With Universal Children's Day coming up on Thursday November 20th 2014, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the UNCRC. This will be based on the opportunity I was given to present a session at the Wolfson Centre for UCL students on the BSc module of Global Child Health last year with the RCPCH.
The UNCRC stands for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UNCRC is a very important document that was passed by the United Nations (UN) in 1989 and was ratified in the UK in 1991. The UNCRC is made up of 42 articles which outline the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of children. These are the rights that every child should have, regardless of where they are in the world. These rights should be met by the governments of every country.
The four guiding principles upon which the UNCRC is built are:
Through these guiding principles, the articles form around three different types of rights:
The articles outlined in this convention makes up a huge part of the advocate work I do as part of the RCPCH. To ensure that children and young peoples voices are heard and that they are allowed to take part in all aspects of their life, when safe to do so, and to ensure that children's rights are not being disregarded and ensure their voices are on the agenda for everyone who comes into contact with children and young people. The UNCRC advocates on all principles of life of a child, but for this instance I will be paying particular interest to the articles within the convention which relates to health, as these are the ones in which I work the most with. However, all the articles are very important and should be taken into consideration by all, you can find a link to the whole convention at the bottom of this post.
Article 24, is a very obvious one, but is very important. All the things outlined in this clause is the basic necessities all children and young people should have access to. I think the most important part of that articles is the latter part which, mentions that "richer countries must help poorer countries". This is the only way in which the world as a whole can move forward, when rich countries stop looking for profits or gains before helping others. Rich countries should help those who are less well off for the pure sakes of humanity and for the betterment of others. As a politics student, I fully understand that this is not always going to happen. However, if we were to think about it from an economic and political standpoint, if children and young people were given access to all the things outlined in this article then those children will grow up to be well educated, healthy citizens who would be able to contribute more to the economy of their home country and produce more effective outputs which can be utilised by the richer countries. Only by investing in others can you invest for the future. We are living in a world were we depend so highly on others, and it is crazy when it comes to health we seek only to help our own, when actually their is no 'our own'. We live in one world, we are all humans and we all should have access to the basic necessities wherever we may be, and we all have a certain degree of responsibility towards that.
Article 42, the dissemination of these rights are vital. If children and young people, and those that work with them, are not sure what rights they are entitled to then how can we expect them to ensure that they are upheld. While in the UK this may be being done well by charities and NGOs, I feel more could be being done in schools and PHSCE programs to make all children aware of the basic rights they have within the society they live in. While, I admit that in some schools this is done, it is not consistent across the country. As I mentioned before, young people should be in possession of all the information and facts that is appropriate for them, they need to be in control of their lives, as much as it is safe for them too. Everyone should be aware of these rights to ensure that they are not a contravening them in actions they may be carrying out. Also the material that is available on the internet, while there is some things which are accessible for young people, like the video I have used and the summary provided below, I think if there were more ways in which we were able to ensure children and young people could find and learn about their rights would be increasingly beneficial.
The full document can be found on the UNICEF website and linked below:
Full version: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/UNCRC_PRESS200910web.pdf
To conclude, the UNCRC is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and I would say it is very important as they provide a benchmark of rights for children and young people. It provides an collection of rights that encompasses everyone under the age of 18 and ensure that their voices are heard, they are protected and they are taken into account and not forgotten!
The articles within the convention should be inherent within our society and in the world. In developed countries, like the UK and Germany, we can safely say that really good progress has been made to ensure that these articles is met. However, these principles aren't always followed and in some countries they don't exist and children and young people continue to be exploited, their voices aren't heard and decent provision isn't made for them as in some countries they aren't seen as worthy citizens worth spending resources on. In some countries, the UNCRC can't even be ratified because it does not have a internationally recognised government, such as in Somalia. Further, there are hundred of millions of children around the world who have been forced into child labour. Many of these children are forced to work in sweatshop, as prostitutes, etc, and are economically and sexually exploited and/ or physically abused. This should not be acceptable in the world at this time. People need to take a stand to ensure that young people rights are upheld and to ensure that our governments know that we won't stand for children to be exploited and mistreated and ensure our governments work with foreign governments in a collaboration to do something in countries were their own domestic government won't do anything to help their own children. This convention gives us a overview of the things which all children should have, therefore we have a benchmark to work on to ensure that children slowly across the world start receiving these rights. The work of charities and NGOs such as UNICEF and Save The Children are working toward this with our help. We will keep going to ensure children are heard, just locally but globally!
I would like to end with a photo essay that was compiled by UNICEF, highlighting some more of the important articles found within the UNCRC.