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January 01, 2005

The Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Call for U.S. Participation

by Howard Davidson

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

Under the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, overwhelmingly accepted by the international community since 1989, every child has the right to these powerfully important, basic rights:

The right to identity—a name and a nationality
The right to survival and development
The right to an acceptable standard of living, including food, clothes, and a place to live
The right to live with parents unless harmful to do so; the right to family relations and guidance
The right to state protection of family, home, privacy, and correspondence
The right to additional protection and help if deprived of family and home environment
The right to protection in times of war, including protection from torture and deprivation of liberty
The right to actions taken in the child’s best interests
The right to protection against discrimination
The right to an opinion; to have freedom of expression and religion
The right to be with friends and have freedom of peaceful assembly
The right to health and access to healthcare
The right to special assistance if disabled
The right to help from the government if poor or in need—to benefit from social security
The right to an education
The right to access to necessary and appropriate information
The right to rest, leisure, and play
The right to protection from abuse and neglect
The right to protection from any other kind of exploitation, including child labor, child trafficking, illicit transfer, illegal adoption, sexual abuse, and drug abuse
The right not to be punished in a cruel or hurtful way
The right to dignity, even if a child has broken the law

Stats: Childhood Denied

• Number of children worldwide who lack the goods, services, or conditions necessary for survival, growth, and development: 1 billion
• Main threats to children and children’s rights around the globe, as defined by UNICEF: Poverty, armed conflict, and HIV/AIDS
• Number of children under the age of 18 orphaned by HIV/AIDS by 2003: 15 million; number of these children who live in sub-Saharan Africa: 8 out of 10
• Number of youth who were illiterate in 2000: 18 million; percentage who were female: more than 60 percent
Source: The State of the World’s Children 2005: Childhood Under Threat, at


Howard Davidson is the director of the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law, located in Washington, D.C.