Handbook on the rights of the child
For the use of NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations
« Art. 2 States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
Art. 8 States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference. »
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Table of contents
- Convention on the Rights of the Child
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts
- Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
- ILO Convention No. 182
- ILO Convention No. 138
- The Committee of the Rights of the Child
- Other Committees
- UN Commission and Sub-Commission on Human Rights
- The International Labour Organization (ILO)
- The ILO International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour
- Indigenous children and young people involved in armed conflicts
- Education of indigenous children and young people
- Child labour and sexual exploitation of indigenous children and young people
- Discrimination against children and young indigenous peoples
Organizations active in the Protection of the Rights of the Child
In the last few decades we have seen a rise in the exploitation of children. This exploitation is sometimes linked to worsening poverty in certain regions of the world or to the growing number of zones in conflict. However, the question of the rights of the child concerns all regions, North and South. Whether it is in confronting child prostitution or the enlisting of children in armed conflicts, we all have a share of the responsibility and can act to improve the situation of children’s rights worldwide.
In achieving this, NGOs have an essential role to play. The conventions on the rights of the child have been developed thanks to them. They can contribute in developing new international standards and above all they can contribute to upholding existing standards. They can also encourage states who have not yet done so to ratify the conventions in question. Finally, NGOs are in some ways the eyes and ears of the international community for the protection of human rights. It is important, therefore, that NGOs interested in this issue should distribute information concerning child rights in their own regions.
This "Handbook on the Rights of the Child" aims to provide useful information to NGOs and indigenous peoples ’ organizations that wish to contribute to the promotion of child rights. We hope that this document will facilitate the promotion and universal respect of the rights of the child and that it will aid organizations interested in working in this field and developing useful contacts
We have also included some of the issues concerning children and young people from indigenous groups. In fact, indigenous peoples are often economically and socially marginalized. As a result their children are frequently the first victims of violations of the rights of the child.
Finally, we thank all the people and NGOs who have provided us with information who, in this way, have helped with the compiling of this document.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 20th 1989. It sets out the common rights of all children, whatever their nationality or cultural, social, economic or political background.
This convention was created with the goal of protecting children from every kind of abuse that they might suffer. It establishes the following four main principles:
- Non-discrimination, every child must enjoy all his/her rights and must not suffer discrimination of any sort on the grounds of his/her beliefs, colour, ethnic background, etc.
- The best interests of a child: Authorities state that in decisions that concern the child, the best interests of the child must be taken into account.
- The right to life, to survival and to development.
- The opinions of the child: a child must be free to have his/her own opinions, these opinions must be taken into account whilst considering the child’s age and level of maturity.
2. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflicts
The international community has become aware of the growing occurrence of the use of children in armed conflicts. This practice, which has become commonplace in numerous countries, runs contrary to several human rights principles. In order to combat this development and to better protect children during armed conflicts, an additional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It obliges states who have ratified it not to involve children under the age of 18 in combat and prohibits the forced enlisting of children under 18 in armies. This protocol will enter into force after the tenth ratification.
3. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
This additional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child has the goal of combating the sale of children, the prostitution of children and pornography that uses children. The three central terms of the present protocol will be defined as follows:
- We understand by the sale of children any act or transaction involving the transfer of a child from any person or group of people to another person or group in exchange for remuneration or any other form of favour.
- We understand by the prostitution of children the act of using a child for means of sexual activity in exchange for remuneration or any other form of favour.
- We understand by pornography that uses children all representation, by any media whatsoever, of a child devoting him/herself to explicit sexual activities, real or simulated, or any representation of the sexual organs of a child for deliberately sexual ends.
Convention N° 182 on the worst forms of child labour was adopted by the International Labour Organization on June 17 1999. Convention 182 aims to ban the worst forms of child labour. It prohibits notably:
- All forms of slavery or similar practices, such as the sale and trading of children, servitude as payment of debts and serving as forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children with the aim of using them in armed conflicts.
- The use, recruitment or sale of a child for means of prostitution, production of pornographic material or pornographic performances.
- The use, recruitment or sale of a child for means of illicit activities, notably the production and trafficking of narcotics, such as defined by the relevant international conventions.
- Tasks which, by their nature or the conditions in which they are undertaken, are likely to be detrimental to the health, safety or morality of children.
The States that have signed and ratified this convention must integrate it as soon as possible into the framework of their national legislation.
ILO Convention 138 was adopted on June 26th 1973. It defines a minimum working age.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child provides for an organ of control charged with checking if the states that have ratified the Convention are respecting their obligations. The organ charged with ensuring respect for the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the Committee of the Rights of the Child. This committee was created in 1991 and has the task of examining and supervising the application of the Convention. It meets three times a year, for a session that lastS four weeks at a time.
The States that have ratified the convention must submit A REPORT to the Committee of the Rights of the Child on the measures they have taken to put the convention to work. At the presentation of the reports the Committee makes recommendations and suggestions to the States concerned, which must take them into account.
The Convention does not cater for the examination of individual complaints that may come from children or their representatives. However, when there is a grave violation of the Convention in one country, the Committee can ask the State for information pertaining to its application of the Convention.
When they notice one or several violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, NGOs that hold ECOSOC consultative status have the possibility of being heard by the Committee of the Rights of the Child and to submit to it reports and relevant information on the countries in question. NGOs without ECOSOC consultative status should collaborate with those NGOs that have it.
There are 5 other conventions that provide mechanisms similar to that of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and which touch upon certain aspects of child rights. These are the following committees:
- The Human Rights Committee which verifies the respecting of the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights.
- The Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee which verifies the respecting of the International Pact on economic, social and cultural rights.
- The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which verifies the respecting of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination.
- The Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women which verifies the respecting of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women.
- The Committee against Torture which verifies the respecting of the Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The majority of these committees meet in Geneva.
Unlike the Committee on the Rights of the Child which only deals with States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Commission and Sub-Commission on Human Rights deal with human rights issues in all countries. They are the two principle instruments of the UN that deal specifically with questions of human rights. NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status have the possibility of meeting with them and making declarations. Though these two instruments of the UN are not specialised in the rights of the child, some of their activities are directly linked to children’s rights. The Commission on Human Rights meets in Geneva every year for 6 weeks in March and the Sub-Commission for 3 to 4 weeks in Geneva in August.
Special Rapporteurs for the Commission on Human Rights :
The Commission on Human Rights is armed with several special rapporteurs charged with following the human rights situation either in particular countries or with regard to particular themes. Among these numerous rapporteurs, we will mention:
- The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the right to education.
- The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflicts.
- The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
- Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
- Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the question of religious intolerance.
NGOs have the opportunity to contact the special rapporteurs concerned and to send them information.
Working Groups of the Commission on Human Rights:
The Commission on Human Rights has created several working groups, all of which tackle the questions of the rights of the child in an indirect way. However, none of them deal with this issue specifically.
Working Groups of the Sub-Commission on Human Rights:
The Sub-Commission on Human Rights has created several working groups that can all deal indirectly with the question of the rights of the child. One of them deals with this question more directly. That is:
- The Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
NGOs also have the opportunity to report information on possible human rights violations to the UN High Commission for Human Rights. It is important, therefore, to include all the following details so that the information can be taken into account: location, date, perpetrators of the violation, identity of the victims, etc … This is what the UN means by “Communications”. This data is often passed on to the organs concerned. If several communications are collected that support each other in indicating that massive violations of human rights have taken place in a particular country, the High Commission can enact a special procedure (called procedure 1503) against it.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) can enact a procedure against States that violate in a marked fashion the principle norms and conventions of the ILO. It is a procedure that is quite rarely utilised, but which has nevertheless been taken out against Myanmar (Burma) for the forced labour of children. It is important to remember that the ILO (founded in 1919) is one of the oldest international organizations, and that it consists of a tri-party structure: parallel to the representatives of governments, unions and employers’ organizations, each member State has the right to vote.
The ILO has set up the International Programme on the Elimi nation of Child Labour (IPEC). The aim of IPEC is to phase out child labour by firm action and projects on the ground. The IPEC programme was developed in collaboration with unions, employers’ associations, the UN and NGOs.
In its eighteenth session, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Sub-Commission on Human Rights concentrated on problems faced by children and the young people of indigenous populations. On this occasion numerous indigenous peoples ’ representatives presented their concerns in this area. It is vital to state that the problems are often similar from one continent to another. We have tried to sum up these meetings and to group the problems raised into four categories:
The indigenous peoples ’ representatives expressed their concerns about indigenous children and young people who find themselves near zones of armed conflict. In times of conflict, indigenous children and young people are often at greater risk of being enlisted than the rest of the population. Such enlistment, either by national armies or paramilitary groups, is often done by force. These conflicts often involve traumatic experiences that have serious consequences for these children and young people who are faced with situations too violent for their age.
When explaining the problems faced by these indigenous children and young people, the indigenous peoples ’ representatives requested that their governments put in place rehabilitation programmes adapted for indigenous children, in order to treat the different physical and psychological trauma that they have endured.
The indigenous peoples drew attention to the problems of the education of indigenous children and young people. Governments often impose school programmes and pedagogical methods that fail to take into account the particular language, culture and history of indigenous peoples.
The indigenous representatives also expressed their concern at the high level of school failure and the abandoning of schooling by indigenous children and young people, a problem they see as directly linked to the unsuitability for them of the school system.
In certain countries access to education - be it at primary, secondary or higher level - is very limited. To remedy this problem, several indigenous populations, with the help of certain governments, have created bilingual schools that allow indigenous children and young people to follow a curriculum that takes into account the distinctive characteristics of their culture. These experiments have generally had very positive results.
In several countries, the children and young people of indigenous populations are exploited, as a work-force and for sexual ends, to a greater extent than the rest of the population. These practices are firmly denounced.
The indigenous peoples' representatives ask that States co-operate more, so that measures can be taken to put an end to this sort of exploitation. It is necessary that the international norms in this area be reinforced to eradicate all forms of child exploitation.
Indigenous peoples, due to their distinct identity, are often discriminated against by the rest of the population. Indigenous communities are very worried about the effects of this discrimination on their children and young people.
These children and young people are aware of the distinctiveness of their language and culture. They are often rejected, discriminated against and marginalised by the rest of the population. The children and young people who feel this rejection try to copy the ways of the dominant lifestyle, which leads to a loss of their culture and identity. Discrimination appears at several levels:
- The police are often a lot ruder to and less respectful of the rights and legal status of young indigenous peoples. There are often acts of violence committed against them.
- The administration of justice is often not impartial. Numerous denials of people’s rights have been reported, as if the fact of being indigenous does not give one the same rights and the same protection as the rest of the population.
- Opportunities for work are not equal. The rate of youth unemployment among indigenous peoples is often higher than among the rest of the population. This is due among other things to a shortage of vocational training establishments and higher education available to young indigenous peoples.
- Finally, in the field of health, infant mortality and morbidity is often much higher among indigenous populations than in the rest of the population.
This discrimination has the effect of economically marginalizing indigenous peoples and adding to the use of alcohol and drugs by indigenous children and young people. This lack of perspective and social rejection also tends to lead to delinquency among young indigenous peoples.
We must remember that these children and youths are our future and the future of indigenous peoples. They are there to remind us of the richness of humanity, of its cultures, languages and history.
International Labour Organization (ILO)
Programme International pour l’abolition du travail des enfants(IPEC)
Bureau de la campagne (IPEC) ;
4, rue des Morillons ;
1211 Genève 22 SUISSE (Switzerland)
Tel : +41 22 7998181. Fax : +41 22 7998771.
Website : www.ilo.org/childlabour
United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNHCHR)
Palais Wilson, 1201 Genève SUISSE (Switzerland)
Tel : +41 22 9173456. Fax : +41 22 9170213.
Website : www.ohchr.org
Group of NGOs for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The main co-ordinator of NGOs active in the promotion of the rights of the child and for the respecting of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Secretariat c/o Defence for Children International:
1 rue de Varembé; P.O. Box 88 1211 Genève 20 Suisse
Tel : +41 22 7340558; Fax : +41 22 7401145.
Site web: http://www.childrightsconnect.org/
Ecpat Suisse - Association pour la protection de l'enfant
Case postale 344
3000 Berne 14
Tél 031 398 10 10 ; Fax 031 398 10 11
Site web www.ecpat.ch (only in French and German)
Christian Children's Fund (CCF)
CCF Europe, CP 2100, CH-1211 Genève 2, Suisse.
Tel: (4122) 7889070 ; Fax: +41 22 788 90 83
Defence for Children international (DCI)
1, rue de Varembé, Case Postale 88, CH-1211 Genève 20, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 734 05 58. Fax : +41 22 740 11 45
Site web: http://www.defenceforchildren.org/
Friends World Committee for Consultation (FWCC)
Quaker House, 13 avenue de Mervelet, Ch-1309 Genève, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 7484800. Fax: +41 22 7484819.
Website : http://www.fwccworld.org/
Inter-African Committee on traditional Practices affecting the Health of Women and Children in Africa (IAC)
145, rue de Lausanne, Ch-1202 Genève, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 731 24 20 / 22 732 08 21. Fax: +41 22 738 18 23.
International Abolitionist Federation (IAF)
Hélène Sackstein, c/o DEI, Case Postale 88, CH-1211 Genève Suisse.
International Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA)
7, rue Victor Marquigny, F-94250 Gentilly, France.
Tel: +33 1 47 40 99 42.
International Association of Juvenile and Family Court Magistrates (IAJFCM)
Justitiepaleis Sluissingel 20, NL-4811 TA Breda Nouvelle-Zélande.
Tribunal des Mineurs, C.P. 219, 1950 Sion, Suisse
International Catholic Child Bureau (ICCB)
63, rue de Lausanne, CH-1202 Genève, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 7313248 ; Fax: 7317793.
International Council of Women (ICW)
13 rue Caumartin, F-75009 Paris, France.
Tel: (33 1) 4742 19 40 ; Fax: (33 1) 4266 26 23
Site web: www.icw-cif.org
International Federation of Business and Professional Women (IFBPW)
Studio 16, Cloisters Business Centre, 8 Battersea Park Road, London SW8 4 BG, Angleterre.
Tel: +44 171 738 83 22 ; Fax: +44 171 622 85 28.
Site web: www.bpw-international.org
International Federation Terre des Hommes (IFTDH)
31, chemin Frank-Thomas, CH-1208 Genève, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 7363372 ;Fax: +41 22 7361510
Site web: www.terredeshommes.org
International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
Postfach 6875, 20,Schwarztorstrasse, CH-3001 Berne, Suisse.
Tel: +41 31 3826015 ; Fax: +41 31 3811222.
Site web: www.ifsw.org
International Federation of Worker's Education Associations (IFWEA)
IFWEA, Surcon House, Copson Street, Manchester, M20 3HE, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 161 445 92 72 ; Fax: +44 161 445 36 25
Site web: www.ifwea.org
International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR)
150, route de Ferney, CH-1211 Genève 2, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 791 62 63 ; Fax: +41 22 791 64 80.
Site web: www.imadr.org
International Movement ATD Fourth World
107, avenue du Général Leclerc, F-95480 Pierrelaye, France.
Tel: +33 1 30371111 ; Fax: +33 1 30376512.
Site web: www.atd-quartmonde.org
International Resource Centre for the Protection of Children in Adoption (IRC)
c/o Service Social International
32 quai du Seujet - 1201 Genève - Suisse
Tel. +41 22 906 77 00 ; Fax +41 22 906 77 01
International Save the Children Alliance
275 - 281 King Street, London, W6 9LZ, Angleterre
Tel: +44 20 8748 2554 ; Fax: +44 20 8237 8000.
Site web: www.savethechildren.net
International School Psychology Association (ISPA)
Hans Knudsens Plads 1A, 1st Floor, DK- 2100 Copenhagen, Danemark.
Tel: +45 4498 2106 ; Fax: +45 3929 3700.
Site web: www.ispaweb.org
Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
150 Route de Ferney, PO Box 2100, CH-1211 Genève 2, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 791 61 11 ; Fax: +41 22 791 66 30
Site web: www.lutheranworld.org
HQ, Chobham house, Christchurch Way, Woking, Surrey GU21 6JG, Angleterre.
Tel: +44 1483 755 155 ; Fax :+44 1483 756 505
Site web: www.plan-international.org
World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) (WAGGGS)
World Bureau, Olave Centre, 12c Lyndhurst Road, London NW3 5PQ, Angleterre.
Tel: +44 171 7941181 ; Fax: +44 171 4313764.
Site web: www.wagggsworld.org
World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women
1048 Eastills drive, West Covina CA 91791, USA.
Tel: +1 818 3325985 ; Fax: +1 818 9154505.
Representente à Genève Renate Bloem, 103 bis route de Thonon, Ch-1222 Vesenaz, Suisse.
World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA)
c/o Palais des Nations Room E4-2A, 1211 Genève 10, Suisse.
Tel: +41 22 917 32 39 or 32 13 Fax: +41 22 917 01 85
Site web: www.wfuna.org
Word Jewish Congress (WJC)
501 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022
Tel: +1 212 755 5770
Site web: http://www.worldjewishcongress.org/
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
Secrétariat international de lOMCT, 8 rue du Vieux-Billard, PO Box 21, 1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland
Tel: + 41 22 809 4939 ; Fax: + 41 22 809 4929
Site web: www.omct.org
World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO)
37, rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, F-75006, France.
Tel: +33 1 45 44 27 65 ; Fax : +33 1 42 84 04 80.
Site web: www.wucwo.org
Zonta International - International Service Organization of Executives in Business and the Professions
557 West Randolph Street, Chicago IL 60661 - USA.
Tel: +1 312 9305848 ; Fax: +1 312 9300951
Site web: www.zonta.org