30 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis meets two school classes on the occasion

Bern, 20.11.2019 - The right to education, protection, play and leisure – children have certain rights that, alongside their general welfare, states are obliged to guarantee. These obligations are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted 30 years ago today. To mark the occasion, Mr Cassis, head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, opened the doors of the Federal Palace in Bern to two school classes from the canton of Ticino.

"Today, it goes without saying that children can go to school, enjoy other activities in their free time, and voice their opinions," stated Mr Cassis during his meeting with the school pupils from Ascona. "But it took the Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that children – worldwide – even had these rights."

Mr Cassis went on to say that we must not be complacent about this. Although more children worldwide are enrolled in school than ever before, many are unable to finish their schooling because of poverty, displacement, forced marriage or other reasons. Over 260 million children never have the chance to go to school at all. Another issue is the poor quality of education. More than 60% of children in sub-Saharan Africa can hardly read or write even after six years of primary school, for example. "Children must be given the chance to equip themselves with the skills they need for the future," said Mr Cassis. He went on to state that children and young people should be included more in all areas of life – family, school, politics and society. "Children are our future," he said. "By taking their rights seriously, we take our future seriously."

Switzerland's far-reaching commitment
Switzerland is committed to supporting children's rights in a number of areas, such as the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and the Global Partnership for Education. These are partnerships between private and public bodies working to make a safe world where children can develop and learn. Switzerland also promotes access to high-quality schooling in its partner countries, such as in Afghanistan, Mali and Jordan.

In terms of human rights policy, Switzerland works in particular for the protection of children in the field of justice. Children and adolescents who come into contact with or violate the law are entitled to the rights enshrined in the Convention. In Senegal, for example, Switzerland is committed to the continuing education and training of judges, lawyers, social workers, police officers and other actors in juvenile justice to ensure that children and young people are treated correctly in the judicial system. Switzerland also co-financed the UN's Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, which was presented in Geneva yesterday.

One of Switzerland's most important partners in the field of children's rights is the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Together with UNICEF, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has, for example, been supporting the government of Burkina Faso since 2017 with innovative teaching models such as mobile teachers and school lessons over the radio. This has helped 875,000 children (46% of them girls) to continue their education after many schools were destroyed or had to be closed after terrorist attacks. The SDC also provides Swiss expertise on different education and training models in its international development cooperation work.

Legal personality of the child
On 20 November 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which children were recognised for the first time as having a legal personality. With 196 signatories, the Convention is the most widely ratified of the UN's human rights treaties. It includes the right of children to primary education free of charge, and to develop their personality, talents and abilities to their fullest potential. The Convention also grants children protection from all forms of sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or economic exploitation, and their right to the "highest attainable standard of health". For their part, states parties to the Convention are obliged to make the welfare and best interests of the child the primary consideration in related decisions and actions.

Since the Convention entered into force, it has been supplemented by three additional protocols: the first to protect children in armed conflicts, the second to protect them from child trafficking, child prostitution and child pornography, and the third, which concerns an individual complaints procedure. Switzerland has ratified all three additional protocols.

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