In the past, children were all too often viewed more as property than
people. Many victories for children's rights have been won in the
last 100 years, such as child labor laws, protecting children from
having to work long hours in unsafe conditions; public education,
allowing all children to have access to learning; and laws preventing
child abuse. On November 20, 1959, the United Nations adopted the
Declaration of the Rights of the Child spelling out specific rights
to which all children should be entitled, and on the same date in
1989 the UN adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
creating a legally binding agreement on rights for children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified faster and by
more member nations than any other international human rights treaty.
192 countries have agreed and only 2 have refused - the United States
and Somalia. The Convention details the rights of all children (under
18), ranging from protection from abuse and exploitation, to the
rights to education and health services, and the right to participate
in decisions that affect their lives.
There is still much to do in protecting children's rights around the
world. 40 million children below the age of 15 suffer from abuse and
neglect; 180 million children are forced to work in the worst child
labor conditions, 300,000 children are forced to be soldiers and over
1.2 million children are trafficked as prostitutes.
In 2000, world leaders agreed to reach specific targets to 8
Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The goals range from providing
universal primary education, to stopping the spread of HIV and
eliminating poverty. 6 of these goals relate directly to children.
Universal Children's Day is celebrated on November 20 to commemorate
the adoption of the Declaration and Convention on the Rights of the
Child. It is a day to show children that they are valued members of
society, and remind us that children need love and respect to grow to
their full potential. It is an opportunity to increase awareness
about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to remind
governments to live up to their promises to meet the Millennium