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International Children's Rights

International Children’s Rights

Children’s rights are human rights specifically for children – the rights detail special protections and care that laws should provide to minors. These rights can be found in a document created by the United Nations called the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“UNCROC”).

What is the UNCROC?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a comprehensive rights pact that is dedicated specifically to children’s rights. The convention gives children and young people under the age of 18 the right to a number of basic and fundamental rights including life, access to education and health care, protection from discrimination to name a few. New Zealand signed the Convention in 1993. This means that the government has to make sure that all our laws meet the minimum standards set out in the Convention. It must also report at regular intervals on how well it is implementing the standards set by the Convention to the United Nations Committee. The Committee then issues a report advising the government on how it can improve on implementing the rights.

Who does the UNCROC apply to?

The Convention applies to all children and young persons under the age of 18. Moreover, Article 2 of the Convention makes clear that the rights in the Convention apply to all children regardless of their age, race, colour, sex, language, political opinions, religion, social status or disabilities.

What does the UNCROC do?

The Convention sets out the rights children and young people can expect from their parents, their school, their government, and society in general. There are 54 Articles in the Convention covering four broad areas. These areas are survival rights, development rights, protection rights, and participation rights.

For more information on the full rights available under the Convention, have a look at UNICEF’s summary. You can also find the full Convention here.

What are Survival Rights in the UNCROC?

These cover the basic rights you need to live, such as ensuring that you have adequate shelter, nutrition, access to medical services and a decent standard of living.

For example, Article 27 states that every child has the right to an adequate standard of living and that if your parents can’t afford to look after you properly, then the government should help to provide assistance. Similarly, Article 20 states that if a child or young person can’t live at home with their family, they must be looked after by another family or in a special children’s home.

What are Development Rights in the UNCROC?

These are rights to help you develop mentally and socially, such as the right to education, cultural activities, access to information about yourself, the freedom to think and say what you want, and freedom of religion.

What are Protection Rights in the UNCROC?

In the UNCROC, protection rights include the rights to be safeguarded against physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, exploitation, torture and safety in the criminal justice system.

For example, Article 19 puts an obligation on the government to protect children from physical or mental harm, injury, abuse, neglect, maltreatment, or exploitation. This means, among other things, that corporal punishment is not allowed in schools and your teacher is not allowed to hit you if you misbehave in class.

What are Participation Rights in the UNCROC?

These rights give you the freedom to be involved and make yourself be heard in a number of different aspects of society. Adults in ‘public’ life should listen to what you think and take your views into account when making decisions about you.

For example, Article 12 of the Convention gives children the right to express their views freely in matters which affect them. For instance, if you’ve been suspended from school, UNCROC says you have a right to be present at the Board of Trustees meeting and be heard before they make decisions concerning you.

Do any parts of the UNCROC not apply in New Zealand?

New Zealand has placed three reservations on the Convention. This means that there are parts of the Convention which the government has not yet agreed to comply with. These reservations relate to the rights of children who are not New Zealand citizens or residents, the protection of children in employment, and the mixing of child prisoners with adult prisoners. There is, however, a lot of pressure on the government to change its position in relation to these reservations.

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