*Updated on the 21/11/2023

On 20 November, we celebrate World Children’s Day and commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified international instrument, enshrined, for the first time in international law, the recognition of children as subjects of the full scope of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.1 For decades, the Convention has been guiding the adoption of laws and policies, and the functioning of institutions to secure effective protection of children’s rights. Three Optional Protocols, on the involvement of children in armed conflict, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on a communications procedure has reinforced the letter of the Convention. The Convention constitutes a crucial reference for implementing other instruments and policies, such as the Sustainable Development Agenda and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. 

However, the reality is that we are far from achieving the universal realisation of children’s rights. Children account for 41 % of the world’s more than 100 million forcibly displaced people and around 40 million children are severely nutrition insecure, not receiving the bare minimum they need to grow and develop in early childhood.2 There are 468 million children worldwide living in armed conflict zones, whose rights are severely impacted, underscored today the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.3 In 2022, the United Nations verified 27,180 grave violations against children, of which killing and maiming, the recruitment and use of children abduction and the denial of humanitarian access, continued to be the highest violations.4 As Child Rights Connect has recently communicated, grave violations of children’s rights have been committed in the context of armed conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Given the disproportionate impact of that conflict on children, we fully support the calls made by many UN bodies and experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for an immediate ceasefire. 

Conflicts continue to put an end to or seriously obstruct access to education of millions of children, contrary to their right to education being guaranteed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Sustainable Development Goal 4, UN Security Resolution 2601 (2021), and the Safe Schools Declaration.5  

On this day, we are calling upon all States, businesses, parents and guardians to live up to their respective responsibilities and obligations to effectively ensure children’s rights everywhere and to create an environment where children can thrive, play and speak up for their rights while being protected from poverty, violence, conflict and crime. 

In addition, we recall that the Guidance Note of the Secretary General on Child Rights Mainstreaming is instrumental in strengthening the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by providing practical guidance to all levels of the United Nations, across all three pillars (development, human rights, and peace and security), to Headquarters, regional and field contexts, on how to integrate children’s rights within management, programmes and operations.   


[1] UN, Guidance Note of the Secretary General, Child Mainstreaming, Call to Action for Human Rights, July 2023, p.2, https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/2023-09/Guidance-Note-Secretary-General-Child-Rights-Mainstreaming-July-2023.pdf

[2] OHCHR, High Commissioner opens the 92nd Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, 16 January 2023, https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements-and-speeches/2023/01/high-commissioner-opens-92nd-session-committee-rights-child

[3] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, “End the killing of children in armed conflict”, 20 November 2023, https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2023/11/end-killing-children-armed-conflict-un-committee-urges

[4] Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Statement by SRSG Gamba at the Third Committee of the General Assembly Discussion of the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children ,05 October 2023, https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/2023/10/statement-by-srsg-gamba-at-the-third-committee-of-the-general-assembly-discussion-of-the-promotion-and-protection-of-the-rights-of-children-2/

[5] UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children and for Children and Armed Conflict, Joint Statement for the commemoration of the International Day to Protect Education from Attack, 08 September 2023, https://violenceagainstchildren.un.org/news/joint-statement-commemoration-international-day-protect-education-attack-special