25 Years of the Convention of the Rights of the Child: Is the World a Better Place for Children?

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In this essay marking 25 years of the Convention, UNICEF examines how the world has changed over the past quarter century and poses a vital question: Does a child born today have better prospects in life than one who was born in 1989? The answer is yes, but not every child.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child represents a remarkable milestone in the journey to build a more just world: It is the first international instrument to articulate the entire complement of rights relevant to children – economic, social, cultural, civil and political. It is also the first international instrument to explicitly recognize children as active holders of their own rights.

The importance of the Convention was recognized from the outset and it quickly became the most rapidly and widely ratified human rights treaty in history. The Convention has now been ratified by 194 States. Its almost universal ratification shows an unparalleled level of agreement among the world’s nations: That children must receive the treatment and respect to which they have an innate and immutable right.

The Convention offers a vision of a world in which children have a healthy start in life and are educated and protected, a world in which their views are respected and they can develop their full physical and mental potential. Its guiding principles – non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child – have had a profound influence on how children are treated and regarded the world over.

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