EU-UNU Tokyo Global Forum
Children in Turmoil
Rights of the Child in the Midst of Human Insecurity
In 2001 the Delegation of the European Commission in
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) provides the international legal framework for the care and protection of children and their participation in society. It defines the fundamental rights of children and it encapsulates an extraordinary consensus by governments on this subject. A special session of the UN General Assembly in 2002 on children highlighted the vulnerability of the young to poverty, greed, crime, disease and exploitation. A specific article on children’s rights is also included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The EU, as the largest donor of humanitarian assistance and development aid in the world, has consistently sought to underpin the goals of the UN and its agencies. Continued international cooperation and coordination among UN agencies, governments, commercial actors and civil society will be required to strengthen the effective protection of children and to promote their education and health.
The increasingly widespread sexual exploitation of children is a matter of grave international concern. Child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children are all major violations of children’s rights. These crimes against children reach across national boundaries aided by modern methods of travel and communication, with perpetrators and victims in both industrial and developing countries.
The scope and unregulated nature of the Internet has created an increase in both the volume and availability of child pornography. The Internet not only acts as a mechanism for making, displaying, trading and distributing child pornography; it is becoming also a magnet for child sex abusers, putting more children at risk.
The vast majority of abused children are the victims of people they know, with predators lurking within a child's circle of trust. Abuse in the home is one of the leading causes of psychological trauma in children, and there is a high risk of drug and alcohol abuse as well as juvenile delinquency among children from violent homes.
One reason for ‘summit fatigue’ is the cynicism towards unimplemented pledges. Many of the development goals set by the 1990 World Summit for Children remain unfulfilled. Nearly 11 million children still die each year before their fifth birthday, an estimated 150 million children are malnourished and nearly 120 million are still out of school.
However, the greatest problem in realizing the rights of children is poverty. At a time of immense global prosperity, half of the world’s population remains impoverished. A more recent problem is the HIV/AIDS pandemic, affecting children both directly and indirectly in that it deprives them of parents, teachers, health workers etc. Other communicable diseases remain of great concern, alone or in combination with other diseases; malaria, for example, kills 800,000 children under five each year.
An estimated two million children were killed in armed conflicts in the past decade. Approximately 250 million children from the age of five to fourteen are working. These statistics testify to the denial of childhood for millions of children around the world.
Globalisation has changed the face of child labour throughout the world as manufacturing industries – often multinational corporations – concentrate their production in countries with cheaper labour costs. Consumer pressure and NGO campaigns have successfully put this issue onto the international political agenda, and the UN’s “Global Compact” is making progress in promoting corporate responsibility.