(Child Rights Alliance) - Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on in 1989
. Estonia joined the convention in 1991. The Child Protection Act of the Republic of Estonia also follows the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child lists internationally acknowledged rights of children. The aim of the adoption of the convention was to emphasize something that adults tend to forget – a child is a human together with all the rights a parent has. The Convention on the Rights of the Child sees child as a subject of law or, to put in another way, as a holder of rights. This means that a child is an individual who has human rights and no one has owner’s rights over the child, including parents.
Rights of a child are human rights. These are rights which apply to everyone, irrespective of age, gender, nationality or other characteristics. Therefore a child has mostly the same rights that adults have. When we speak about rights of a child we mean the child’s human rights.
Children of different age and gender have various interests and needs. But despite the differences, they have equal rights. All of them have the right to equal treatment. All children have equal rights.
In addition to rights, children also have responsibilities, like adult members of the society. A child’s rights end where the rights of another child or an adult begin. This means that rights have limits and a child must consider the rights of other children and adults when exercising his/her rights. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand.
A child has the right to education, but at the same time his/her duty is to attend school. A child has a right to health protection, but he/she has an obligation take care of his/her health. A child has a right to free speech, but by exercising one's right to free speech, the child must respect the rights of other children and adults, above all the right to protect one's honour and dignity.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child gives the child the right to exercise his/her rights and bear obligations. This means that as the child grows his/her right to decide himself/herself increases and so does the scope of responsibility. Until a child is not able to execute his/her rights, his/her parents or representatives will do it. The interests of the child must always be the starting point.
As children cannot always protect their rights and interests, they need help and protection from adults. Children have to be protected from mental and physical violence, injustice, negligence, abuse, sexual abuse and other threats. Additionally, adults must ensure that children have what they need to live and establish suitable conditions for the development of children's skills and interests.
The basis for a mutually respectful living environment is mutual respect. Children must respect adults (parents, grandparents, kindergarten and school teachers, etc.) and other children like adults must respect children and other adults. Mutual respect and consideration of wishes is one of the important premises of the society's coexistence.
The Convention on the Rights of Children lists four general principles: prohibition of unfair treatment, setting the interests of a child as a priority, survival of a child, ensuring a child's development and taking a child's opinions into consideration. These four principles form the basis of the convention and a child friendly environment standard, which enables the child to develop harmoniously and realise all his/her potentials, if it is followed. (Read more: Children’s rights. Estonian Union for Child Welfare: Tallinn, 2005, pages 11–15, 41.)
1. Prohibition of unfair treatment. All children have equal rights. A child cannot be treated worse than others due to his/her gender, origin, nationality, race, health condition or some other reason.
2. Setting the interests of a child as a priority. One of the main principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child is to always make the interests of the child as priority when making decisions that have an impact on the child. To guarantee a child friendly society, the legislator, government, employees, unions and members of the society must evaluate the impact of decisions and activities on children. The interests of a child must always be taken into account when making decisions and planning activities. Setting the interests of a child as a priority means, among other things, that the child's concerns are paid attention to and his/her opinion is taken into consideration.
3. Guaranteeing survival and development. Every child has a right to life and development. The primary obligation of parents is to do whatever they can to establish a growth environment for their children, which enables them to grow and to realise their talents and skills. In relation to that, the state must offer every kind of help, counselling and support to parents. If the parents, despite every kind of help from the state, cannot guarantee necessary development conditions for children, the state must take this obligation over from parents.