In 1973 the International Labour Organization adopts Convention 138, which sets 18 as the minimum age for undertaking work that might be hazardous to a person’s health, safety, or morals. And in 1989 the Convention on the Rights of the Child is adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and widely acclaimed as a landmark achievement for human rights, recognizing the roles of children as social, economic, political, civil, and cultural actors.
What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international agreement of the United Nations, signed on November 20, 1989, and in force since September 2, 1990, which emphasizes that children have the same rights as adults and those rights that arise from their special condition as human beings are highlighted. Also, it is stated that as they have not reached full physical and mental development, their rights require special protection.
It is the first binding agreement at the national and international level that brings together the child's civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights in a single text. This means that the countries that adhere to the Convention on the Rights of the Child undertake to comply with it and to adapt their normative framework to the principles of it and to dedicate all the efforts that are necessary to ensure that each child fully enjoys their rights.
Over the years, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has become the most ratified human rights agreement in history and has helped transform children’s lives around the world.
Underlying this treatise is a key idea: that children are not just objects that belong to their parents and for whom decisions are made. Rather, they are human beings and individuals with their own rights.
The Convention establishes that childhood is a stage in the development of every individual that is separated from adulthood and lasts until 18 years of age. It is a special moment and, therefore, it must be protected. During this stage, children should be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and prosper with dignity.
The Convention has inspired governments around the world to change laws and policies and make investments to protect and advance children's rights and ultimately ensure that more children receive the health care and nutrition they need to survive and develop. Thanks to it, there are stronger safeguards to protect children from violence and exploitation. It has also allowed more children to make their voices heard and participate in societies.
In the 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the lives of millions of children around the world have improved thanks to its application and the progressive recognition and protection of the rights of each child, enshrined in it and in its optional protocols.
Despite this progress, the Convention is not yet fully implemented or widely known and understood. Millions of children continue to suffer violations of their basic human rights such as when they are denied adequate medical care, full nutrition, access to education, and protection against violence. Childhood continues to be cut short when children are forced to drop out of school, do dangerous work, get married, fight wars, or are locked up in adult prisons.
It is up to the current generation to demand that world leaders in government, business, and communities end violations of children's rights now, once and for all. They must commit to act to ensure that children see all of their rights fulfilled.