As I young person I have the right to …

As a young person I feel that I should have the right to be lawfully assigned basic human rights just like any other human being. In my view, this means that I have the right to be treated equally with others, socially, intellectually and politically, and receive a fair hearing when things go wrong. I also feel that as a young person I need help to make the transition through childhood into informed and responsible adult citizenship. I would go so far as to expect my right to a safe and secure passage with all my basic needs fully met and life chances provided for.

So, let me consider whether this expectation is realistic in terms of conditions for young people in Europe and specifically in my own country, Wales, in the United Kingdom, as well as elsewhere in the world. How do we define, young peoples’ rights globally and how do we apply them? How also do we ensure young people know what their rights are?

First of all, what is the ‘official’ definition of young people’s rights? In my personal opinion it is difficult to establish a universally applied definition because of the cultural differences between countries.

A young person’s rights are often hard to pinpoint and difficult obtain an accurate description for, young people aren’t often aware of their rights as they can be sometimes be difficult to understand and to interpret. An example of this includes the United Nations (UN) Children’s rights convention, as there is an overwhelming amount of information about this convention, which takes time to research and comprehend.

The convention came about In 1989, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because “people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not”; this led to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 1990. It became the most widely accepted human rights treaty in history.

This convention gave rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols, yet these rights are technically not an obligation, they are optional. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) upholds the Convention on the Rights of the Child and they advocate that, “States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child”. Yet no international prosecution will occur if these rights are not met. UNICEF asks that if a nation is signed up to the convention, they will “hold themselves accountable for this commitment”. Every nation signed up to the conventions agreements except for The United States of America and Somalia.

The fact that there are not any major repercussions if these rights are not met means there can be different levels of understanding or commitment within a nation, as well as different countries interpreting how to follow these rights in different ways. Even in such a union as the European Union, the rights of a young person differ on massive scales, especially from East to West.

To take it a level deeper, within the United Kingdom the rights of a young person change on certain levels between the different countries that make up that kingdom. I am a Youth Worker in Cardiff, Wales; my understanding of young people’s rights will be based around those rights upheld in Wales itself. In my role as a youth worker, I try to compare those rights to those within Europe, as well as a small look at young people’s rights on a global level, to further my understanding on young people’s rights.

On the 20 November 1989, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 193 Nations signed the agreement; it provided a guideline for the basic standards for children’s well-being at different stages of their development and is the first universal, legally binding code of child rights in history.

The rights are stated in 54 articles, UNICEF has attempted to describe these articles in a more people friendly form, away from the government jargon of the UN General Assembly. The UNICEF website answers crucial questions for young people, especially in the “Are you old enough?” section. This area answers youth related questions on topics such on war, work, sex, voting, and most perhaps most importantly, young people’s right to be heard.

There is also a section of the website for youth reading around how to take action …..

Read the full article in the first issue of Libertas +

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