The Rights of 900 million children
Within a period of six weeks each year the world commemorates two United Nations anniversaries: United Nations Day on October 24 and Human Rights Day on December 10. This year The Unesco Courier wishes to mark both occasions by devoting this special issue to the theme of Human Rights Day 1957 The Rights of Children.
Our era has been an appalling one for children. Millions upon millions awoke to life amidst ruin and death, and the memory of those frightful days has left a deep-set mark. If today, most children can look out on a world less violent, the welfare of children has not ceased to be one of the major preoccupations of the world community.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations nine years ago is valid for young and old alike. Several of its thirty-three articles deal specifically with children and seek to ensure their physical and moral protection, their education and full development. The Declaration is not a treaty binding governments under international law but it sets forth a standard of principles to which we must all aspire if we are to live in freedom and in peace.
Over the past ten years much of the work of the U.N. itself and of its special agencies such as the U.N. Children's Fund, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization or Unesco has been devoted to implementing the various rights listed in the Universal Declaration, whether such work was in the form of a prick of a needle to prevent tuberculosis, advice on nutrition to build strong bodies, the provision of schools to nourish young minds, or the supply of powdered milk to save children from starvation.
Recognizing that the child needs special protection because of his physical and mental immaturity, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights has been considering a "Declaration of the Rights of the Child" drafted several years ago by the United Nations Social Commission (for text of draft Declaration see page 29). The project was debated in Geneva last April and the results of these discussions have been transmitted to the member states of the U.N. for comment. Detailed discussion of the Declaration is scheduled to begin in Paris next year. One can thus hope that a new international instrument in defence of the rights of children will soon be formulated within the framework of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights whose tenth anniversary falls next year.