19.11.2012 - Education Sector

Children's rights are human rights

© UN Photo/Kibae Park

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 193 countries, is the most widely accepted human rights treaty. Whether as a resource for human rights activists or as a framework for policy-makers, it considers the child both as an individual and a member of a family and community, with age-appropriate rights and responsibilities.

However, the challenge in implementing the Convention is translating its grand words into concrete actions. What can be done to ensure that children’s rights are respected? 

On Universal Children's Day, 20 November, a seminar at UNESCO headquarters on “The Child’s Right to Respect in Practice” will address challenges related to applying the Convention. Experts such as Samuel Pisar, UNESCO Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy for Holocaust Education, and Vicky Colbert, founder of the NGO Escuela Nueva, will examine the legacy of Janusz Korczak, the Polish doctor, educator and pioneer of children’s rights (considered by many to be the spiritual father of the Convention). Participants will also discuss the need for quality early childhood education and the pedagogical innovation needed for children to become full global citizens.  

One right enshrined in the Convention that makes the exercise of all the other human rights possible is  the right to education. “Through education, starting from the early years, children not only learn about their rights but also acquire the skills and attitudes to assert them,” says Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education. “Ideally this takes place in a safe and stimulating environment and in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.” 

UNESCO has consistently promoted the right to quality education of every child, youth and adult. But the world is still far from achieving the Education for All goals. Worldwide, 61 million children and 71 million adolescents are out of school. At least 250 million children cannot read and count - even after four years of school - and 796 million people still lack basic literacy skills.  

A quality education helps reduce poverty and enables individual and collective empowerment, social cohesion, peace and human development. A quality school respects the rights of the child, does not exclude, provides education that is free, compulsory and accessible, and sees diversity as an opportunity, not a problem. An early childhood education of quality gives children an equal start and allows them succeed in later stages of education. Children have the right to learn from the very beginning. 

 “As children represent the future, their best interest is our best interest” says Qian Tang. 

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