Children’s human rights

Millions of children around the world are exploited, abused, and discriminated against. They need special protection to promote their physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development. These children include child labourers, children affected by armed conflict, sexually exploited children, children in conflict with the law or in the care of the state, as well as children living on the streets, coping with disabilities, or suffering from discrimination because of their religious or ethnic-minority status.

It is because of the unique vulnerability of children that their rights are of priority concern within Canada’s foreign policy. Canada played a key role in the negotiations that led to the adoption in 1989 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This Convention, which is the most widely and rapidly ratified of the core international human rights treaties, together with its two Optional Protocols (the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict and on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography), provides a solid foundation for the protection of children’s rights worldwide.

Children’s rights have earned increased attention across the United Nations spectrum. Resolutions on the rights of the child have been adopted at both the Human Rights Council, and its predecessor the UN Commission on Human Rights, and the UN General Assembly. The UN has designated November 20 as Universal Children’s Day, marking the day on which the Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

In 1990, Canada co-chaired the World Summit for Children where a 10-year agenda was established for improving the lives of children. In May 2002, the United Nations held a Special Session on Children to reaffirm the commitment of governments to complete the unfinished agenda of the 1990 World Summit and establish important new goals and strategies for children in the fields of health, education, protection against abuse, exploitation and violence, as well as in the struggle against HIV/AIDS. The outcome also builds on the Secretary-General’s report “We the Children: End-of Decade review of the follow-up to the World Summit for Children” (PDF Version, 989 KB)*.

Much of Canada’s work in advancing children’s rights is focussed on children in need of special protection measures, including areas such as child labour, sexual exploitation of children and children affected by armed conflict.

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