By Ognjen Gogic, Cla
ss XVIThe origin of the Universal Children’s Day can be traced back to 1954 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 836 (IX) calling for its establishment. The resolution envisioned that the Universal Children’s Day would be instituted by all states and observed as a day of “world-wide fraternity and understanding between children” and devoted to the promotion of the “welfare of the children of the world”.
The significance of this resolution was particularly reflected in the fact that the well being of the children was related to the founding oath of the UN. As the resolution states, “the obligations of the United Nations to succeeding generations can only be fulfilled by increased efforts on behalf of the children of the world, who are citizens of tomorrow”, as well as that the “world-wide observance of a children’s day would contribute to human solidarity and co-operation between nations”.
Although the resolution stipulated that the observance of Universal Children’s Day should start in 1956, it did not set any specific date for that purpose. Instead, it was left up to countries to observe the Universal Children’s Day in a way which each of them considered appropriate. As we shall see, the date for its global observance was in fact determined by the latter landmark events.
Five years after the adoption of the aforementioned resolution, on November 20 1959 the UNGA proclaimed the Declaration on the Rights of the Child by its resolution 1386 (XIV). Postulating that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care” and that the “mankind owes to the child the best it has to give”, the Declaration set out 10 principles to guide child protection measures.
On 20 November 1989, that is on the same date but thirty years later, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its resolution 44/25. By its legal nature, the Convention represents a human rights treaty which is binding on its state parties by international law. The Convention has been ratified by 196 countries (all eligible UN member states except the United States), which makes it the most widely ratified human rights treaty. Implementation of the Convention by the states parties is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child based in Geneva.
The Convention defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years”. The document sets out a number of political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children, including the right to survival and development, right to quality healthcare, right to education, right to adequate standard of living, right to life in family environment, protection from all forms of violence, respect to the views of child etc. All state parties are required to respect and ensure the rights guaranteed by the Convention to each child within their jurisdiction, taking the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.
Image by Alex Leonard – Image source
The Universal Children’s Day observed on 20 November marks the anniversary of the adoption of both the Declaration and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its purpose is to remind all states and the whole humanity of their commitments towards the well-being of all children throughout the world. The day thus represents the right occasion to ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to ensure that the rights of every child are protected, especially of those who are in the most vulnerable position.