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Saturday, September 18, 1999 Published at 01:37 GMT 02:37 UK


BBC series champions children's rights

Child labour is outlawed under the convention, but continues

Children from around the world will speak out about their lives in a unique set of BBC programmes to mark the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

BBC World Service, in conjunction with Unicef, is launching a series of more than 200 programmes about children's lives on Saturday.

The programmes, in 22 languages, lead up to a week of events in mid-November which mark the 10th anniversary of the UN convention.

They kick off on Saturday with a six-part English series called A World for Children which talks to child soldiers from Uganda, street children in Brazil, child prostitutes in the Philippines and children growing up in Germany.

The programmes will examine who is responsible for protecting their rights.

One of the speakers is 12-year-old Joyce who was abducted from Uganda and marched across the border into Sudan to be given military training.

She managed to escape after being seriously wounded in battle.

Other programmes in the World Service initiative include:

  • Nine mini-packages in Albanian on the life of Kosovo children during the war, including what it is like to be a refugee, how children cope with disrupted schooling and with the psychological traumas of war
  • An Arabic series looking at nutrition, education, family relations, marriage, life on the streets and the media in four or five key countries
  • Programmes in Bengali and Indonesian on what it is like to be a child labourer
  • An examination of the effect of China's One Child policy
  • A series on child artists, performers and athletes in Africa
  • Urdu programmes on the changing nature of family life in South Asia

In addition to the programmes, the BBC is creating an audio archive of children's lives at the turn of the millennium and a website - at - where an interactive debate on children's rights will be carried out.


The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified of all international conventions.

Every country in the world has signed up to it, although Somalia and the US have yet to ratify it.

Ratification means the convention has to be incorporated into national law.

Every five years countries have to report to the UN on their progress in enforcing the convention.

[ image: The BBC series will look at the plight of child soldiers]
The BBC series will look at the plight of child soldiers
The convention sets out a series of rights, including the right to good quality education, protection from abuse and healthcare.

It outlaws child labour, child trafficking and says children under 15 should not serve as soldiers.

Despite widespread ratification, however, much abuse still exists.

Unicef says there are three main ways in which the convention could be strengthened.

It wants governments and civil society, including parents and non-governmental organisations, to work harder to enforce it.

It also wants some amendments to the convention to stop countries opting out of some of its stipulations.

For example, the convention says children should not be placed in adult prisons, but the UK still allows this.

The UK also does not accord refugee children the same rights as nationals. They come under immigration law, rather than stronger, general legislation regarding children.

"They are not legally treated as children," said a Unicef spokeswoman.

Unicef also wants to see the convention lift the age at which people are allowed to become soldiers from 15 to 18.

"Fifteen year olds should not be fighting as war has damaging psychological consequences on children.

"And if 15-year-olds are allowed to fight there are sure to be 12- and 13-year-olds who slip through because, in some countries, there is no birth registration and there is not such a big difference between a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old as between an 18-year-old and a 13-year-old," said the spokeswoman.

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