UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty that sets out universally accepted rights for children. It is a benchmark against which a nation’s treatment of its children can be measured. It brings together in one comprehensive code the benefits and protection for children hitherto scattered in a variety of other agreements, including the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted in 1959.
The Convention was officially approved by the United Nations in 1989 and has been ratified by almost every country in the world. Ratification of the Convention is a commitment by “States Parties” to comply with the articles of the Convention and thereby to protect and enhance the basic rights of children through their policies, programs and services.
Article 31 of the Convention
That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
Indivisibility of Convention Articles
One of the greatest strengths of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is that all articles of the Convention are inter-related and indivisible. Articles other than 31 have direct implications for children’s play. For example, article 3 states that, in all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration; article 12 gives the child the right to express his/her views freely and have them considered.
The Convention also states that education should be directed to a broad range of developmental areas, including the child’s personality, talents, and mental and physical abilities (article 29). Play and recreation activities can play a significant role in fulfilling the child’s right to “the highest attainable standard of health” and to “preventive health care”, as set out in article 24. Article 23 gives children with disabilities the right to recreation and the fullest possible social integration and individual development.
Article 30 states that children of ethno-cultural minorities, or of indigenous origin, have the right to enjoy their own culture, which would include their own forms of play/recreation. Article 19 is also relevant to play and recreation in that it aims to prevent child abuse and childhood injury. Adults have a responsibility to ensure that children have safe environments and materials for their leisure activities. These are just a few examples of the relevance of the Convention to children’s play.
The Role of IPA
In 1971 IPA agreed that it would be important for the organization to work in co-operation with UN organizations. IPA is recognized by ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) and UNICEF, and work in agreement with their principles. These organizations give context to our work, as follows:
- Our focus on human rights, specifically the child’s right to play as stated in the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, and now embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- Our feeling of solidarity with children all over the world.
- Our involvement in peace education. IPA has been appointed as a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations.
- Our commitment to the development of each individual to the maximum of their potential, the protection and enhancement of their culture, and the importance of the family and community.
In 1977 IPA developed the IPA Declaration on the Child’s Right to Play. This document amplifies Article 31 by proposing policy actions within the normal sectors of government with a responsibility for children’s play and recreation.