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Report No. 165

3.6. International Covenants relevant to the subject.-

Since the days of the League of Nations, commitments for the protection of children have been projected in various international treaties and declarations. The Geneva Declaration containing five principles was adopted on 26th September, 1924. It stated that necessary means must be given for the physical and spiritual development of the child, and specifically provided that a child must be educated and protected against exploitation. Thereafter, the landmark 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that children as a category are entitled to special care and assistance. In Article 26, the right to compulsory free education, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages is recognised1.

1. Leila Seth, The First Rosalind Wilson Memorial Lecture, India International Centre Quarterly, Winter 1993, p. 79.

3.6.1. On 20th November, 1959, the Declaration on the Rights of the Child was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. It contained 10 principles which enriched and developed the 1924 Geneva Declaration. Exactly 30 years later, on 20th November, 1989 the General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the rights of the child. It entered into force on 2nd September, 1990, having been ratified by the required 20 States.

This Convention has been recognised as the most complete statement of children's rights with the force of international law. The earlier 1959, UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, though an international instrument, carried no binding legal obligation, whereas the Convention demands an active decision on the part of the individual States ratifying it. Further, a mechanism for monetary compliance is an integral function of the Convention and the signatory States are obliged to report to a Committee on the Rights of the Child1.

1. Id., p. 80

3.6.2. The Convention recognises the special vulnerability of children and deals not only with civil and political rights but also economic, social, cultural and humanitarian rights which are mutually inter-dependent. It has a holistic approach and acknowledges that although a child may be adequately nourished, its right to develop fully is not properly protected unless it is also educated and shielded from such things as arbitrary detention and exploitation at work.

The main underlying principle of the convention is that the best interest of the child shall always be the major consideration and that the child's own opinion shall be given due regard. The child is recognised as an individual with needs which evolve with age and maturity. Consequently, the child has been given the right to participate in the decisions affecting its present and future when balancing the child's right with the rights and duties of parents or others who are responsible for its survival, development and protection1.

1. Leila Seth, The First Rosalind Wilson Memorial Lecture, India International Centre Quarterly, Winter 1993, p. 79.

3.6.3. The Preamble of the Convention recalls the basic principles of the United Nations and specific provisions of certain relevant human rights treaties and proclamations; it reaffirms the fact that children, because of their vulnerability, need special care and protection and places special emphasis on the primary earning and protective responsibility of the family, the need for legal and other protection of the child before and after birth, the importance of respect for the cultural values of the child's community and the vital role of International co-operation in achieving the realisation of children's rights1.

1. Ibid.

3.6.4. It advocates concerned public action by all individuals and agencies -government as well as non-governmental, local, national, regional and international to promote the rights of the child. The Convention, is in a sense, a means of empowering children and creating an environment in which all children are able to live securely and realize their full potential in life.

Free and compulsory Education for Children Back

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