Declaration of the Rights of the Child

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A Child's Cry for Peace.jpg

The Declaration of the Rights of the Child is the name given to a series of related children's rights proclamations drafted by Save the Children founder Eglantyne Jebb in 1923.

Jebb believed that the rights of a child should be especially protected and enforced, thus drafting the first stipulations for child's rights.

Jebb's initial 1923 document consisted of the following criteria:

  1. The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
  2. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.
  3. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
  4. The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
  5. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.

These ideas were adopted by the International Save the Children Union, in Geneva, on 23 February 1923 and endorsed by the League of Nations General Assembly on 26 November 1924 as the World Child Welfare Charter. However, these proclamations were not enforceable by international law, but rather only guidelines for countries to follow [1]

The original document, in the archives of the city of Geneva, carries the signatures of various international delegates, including Jebb, Janusz Korczak, and Gustave Ador, a former President of the Swiss Confederation.

The SCIU merged into the International Union of Child Welfare by 1946, and this group pressed the newly formed United Nations to continue to work for war-scarred children and for adoption of the World Child Welfare Charter.

On 20 November 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a much expanded version as its own Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adding ten principles in place of the original five.[2] This date has been adopted as the Universal Children's Day.

In 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by UN General Assembly. On September 2, 1990 it became international law with one notable exception: the US signed the Charter but has not ratified it. The Convention consists of 54 articles that address the basic human rights to children everywhere are entitled:

  • the right to survival;
  • the right to develop to the fullest;
  • protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation;
  • the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.[3]

The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.[3]

Under the Convention, a child is defined as "... every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier."

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