Climate justice for the next generation
Climate justice for the next generation

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Climate justice for the next generation

1.1 The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

The UNCRC is the most important international children’s rights convention and is central to understanding contemporary childhoods. Children’s rights are part of broader human rights legislation but the UNCRC emphasises that as well as the same rights all children have as human beings, they have additional rights to special protections and provisions because of their age and developing capabilities.

To help introduce the UNCRC, watch the video below which provides a useful summary of the rights all children are entitled to.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1
Skip transcript: Video 1

Transcript: Video 1

[MUSIC PLAYING]

CHILD:
Did you know that every person in the world has human rights?
CHILD:
Even children have rights.
CHILD:
Human rights are the things that every person should have.
CHILD:
Or be able to do.
CHILD:
To live a good life.
CHILD:
With respect and security.
CHILD:
Every person in the whole world has these rights.
CHILD:
Because each of us is born equal.
CHILD:
In dignity and right.
CHILD:
Because children are young and sometimes weak.
CHILD:
They need special protection.
CHILD:
So that they can enjoy their human rights.
CHILD:
It is for this reason.
CHILD:
That children's human rights.
CHILD:
Have been written.
CHILD:
In a special document.
CHILD:
Called the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
CHILD:
Let's find out more.
NARRATOR:
So what are these human rights in the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Well, the right to life means every child's life should be protected. Children have the right to live in a clean and safe environment with proper care and supervision by their parents or other adults.
The right to education means that every child must receive quality instruction so that they're able to read, write, and count and develop their mental and physical abilities so they can reach their full potential as adults.
The right to food means that every child must have enough healthy food so they have strong and healthy bodies. The right to health means that children must be allowed to grow in a safe, clean environment so they can become healthy adults. They must be cared for when they're sick or injured. The right to water means children have the right to safe drinking water and a clean environment with proper toilet facilities.
The right to identity means every child must be officially recognised as a human being with human rights. It also means every child has the right to a name and nationality and to know who his or her relatives are. Children also have the right to have an opinion and to tell people their views in a respectful way.
They have the right to access information and to participate in decisions which affect their lives. The right to protection is the right to live in a secure and caring environment which keeps the child safe. Each child has the right to be protected from all forms of violence, physical, or mental abuse, exploitation, and slavery.
CHILD:
Human dignity is a fundamental principle.
CHILD:
Of human rights.
CHILD:
Which means that all people.
CHILD:
Without discrimination.
CHILD:
Deserve to be respected.
CHILD:
Because they're human beings.
CHILD:
It doesn't matter what age you are.
CHILD:
Or where you're from.
CHILD:
It doesn't matter what religion you are.
CHILD:
It doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl.
CHILD:
All individual deserve respect.
CHILD:
And have the same rights.
CHILD:
So where do these rights come from?
NARRATOR:
Well, we are born with these rights because we are human. These rights are the things we must have so that we can live a healthy and peaceful life everywhere in the world. Our human rights were written down for the first time in 1945 in a document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Governments across the world realised that there was a need to give special attention to the rights of children. So in 1989, governments adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, popularly known as CRC. This convention guides governments and all citizens young and old on what the human rights mean for children and what should be done so that children can enjoy these rights.
By signing the convention on the rights of the child, governments around the world promised all children these same rights. Governments have actually passed new laws to make sure people respect children's rights. But now everyone in society needs to help enforce and protect these rights from parents to educators and caregivers to children themselves.
So all children, big or small, living in a village or city anywhere in the world are special in many different ways. And you all have these rights.
Our rights are all connected to each other and are all equally important-- the right to live and grow, the right to eat enough healthy food, the right to drink clean water, the right to go to school, the right to learn many things, the right to receive care when you're sick, the right to be cared for by your parents or guardians, the right to have a name and belong to a country, the right to think for yourself, the right to share your ideas and be listened to, the right to practise your own religion, the right to be treated fairly by everyone, the right not to be enslaved, exploited, or do work that harms you, the right to play, the right to rest, and the right to have adults do what is best for you.
Let's see how you can use these rights in your life.
End transcript: Video 1
Video 1
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now complete Activity 1.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow 15 minutes

Part 1

Which of the following rights do children have? Check your answers as you go along.

The UNCRC asserts children’s right to:

  • Be free from hunger

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • Be happy

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

Discussion

You will look in more detail as to why the answer to this question is no in Part 2 of this activity.

  • Be protected from neglect and abuse

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • Be loved by their parents

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

Discussion

You will look in more detail as to why the answer to this question is no in Part 2 of this activity.

  • Health and education

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • An identity

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • Share their views, access information and make decisions that affect their lives

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

  • Have friends

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

Discussion

You will look in more detail as to why the answer to this question is no in Part 2 of this activity.

  • A childhood

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

Discussion

You will look in more detail as to why the answer to this question is no in Part 2 of this activity.

Part 2

Now you have completed Part 1 of this activity, write a sentence on why you think the UNCRC does not set out unequivocally children’s right to be happy.

You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

The UNCRC is an official document that sets out legally enforceable standards. It is important to distinguish this set of legal standards with the sometimes loose way that the phrase ‘children’s rights’ is used to refer, for instance, to a child’s ‘right to a childhood’ or to loving parents.

There is an important difference between ‘rights’ and ‘wants’ and it is essential to differentiate between the desire for children’s well-being and the legal responsibility to enforce this. It is possible to say, for example, that a child has a right to the best possible standard of living given the circumstances they live in, but it is not meaningful to say a child has a right to a happy childhood, no matter how desirable this might be. As lawyer Jack Donnelly (2003, pp. 10–11) argues:

We do not have human rights to all things that are good, or even all important good things. For example, we are not entitled – do not have (human) rights – to love, charity or compassion. Parents who abuse the trust of children wreak havoc with millions of lives every day. We do not, however, have a human right to loving, supportive parents. In fact, to recognize such a right would transform family relations in ways that many people would find unappealing or even destructive.

The fundamental principle behind the UNCRC is stated in Article 3, which reads:

In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration

(Unicef, no date)

However, when drafting the Convention its authors were very careful not to set up rights to something that is legally meaningless. The preamble to the UNCRC states an ideal and recognises that in a perfect world all children would grow up in ‘an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding’ but that this is not, and never can be, a legally enforceable standard and no government or organisation can ensure that children are happy.

Although it is desirable to want children to be happy, have good friends and be loved by their parents, there is no right to any of these things. Next you’ll look at the principles behind the UNCRC in more detail.

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