principles:
- Non-discrimination (article 2): You should neither benefit nor suffer because of your race, colour, gender, language, religion, or national, social or ethnic origin, or because of any political or other opinion; because of your caste, property or birth status; or because you are disabled.
- The best interests of the child (article 3): Laws and actions affecting children should put your best interests first and benefit you in the best possible way.
- Survival, development and protection (article 6): The authorities in your country must protect you and help ensure your full development – physical, spiritual, moral and social.
- Participation (article 12): You have a right to have your say in decisions that affect you, and to have you opinions taken into account.