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Working worldwide to protect children: 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Syrian children in a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon

Syrian children in a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, © Thomas Trutschel/photothek.de

20.11.2019 - Article

It is now 30 years since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child laid down international rules to protect children. Germany is working around the world to protect children’s rights – not just in times of peace but also in armed conflicts.

420 million children affected by conflict

Children endure particular hardship during conflict: they are extremely vulnerable and are often hardest hit by humanitarian emergencies. Then, of course, there are attacks on hospitals and schools, for example in Idlib in Syria where almost 90 schools have been destroyed since April this year. Another 90 schools have been turned into reception centres for internally displaced persons. Before the conflict broke out, the Syrian education system was considered one of the best in the region. Today, almost nine years on, it has practically been obliterated.

According to United Nations figures, some 420 million children are affected by conflict worldwide. These children are denied a safe and happy childhood, as well as the opportunity to attend school and engage in training.

30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Boy in Afghanistan
Boy in Afghanistan© picture-alliance/dpa

30 years ago, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, also known as the UN Children’s Rights Convention was concluded. The Convention anchors an international catalogue of binding rules for the protection and participation of children. It contains four guiding principles: Non‑discrimination (Article 2), adherence to the best interests of the child (Article 3), the right to life, survival and development (Article 6) and the comprehensive respect of the views of the child (Article 12) Germany ratified the Convention in 1992 and is working worldwide to improve the implementation of children’s rights.

Much has happened in the meantime to improve the protection of children – particularly in armed conflict. The United Nations Security Council has for example taken up the issue. Since 1996, a system to document the violation of children’s rights in armed conflict has been set up so that perpetrators can be brought to justice. By supporting the Safe Schools Declaration launched in 2015, almost 100 states have now pledged to protect schools and universities from military violence in armed conflict.

Since 1991, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has been monitoring implementation of the rights anchored in the Convention. Furthermore, an Optional Protocol to the Convention entered into force five years ago enabling children and their families to lodge complaints directly with the Committee on the Rights of the Child if they consider their rights to have been violated.

Projects from La Paz to Kathmandu

Project in Bolivia: pupils learnt in a fun way how to remove the barriers between men and women
Project in Bolivia: pupils learnt in a fun way how to remove the barriers between men and women© Fundación Comunidad de Productores en Artes (COMPA)

However, we need to do much more today to ensure children around the world can enjoy their rights freely. The Federal Foreign Office is thus promoting projects all around the world in order to strengthen children’s rights. This year, they worked, for example, with street children in El Alto, Bolivia. Together pupils and teachers discussed gender roles and learnt in a fun way how to remove the barriers between men and women.

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