Today, 29 years ago, the UN General Assembly agreed to adopt the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). World Children’s Day, November 20th, celebrates the anniversary of the Convention and provides an opportunity to celebrate the progress we have made, hold leaders to account on promises made to children, and reflect on the work that still needs to be done.
You’d be forgiven – as I was when I started my placement working for Unicef UK – for having a somewhat limited knowledge of the UNCRC. Almost two months into the job I’m more in the know – the Convention is the most comprehensive statement of children’s rights ever produced and guides all the work that Unicef does across the world. It sets out the 54 civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights held by everyone under the age of 18 and explains how government and adults must work together to uphold these.
196 nations are parties to the Convention, making it the most ratified human rights treaty in history. In the UK we have been bound to the Convention by international law since 1992. World Children’s Day is an exciting opportunity to celebrate a document that is still making a difference every day for children. Just this year the Scottish Government announced they would fully incorporate the CRC into domestic law, meaning that the Scottish government could be taken to court if they fail to uphold it – a great new future opening up for the Scottish children.
And every year we make sure children have the opportunity to ensure their rights are exercised. Over 1.6 million children in the UK, at nearly 5,000 schools, go to a Unicef Rights Respecting school that puts the UNCRC at the heart of how it operates. Alongside this, schools participating in OutRight ensure that children can campaign for those rights. This year the focus is on protecting children from toxic air and defending their rights detailed in Article 24, which states that every child has the right to grow up in a clean and safe environment. Not only do these programmes teach young people, but they also empower them to be active citizens, and amplify their voices to advocate for positive change.
This World Children’s Day, Unicef UK is calling on families to champion children’s voices by taking part in the #childrentakeoverchallenge – where children take over the family home and take a lead in decision making.
Today I will have the pleasure of visiting a Rights Respecting School to give an assembly to celebrate World Children’s Day and talk to pupils about their rights. The more children we can educate about their rights, the more powerful their collective voice becomes in ensuring that governments and adults fulfill their duties to uphold the rights of every child across the world.
Words by Emmet McCallion, Charityworks trainee at Unicef.