On 20 November 2019, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is the reason why this issue of the European Yearbook on Human Rights is dedicated to children's rights. With 196 States parties, and only the US still missing, the CRC is the most widely ratified of all human rights treaties. By introducing a human rights-based approach to children, and including both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, the CRC brought about a paradigm shift in the way children are perceived today. The perception of the child has evolved from objects of rights in need of protection to the subject of rights whose opinions and active engagement is asked and strived for. They are no longer considered only as a vulnerable group in need of care and protection but also as a distinct group of young individuals in need of self-determination, autonomy and the right to participate in all decisions that directly affect their lives. Adults are expected to better understand that children are experts in their own right and whose views shall be taken into account in major decision-making processes. The recent Fridays for Future strikes, initiated and organised by high school children across the world, made clear that children are, with good reason, worried about their future in times of a dramatic climate crisis and demand to be involved in decisions aimed at drastically reducing global warming to save our planet. Children also increasingly make use of their more recent right to submit individual complaints to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in accordance with the respective Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communication Procedure of 2011.
The CRC incorporates a broad variety of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, which may be grouped into protection, provisions and participation rights. It is based on the following four general principles identified by the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
– the inherent right to life, which also contains the positive obligation of States to ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child (Art. 6);
– the obligation to respect and ensure all children's rights without discrimination of any kind (Art. 2);
– the right to participation of children in all matters affecting them (Art. 12);