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Why are children's rights invisible?

Written by Caroline Harper, Nicola Jones


This Opinion asks why children's rights remain largely 'invisible' on the international agenda and sets out measures to address this invisibility. All but two countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but the Opinion questions the significance of this apparent consensus and calls for more resources to monitor and implement child rights.

On a public relations front, no country wants to be seen as opposed to the well-being of children, and ratifying the Convention appeared to be uncontroversial. However, the Opinion contends that governments need to do more than simply ‘acknowledge’ their obligations. The swift ratification of the Convention could suggest that childhood is not seen as a serious political issue.

Children, more than any other socially-excluded group, face a particular depth of voicelessness. When compared to other rights bearers, they are, in effect, silenced by their legally dependent status and their lack of political enfranchisement. And this voicelessness runs deep – in the family, the community and the broader political arena. The Opinion argues that perceptions of child as property, chattels or assets contribute to the invisibility of their rights, and that genuine implementation of the Convention would require a shift in existing power relationships between adults and children in every sphere.  

In conclusion, the Opinion calls for: the establishment of units to address child rights across ministries; investment in research on what drives child vulnerability; child sensitive budget analysis;  greater resources to monitor and implement child rights; greater implementation of the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; and the possible integration of child protection programmes into broader social protection programmes.