At what stage are the rights of children and young people in the world? A question that arises more than spontaneously in a historical period characterized by the climate crisis and dramatic conflicts such as those in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip. There World Day of the Rights of Children and Adolescents, which is celebrated on November 20, is the right opportunity to remember that ‘children’ (as the UN defines every person under 18) must be protected, their rights assured and made concrete. Children’s rights are in fact human rights. Yet, even today in many parts of the world these rights are under attack or even trampled upon.
When is International Children’s Rights Day celebrated?
World Children’s Rights Day falls every November 20th, in memory of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1959 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child; a journey that culminated on the same day 30 years later, in 1989, in UN Convention on the Rights of Children and Adolescents. A fundamental act which for the first time made boys and girls bearers of civil, social, political, cultural and economic rights. And which also established that minors must have a voice and therefore must be made aware of their rights.
Why was Children’s and Adolescents’ Day established?
The Convention on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, and consequently the day dedicated to them, were created with the aim of promoting international solidarity, awareness among children around the world and the improvement of their well-being. To date, the agreement has been ratified by 196 states, with one notable absence: the United States. Italy did so on 27 May 1991 with law 176, while the last country to have ratified the convention was Somalia.
What are the fundamental rights of children?
The Convention identifies four fundamental principles of all rights:
• the right to non discriminationand therefore to equal treatment, regardless of sex, origin, language, religion or color (art.2)
• respect for best interests of the child (art.3)
• the right to life, survival and correct development (includes access to health care and education, protection from abuse and exploitation: art.6)
• the right listening and participating (art. 12)
These four principles are implemented in the 54 articles of the agreement, which establish and aim to protect 10 most important rights of childrenwhich States undertake to pursue and guarantee:
• Right to play
• Right to food
• Right to have a home
• Right to health (physical, mental and social well-being)
• Right to education (education)
• Right to life and to have a family
• Right to have a name, surname and citizenship from birth
• Right to equality
• Right to express one’s opinion
• Right not to work
World Children’s Rights Day 2023
The claim of World Children’s Rights Day 2023 is ‘For every child, every right‘, translatable as ‘To every child, every right’. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, which aims to contribute to the survival, protection and development of the potential of every boy and girl, this year focuses on peace: ‘For every child, peace: every child, everywhere, has the right to live in a world at peace‘.
Peace is therefore the hot topic of 2023, a year in which already ongoing humanitarian crises have continued and new ones have begun. Unicef explicitly refers to art. 38 of the Convention, according to which every child has the right to be protected from war. A right that brings with it all the others, primarily those of adequate nutrition, survival and development. In fact, conflicts are responsible for 80% of all humanitarian needs and reduce people to extreme poverty.
The situation of children in the world between wars, climate disaster and poverty
The situation of minors in the world is definitely not good despite decades of agreements and proclamations.
Unicef reminds that more than 400 million children worldwide, 1 in 6, live in conflict areas and that, according to the United Nations, between 2005 and 2022, at least 120 thousand children have been killed or maimed by wars around the world. Conflicts have a direct impact first and foremost: the United Nations Security Council has identified and condemned six serious violations against children in times of war: killing and maiming; recruitment and use in the armed forces or militias; attacks on schools and hospitals; rape and other forms of serious sexual violence; kidnappings and denial of humanitarian aid.
But they also impact in an ‘indirect’ way: 30 million children are displaced by war. Furthermore, these children are more than twice as likely as those living in peace to be undernourished and without clean water, twice as likely to die before the age of five, and more than three times as likely to not go to school.
Unicef, in its very recent focus on the currently particularly ‘hot’ areas, highlights how from 7 October to 15 November in the Gaza Strip, 4,609 children were killed and over 9,000 injured. In Ukraine, however, as of October 8, more than 1,750 children have lost their lives or suffered injuries. Finally, in Syria, after over 12 years of conflict, 7 million minors require humanitarian assistance, while Sudan achieves the sad record of the largest crisis of displaced children in the world: 3 million.
In addition to conflicts, children face many other challenges, which they did not cause and which in fact they suffer without being able to do anything.
• Over 1 billion children, almost half of the world’s child population, live in countries at ‘extreme risk’ of suffering from impacts of climate change . A risk that already belongs to the present but which extends its shadow over the future, also posing a question of intergenerational justice: The climate crisis is a crisis of children’s rights.
• One in six children in the world lives in extreme poverty. Approximately 333 million children survive on less than $2.15 a day and malnutrition remains one of the main causes of child mortality: over 13.5 million children under 5 years of age risk dying of hunger. Not only that: every day, over 1,000 children under 5 die due to contaminated water.
• An equally important role of wars and global warming is played by health crises. First and foremost, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted serious shortcomings in health preparedness throughout the world, not only in poor areas, and has compromised the progress that had been achieved in recent years.
• It’s still. According to Save the Children data, there are 160 million minors between the ages of 5 and 17 imprisoned in prisons. labor exploitation. A problem that concerns beyond in poor countries 20% of the youngest .
• Finally, the rates child marriage have decreased since 1990, but 12 million girls still marry prematurely every year. Without changes, by 2030 another 100 million very young girls will follow this path.
Children’s rights in Italy
In Italy, according to Save the Children, almost one million four hundred thousand children live in absolute poverty. An less than honorable scenario, confirmed by Eurostat data which highlights how 2.85 million children are exposed to poverty and social exclusion , almost 30% of the total. Not that in Europe the situation is rosier: 1 in 4 minors (19.6 million) are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
Surely the pandemic has accentuated already existing social issues, making the link between inequalities and health problems even closer: a combination that does not spare minors, who indeed find themselves in a particularly fragile condition. Added to this are cuts to education and early childhood services, and global factors of instability such as the war in Ukraine (now also that in the Gaza Strip) and inflation.
In short, we are far from truly improving the lives, well-being and safety of children in the world and this is why a day like today is also fundamental for spread a culture of protection both in adults, the only ones who can change things, and in children and adolescents, who must be made involved and aware of their rights from an early age so that they can truly have a voice to be heard.