Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - How to Protect Human Rights

 

"How to Protect Human Rights?"
 

Lesson Plan:


Children's Rights in the UN System of Human Rights Protection

by

Jacqueline Kacprzak
 

Copyright by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights

Warsaw, 1997

Children's Rights in the UN System of Human Rights Protection

A. The main issues

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989, obliges the States-Parties to respect the rights of children and to ensure them appropriate protection. The Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva was called forth by the Convention to oversee the compliance of the States-Parties with its provisions.

The States-Parties agree to submit periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child describing the measures employed to realise the provisions in the Convention.

The subject of these lessons is the catalogue of rights found in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the functions of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the obligation of the States-Parties to submit periodic reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the state of children's rights in the said country.

B. Aims

By the end of these lessons the participants should:

By the end of the lessons the participants should understand:

The main outcome of the lessons should be the development of the following skills:

C. Comments

D. Didactic materials

Materials:


 
 
 
 
 

E. Lessons

Introduction

1. Give an overview of the UN human rights system (use the main text enclosed in the

packet). Tell them that they are two paths of action in the UN structure that were paved for the purpose of protecting human rights. The first was the creation of the general documents ( The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights); the second was the formulation of the specialised treaties which expand on and specify the general principles expressed in the Covenants. One of these specialised treaties is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly on November 20, 1989.

In the course of these exercises you will get to know the provisions of this convention and the mechanisms developed to ensure their realisation.

Main part

2. Show the participants part of the film, "The UN System of Human Rights Protection"

beginning with the scene showing students in the corridor preparing for an exam. Stop at the end of the conversation between the narrator and Marek Nowicki of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. (Fast forward the cassette to this scene ahead of time)

If the participants have already seen the film, they should now watch this segment for the purpose of reviewing the names of the various treaties and specialised conventions. Furthermore, the first part of Marek Nowicki's monologue is directly related to these lessons. Therefore it is best to ask them ahead of time to pay close attention to what Marek Nowicki is saying.

Next, ask the participants the following questions:

1) Which specialised conventions can they recall?

(In the film there is mention of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Compare this list with the list in the main text, Part II, #3 Specialised UN Conventions Concerning Human Rights)

2) What are the mechanisms employed by the UN in order to administer compliance with

the various conventions?

( As a rule the specialised convention calls for a committee to be established whose task is to monitor compliance with the given convention by the States-Parties. The governments of these states are obliged to submit periodical reports to the treaty body.)

3) Who, other than the government, can submit reports to the committee called forth by the

convention?

(Non-governmental organizations can submit their own reports which often act as "counter-reports" to the government reports, since, as a rule, the government reports make the situation sound much more positive than it is in reality. Non-governmental organizations conduct studies and research on the degree to which the rights in the convention are being respected and ensured and on the bases of their findings prepare reports which provide the treaty body with additional sources of information)
 
 

3. Now hand out Supplement #1. Point out the position of the Convention on the Rights of

the Child in reference to the other UN documents.

Present the Convention on the Rights of the Child with the help of Supplement #2 (you can make copies of this supplement and pass them out before your presentation - it will be of help to them in the exercises later).

During this lesson you can look to the provisions guaranteeing the protection of children's rights in other UN documents (compare with Supplement #2a).

In your presentation, point out to them the assumptions upon which the status of the child is based in the Convention; the principles which guided the formulation of the catalogue of children's rights and the range of the catalogue.

4. Now divide the class into 3 groups and give each group the following:

Group I - art. 15 the right to freedom of association (Supplement #3)

Group II - art. 13 freedom of expression (Supplement #4)

Group III - art. 16 the right to privacy (Supplement #5)

According to the instructions in the supplementary materials, the assignment is to write reports describing the observance of the given rights in their immediate environment. Ask them to write the report as they would write a report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the realisation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in their country.

Before they start their group work, briefly explain the role of the

Committee on the Rights of the Child. In order to prepare yourself, take a look at articles 43, 44 & 45 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Take note of the fact that the Committee has the authority to co-operate with other UN specialised agencies. You can use the chart showing the various UN human rights organs to point out the location of the Committee in this structure.

Ask the participants if they understand the assignment.

Clarify any misunderstandings with the help of Supplement #6.

The estimated time needed for this assignment is 20-25 minutes.

5. Once the reports have been completed, ask the group representatives to present their work.

Now the class can decide if they agree on each report and them proceed to prepare one final version together.
 
 
 
 

Recapitulation

6. In your summary of the lessons, review what you have worked on and the role of the

Convention on the Rights of the Child in the UN human rights system.
 
 
 

 


 

Supplement #1

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

(Paris, December 10, 1948)
 
 

International Covenant on Civil International Covenant on Economic

and Political Rights Social and Cultural Rights

Human Rights Committee Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
 
 
 
 
 
 

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)

Committee Against Torture

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

Committee on the Rights of the Child
 
 
 
 
 
 

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Geneva, 1951

Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, New York, 1967

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
 
 

* Treaty bodies in italics
 
 
 

Supplement #2

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The convention draft was submitted by Poland in 1979. The construction of the Convention took over ten years and the final version is much different than the Polish draft. The framers of the Convention worked hard to formulate the wording of the treaty in such a way that would make it acceptable to the majority of member states.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly on November 20, 1989. It came into force upon ratification by 20 states, on September 2, 1990. States-Parties were allowed to submit reservations, declarations and comments which made it easier for the states to decide on signing the Convention. A considerable number of states took advantage of this option, Poland as well.

The Convention consists of a preamble (13 paragraphs defining the general assumptions) and three parts comprised of provisions.

The Convention proclaims that the status of the child is based on the following assumptions:

The principles that were used to formulate the catalogue of children's rights are as follows:

1. The principle of the child's best interest - all actions concerning the child must be justified as being

in the best interests of the child.

2. The principle of equality - all children, regardless of their characteristics (race, colour, sex,

nationality, etc.) are equal before the law

3. The principle of respecting the rights and responsibilities of both parents - the state respects

parental autonomy and interferes only in particularly justifiable cases

4. The principle of state assistance - the state is obliged to assist and provide for the welfare of the

family particularly families in need of assistance (the state should aid and support the family without relieving it of its duties)

PART I

The first part of the Convention consists of 41 articles that comprise the catalogue of children's rights, including personal, social and political rights.

Here is a breakdown of the provisions of the Convention:

Art. 1 Definition of "child". For the purposes of the Convention a child is every human being under the

age of eighteen. The Convention defines only the upper age limit thereby avoiding the issue of the foetus. In the preamble, however, it is stated that the child needs legal protection "before as well as after birth".

Art. 2 Protection from discrimination of any kind

Art. 3 The best interests of the child. In all actions concerning children the best interests of the child

must be a primary consideration.

Art. 4 Obliges the States-Parties to undertake all appropriate legislative and administrative measures for

the implementation of the rights recognised in the Convention.

Art. 5 Respect for the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents

Art. 6 The right to life and development

Art. 7 The right to a name, nationality, citizenship and birth certificate

Art. 8 The right to preserve his identity, including nationality, name and family relations

Art. 9 The protection of family ties and family contacts (i.e. in the case of divorce, separation,

imprisonment)

Art. 10 The right to leave or enter a State Party for the purpose of family reunification

Art. 11 Protection against illegal transfer of children abroad

Art. 12 The right to express his views, especially in all matters affecting the child

Art. 13 The right to freedom of expression which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart

information

Art. 14 The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion

Art. 15 The right to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful assembly

Art. 16 The right to privacy, which includes correspondence

Art. 17 Access to information from diverse national and international sources; protection from

information which is harmful to the child

Art. 18 Respect for the autonomy of the family and the responsibilities of the parents. State assistance

to parents and legal guardians in the performance of these responsibilities.

Art. 19 Protection from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment,

exploitation, including sexual abuse

Art. 20 Special protection for children temporarily or permanently deprived of their family environment

and alternative care.

Art. 21 The right to adoption when possibilities of family care are lacking

Art. 22 Protection and assistance for child refugees

Art. 23 Special protection and assistance for disabled children

Art. 24 Protection of the child's health; access to health care

Art. 25 The right of the child to a periodic review of the treatment provided when in health care

institutions

Art. 26 The right to social security, including social insurance

Art. 27 The right to an adequate standard of living

Art. 28 The right to education, including compulsory and free primary education

Art. 29 Educational goals

Art. 30 Minority rights, including the right to be raised within his own culture, language, religion, etc.

Art. 31 The right to rest and leisure

Art. 32 The right to protection from economic exploitation and performing any work that might be

harmful to him or interfere with his education

Art. 33 The right to protection from the illegal use of narcotics

Art. 34 The right to protection from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (pornography,

prostitution, etc.)

Art. 35 The right to protection from abduction and trafficking

Art. 36 The right to protection from all other forms of exploitation

Art. 37 Protection from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Art. 38 Prohibition of participation in armed conflicts for children under 15 years of age

Art. 39 The right to rehabilitation for child victims of abuse (torture, neglect, exploitation, cruelty)

Art. 40 Protection of, and special treatment for minors who have infringed the law

Art. 41 Respect for any domestic provisions, or provisions of international law in force for that State,

which are more conducive to the realisation of the rights of the child than the Convention
 
 

PART II The second part of the Convention concerns the measures that the parties will undertake to realise the principles, to create mechanisms of protection of these principles, including the creation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child which obliges the States-Parties to submit periodic reports on the state of children's rights within their countries

PART III The third part of the Convention concerns the means by which the Convention will be accepted: conditions for ratification, conditions for submitting reservations, conditions for denunciation of the Convention.

When presenting the Convention, remember to mention that the States-Parties are allowed to submit reservations, declarations and comments. Poland, for example, ratified the Convention in 1991 under the conditions of a Reservation and Declaration.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Supplement #2a for the Instructor

Children's rights were also included in earlier UN treaties. Here are some excerpts from other UN legal documents:

1. UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

(adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly, December 10, 1948)

(...)

Article 25

(...)

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or

out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

2. INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS

(adopted and opened for signature in New York on December 19, 1966)

(...)

Article 24

1. Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, national

or social origin, property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society and the State.

2. Every child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have a name.

3. Every child has the right to acquire a nationality.

3. THE INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL

RIGHTS

(New York, December 19, 1966)

(...)

Article 10

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognise that:

1. The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural

and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependent children. Marriage must be entered into with the free consent of the intending spouses.

2. Special protection should be accorded to mothers during a reasonable period before and after

childbirth. During such period working mothers should be accorded paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits.

3. Special measures of protection and assistance should be taken on behalf of all children and young

persons without any discrimination for reasons of parentage or other conditions. Children and

young persons should be protected from economic and social exploitation. Their employment in work harmful to their morals or health or dangerous to life or likely to hamper their normal development should be punishable by law. States should also set age limits below which the paid employment of child labour should be prohibited and punishable by law.
 
 

Supplement #3

GROUP I
 
 

Article 15 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

1. States Parties recognize the rights of the child to freedom of association and to freedom of peaceful

assembly.

2. 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.

Prepare a report on the realization of Article 15 in your country. The States-Parties to the Convention are obliged to include the appropriate information on the fundamental domestic legislation, court decisions, administrative activities, etc. and any difficulties faced in the realization and protection of the rights in this article in their country.

Your assignment is to describe how this right looks in reality: in the home, school, school trips, hospital, etc.
 
 

Your report should be comprised of two parts:

I. A qualitative evaluation of the level of respect given to this right by the child's legal guardians and by

those with authority over the child (parents, teachers, legal guardians, police, etc)

II. If violations were discovered, provide any examples of violations of this right that you are aware of.
 
 
 
 

Supplement #4

GROUP II
 
 
 
 

Article 13 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

1. The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; these rights 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.

2. 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:

(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; or

(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or

morals.
 
 

Prepare a report according to article 13 of the Convention. The States-Parties to the Convention are obliged to include the appropriate information on the fundamental domestic legislation, court decisions, administrative activities, etc. and any difficulties faced in the realization and protection of the rights in this article in their country.

Your assignment is to describe how this right looks in reality: in the home, school, school trips, hospital, etc.
 
 
 
 

Your report should be comprised of two parts:

I. A qualitative evaluation of the level of respect given to this right by the child's legal guardians and by

those with authority over the child (parents, teachers, legal guardians, police, etc.)

II. If violations were discovered, any examples of violations of this right that you are aware of. Are you

aware of any court cases that had to do with violations of this right, or cases which should be brought before a court of law?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Supplement #5
 
 

GROUP III
 
 
 
 

Article 16 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home

or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks

Prepare a report concerning the realization of article 16 in your country.

The States-Parties to the Convention are obliged to include the appropriate information on the fundamental domestic legislation, court decisions, administrative activities, etc. and any difficulties faced in the realization and protection of the rights in this article in their country.

Your assignment is to describe how this right looks in reality: in the home, school, school

trips, hospital, etc.

Pay attention to the following:


 
 

Your report should be comprised of two parts:

I. A qualitative evaluation of the level of respect given to this right by the child's legal guardians and by

those with authority over the child (parents, teachers, legal guardians, police, etc.)

II. If violations were discovered, any examples of violations of this right that you are aware of.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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Electronic Resource Centre for Human Rights Education:
Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - How to Protect Human Rights