Today is Human Rights Day, when the world celebrates the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) almost 70 years ago.
As the name of the Declaration makes clear, the rights it contains are universal, held by everyone throughout the world. The first sentence of the first article in it affirms that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights— and this includes in its scope all of the world’s children and young people.
Children’s rights are human rights
When we talk about the rights of children and young people, we spend a lot of time talking about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or UNCRC.
It’s true that this Convention gives people under 18 special protections, but it’s also true that many of the articles within it reaffirm rights that are also found in the UDHR.
With this in mind, we’re highlighting five fundamental rights that are found in the UNCRC and UDHR— rights which are held by children and young people, just like everyone else.
Freedom of conscience
The right to freedom of conscience is affirmed in both these documents: in article 14 of the UNCRC and article 18 of the UDHR. Freedom of conscience is about the right to be able to follow your own moral beliefs: to be able to make moral choices and to act upon them.
These choices may be religious, but they don’t have to be. For example, a way that a lot of children and young people exercise freedom of conscience is through choosing to become vegetarian, due to their belief that eating animals is wrong.
A right to privacy
Article 16 of the UNCRC and article 12 of the UDHR both affirm your right to privacy. You should be able to keep your family life private, and have a private space you can go to be alone. You should also be able to keep personal communication like your texts and phone calls private.
In Scotland, the right to privacy may not be respected if it puts someone in danger. For example, the police may look at a young person's emails if someone who isn’t who they say they are is contacting them.
Freedom of expression
The right to freedom of expression is affirmed in article 13 of the UNCRC and article 19 of the UDHR. It’s about being able to express your opinions freely and in any way you choose— whether that’s through writing, speaking, art or something else entirely.
Freedom of expression applies to everyone, so you shouldn’t find it restricted because of a disability you have, or because you’re a member of a particular religion or culture.
Freedom of association
Freedom of association is affirmed in article 15 of the UNCRC and article 20 of the UDHR.
Freedom of association is about being able to choose to join and to leave a group, and about the power of that group to defend its common interests. It covers groups like sports clubs, but also includes groups that advance a political cause.
A good enough standard of living
Article 27 of the UNCRC and article 25 of the UDHR both affirm your right to a good enough standard of living. The UNCRC specifies that this standard must be high enough to allow for your physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Several different needs have to be met for someone to have a good enough standard of living. It involves having enough – and good enough – food, clothing and medical care, good enough housing and access to necessary social services. It also implies the right to social security when these needs can’t be met by you or your family.
For Human Rights Day we’ve asked children and young people to make it clear they have human rights, by looking through the UDHR and finding a right that matters to them. You can see what they’ve been saying by following the hashtag #OurRightsAreHumanRights on social media.