Why children's rights?

Children, like many other marginalised groups, until recently have been voiceless and their best interests often ignored – their vulnerability increased because of their limited access to influence the media, the courts and to political channels of participation, all compounded by their inability to vote. Before the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) children were regarded as "not yets" . Now, the Convention sees them as fully-fledged individuals and competent to exercise their own human rights independently.

The UNCRC has led to the first faltering steps towards recognising children as "human beings" in their own right. Children were invisible in the human rights system with their rights scattered across the other human rights instruments. The international framework of the UNCRC is critical at this moment in history, in order that children are made more visible. If taken advantage of, it can raise children up the political agenda, entitling them to be active citizens in national and local democracy.

Childhood is a time of evolving capabilities, relative vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, as well as a critical time for survival and development within the lifetime of human being. The UNCRC recognises the child’s unique developmental needs and addresses the whole child. It sees children holistically - claiming that children must have access to all their rights if they are to survive and develop fully.

Children need their own set of rights because:

  • they have limited political or social power
  • are economically dependent on adults
  • they are subject to rules that do not apply to other social groups
  • they are particularly vulnerable to ill treatment by adults and those more powerful than themselves
  • they grow up aware that they have an inferior status to other social groups and age discrimination is a reality for many
  • children and young people are key recipients of services
  • they often lack a voice in service access and delivery