The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is 32 years old, so why do we still need to discuss children’s rights? This question is addressed in different ways around the world. One common answer is that the UNCRC (UN, 1989), although ratified in 196 countries, is still not known enough by all children, by professionals working with children, by society at large, and definitely not in detail. Countries who have agreed to the UNCRC do not necessarily incorporate it in their legislation, and even those who recognise its importance have trouble naming even one right or article.
It is fundamental to understand that the UNCRC is a holistic document with four principles:
- Non-discrimination (Article 2)
- Best interests of the child (Article 3)
- Right to life, survival, and development (Article 6)
- Right to express their views in all matters that affect the child (Article 12)
Additionally, Article 42 regulates the right to know about your rights, which precedes implementing and using the other rights.
The UNCRC has changed the very image of childhood and young children. Childhood is not just a period for transporting children towards adulthood, being a child has its own intrinsic value. Children are not mini human beings with mini human rights. Children are citizens and they are both partakers of rights and in need of protection.
However, children’s living conditions around the world challenge their human rights. In many countries, children in migration, indigenous children and children with special needs are discriminated against, and/or don’t have access to their basic rights. Living conditions, such as poverty, family violence and child abuse are other still not well mitigated barriers. Providing, protecting and promoting children’s rights and making them really available for all children require a holistic reflection over children’s social, economic and cultural context including housing, as well as their caregiver’s education, employment situation and health.
So, when we strive towards the best interests of the child, whose perspective are we talking about? Research shows that the adult perspective and responsibility to provide, protect and promote is dominating over the individual child’s or groups of children’s perspectives. To balance this, we must prioritise implementing Article 12 about the right for children as citizens to freely express their own views in all matters that affect the child. This means listening to children, individually, in pairs and groups, and promoting and enacting their ideas in the family, in education and in research. This in turn will strengthen children’s participation in society.
These notions are described in the book Young Children and Their Rights – Thirty Years with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. More than 20 authors from 14 countries all over the world describe the status of children’s rights, highlighting what is of special importance in their country, giving us detailed knowledge from Argentina, Australia, China, Croatia, Korea, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, UK, Uruguay and the USA.
In the concluding chapter, we, the editors, use the model of five dimensions of rights in ECE that was developed by Professor Julie Davis from Australia. The model distinguishes between: Foundational rights, Participatory action rights, Collective rights, Inter-generational rights and Biocentric/ecocentric rights. Although there is a strong relationship between the UNCRC and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, our analysis shows that only a few chapters address the bio/ecocentric dimension of rights. With the latest reports about the state of the earth, scientists conclude that the Earth is now in the Anthropocene Age, the age when the development of and on planet Earth is driven by human beings’ lifestyle.
We need a new ethical stance where the rights of nature and all living species are included and seen as crucial for the realisation of the foundational rights of all humans. As human beings, we can’t position ourselves as the capital or the centre, as our survival and well-being strongly depend on clean water, air and biological diversity. We are just some of the elements interwoven in the greater ecosystem on Earth. Here, implementing children’s rights is a way to address sustainability in the Anthropocene. Sustainability that is understood in a holistic way and implies social and economic sustainability, safeguarding access to good living conditions, community support and education, and ecological sustainability that protects the limited resources of our planet.
All the dimensions of sustainability are necessary to realise the UNCRC in our times and empower children. An empowered child may influence local and global changes.
To conclude, we would like to extend a final recognition and a big “Thank you!” to our co-authors, scholars from 14 different countries, many of them active in OMEP.
- Berit Bae is Professor emerita at Oslo Metropolitan University.
- Katarina Bogatić is a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Osijek, Croatia.
- Verity Campbell-Barr is an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies and Associate Director for Research at Plymouth Institute of Education, University of Plymouth, UK.
- Gabriela Etchebehere Arenas is a psychologist and holds a Master’s degree in Children’s Rights and Public Policies, her area of expertise. She is a Professor of the Psychology, Education and Human Development Institute, Psychology, at the University de la Republica in Montevideo, Uruguay.
- Ann Farrell is a Professor and Head of the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of Technology, Australia.
- Diti Hill-Denee is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
- Ewa Lewandowska is a Doctor of Human Sciences in the Early Education Department, Faculty of Education in the Maria Grzegorzewska University in Warsaw, Poland.
- Glynne Mackay is a Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
- Mercedes Mayol Lassalle holds a BA degree in Educational Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires. She is the former Director of the Early Childhood Education Department in the City of Buenos Aires. She is a professor in the Master’s Program in Early Childhood Education at the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
- Analía Mignaton holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychomotricity, and is a specialist in Early Childhood Development, Psychoanalysis, Socio-educational practices and Maternal education. She is a teacher in Special Education at the Higher Institute of Teacher Training No. 1 of Cutral Có, Neuquén, Argentina.
- Eunhye Park is a professor at the Department of Early Childhood Education, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Korea. Dr. Park has chosen to write together with the research team: Inyoung Kim, Jieun Kim, Kyoryoung Kim, Nayuong Kim, HeeKyoung Nam and Sunhwa Park.
- Concepción Sánchez-Blanco is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education: Department of Pedagogy and Curriculum Studies at the Galician University of A Coruña, Spain.
- Alma Tasevska is an Associate Professor, at the oldest faculty in the Republic of North Macedonia, the Faculty of Philosophy, Ss Cyril and Methodius University.
- Ivana Visković is an Assistant Professor at the University of Split, Croatia.
- Judith T. Wagner holds a Ph.D. and is Emerita Professor in Child Development and Education, and Director of Broadoaks Children’s School, Whittier College, USA.
- Peng Xu is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
We do hope you enjoy good discussions around the book.
Presentation of the book by all its authors (25 minutes) https://kaltura.hvl.no/media/Book+launchA+%22Young+children+in+the+world+and+their+rights.+Thirty+years+with+the+United+Nations+Convention+on+the+Rights+of+the+Child%22/0_cs8nq94fPresentation of the book by its 3 editors (40 minutes)
Associate Professor, is a preschool teacher and psychologist, with a PhD in Child and Youth Sciences from Stockholm University, Sweden.
Her main research interests are the holistic development of early childhood education, focusing on toddlers, play, the perspective of the child, education for sustainability and the rights of the child. Since 2019, she is the European president for OMEP, the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education.
Alicja R. Sadownik
Associate professor at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and Kindergarten Knowledge Center for Systemic Research on Diversity and Sustainable Futures. She researches on childhood(s), ECE settings and parental cooperation in the context of migration and socio-cultural diversity.
She is a professor at the Zagreb and Čakovec Faculty of Teacher Training, author of several scientific and professional articles, founder of the Krijesnica Educators Association, member of the organizing and program committees of various national and international scientific-professional conferences. and sees herself as an educator. During the break, we asked him some questions about the organization and program of the conference, as well as the activities of OMEP Croatia.