The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most popularly accepted legal instrument affecting youth voice and involvement in the world today. Two countries haven’t ratified it: Somalia and the United States. Great company. Of course, the Campaign for US Ratification‘s model of youth involvement is poor itself, so there is a ways to go…
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
- States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
- For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.
- The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.
- The exercise of this right may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
- For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or
- For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, CONSCIENCE, AND RELIGION
- States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
- States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.
- Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
- States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly.
- No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of these rights other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Article 17 States Parties recognize the important function performed by the mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health. To this end, States Parties shall:
- Encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child and in accordance with the spirit ofarticle 29;
- Encourage international co-operation in the production, exchange and dissemination of such information and material from a diversity of cultural, national and international sources;
- Encourage the production and dissemination of children’s books;
- Encourage the mass media to have particular regard to the linguistic needs of the child who belongs to a minority group or who is indigenous;
- Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being, bearing in mind the provisions ofarticles 13 and 18.
SPECIAL SUPPORT FOR DISABLED CHILDREN
- States Parties recognize that a mentally or physically disabled child should enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child’s active participation in the community.
- States Parties recognize the right of the disabled child to special care and shall encourage and ensure the extension, subject to available resources, to the eligible child and those responsible for his or her care, of assistance for which application is made and which is appropriate to the child’s condition and to the circumstances of the parents or others caring for the child.
- Recognizing the special needs of a disabled child, assistance extended in accordance with paragraph 2 of the present article shall be provided free of charge, whenever possible, taking into account the financial resources of the parents or others caring for the child, and shall be designed to ensure that the disabled child has effective access to and receives education, training, health care services, rehabilitation services, preparation for employment and recreation opportunities in a manner conducive to the child’s achieving the fullest possible social integration and individual development, including his or her cultural and spiritual development
- States Parties shall promote, in the spirit of international cooperation, the exchange of appropriate information in the field of preventive health care and of medical, psychological and functional treatment of disabled children, including dissemination of and access to information concerning methods of rehabilitation, education and vocational services, with the aim of enabling States Parties to improve their capabilities and skills and to widen their experience in these areas. In this regard, particular account shall be taken of the needs of developing countries.
EDUCATION FOR PERSONAL FULFILLMENT AND RESPONSIBLE CITIZENSHIP
- States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
- The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;
- The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;
- The development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;
- The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;
- The development of respect for the natural environment.
- No part of the present article or article 28 shall be construed so as to interfere with the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish and direct educational institutions, subject always to the observance of the principle set forth in paragraph 1 of the present article and to the requirements that the education given in such institutions shall conform to such minimum standards as may be laid down by the State.
These sections were originally delineated in Roger Hart’s 1997 publication, Children’s Participation: The theory and practice of involving young citizens in community development and environmental care, published by UNICEF. Learn more about the CRC at the official UNICEF webpage.