On the World Children’s Day, 20 November 2019

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2019-12-02 Helena Allahwerdi and Pirkko Liikanen

Every child is entitled to a good, safe childhood. Adults are responsible for guaranteeing that this is possible. I know this, don’t I?

A few days ago I saw a group of children beating and kicking another small child, yelling: “You coward! You baby! We won’t play with you! No, no, no!”

I did nothing, I just walked on. I think I violated the rights of the child.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a human rights convention that covers everyone under the age of 18. It is the most widely ratified UN human rights treaty in history. By ratifying the CRC, a nation commits to amending its laws and actions to comply with the convention. There is only one country that has not ratified it: the United States. The Convention on the Rights of the Child should not be confused with the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child. States were not legally bound by the Declaration, while the Convention is binding.

The Convention lists the human rights that belong to all children and puts states in charge of implementing them. The UN General Assembly adopted the Convention in 1989. It celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Finland introduced legislation to ratify the CRC in 1991. The Four Guiding Principles of the CRC are non-discrimination/equality, the best interests of the child, the right to survival and development and finally the right to participation and inclusion.

Did you know? In the world:

  • Three million children under the age of five die of hunger every year.
  • More than 160 million people under the age of 18 work full-time. About 85 million of them work in conditions that are dangerous or harmful to health.
  • There are about 300,000 child soldiers.
  • The birth of nearly 230 million children under the age of five has not been officially recorded, which deprives them of their right to a name and nationality.

What is the situation in Finland? Municipalities, organisations and municipal residents often have a statutory responsibility to take action on some issues. Have the rights of the child been realised in Espoo? The City of Espoo is currently conducting a municipal campaign called Stop Hate Speech. The goal is to detect shortcomings and problems so that they can be fixed.

Let’s take small steps. Let’s look at children who are at risk of social exclusion and who face hate speech. We often read news about children whose peers subject them to hate speech and discrimination for example at school or in a playground. Social exclusion may be rooted in disability, family poverty, the family’s cultural, ethnic, religious or political background, or simply some personal characteristic that sets the child apart from others.

Many children have no one to talk to. They are left alone with their worries. No one cares. No one has time. Families and municipal residents are busy and everyone has problems of their own...

Every adult and young person knows they are guilty of discrimination or rejection. It is easy to ignore what is going on and think it’s none of your business. The most dangerous thing is indifference. The responsibility for interaction with a child lies with the family and adults. They must be aware of the rights of the child and put them into action every day.  

Acting Seniors Association: Helena Allahwerdi and Pirkko Liikanen

Helena Allahwerdi, PhD, is a forerunner in the field of Global Education.

Pirkko Liikanen is Professor Emerita of Education.