Children make up approximately one third of the world populaton. Children depend on their parents and caregivers. They are therefore in a vulnerable position and need additional protection.
The promotion and protection of children's rights is a priority for both Belgium and the EU, which has developed guidelines for the promotion and protection of children's rights. Belgium contributes to the implementation of these guidelines. The main aim of the guidelines, in line with the crucial theme of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is to leave no child behind'. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the guiding principle in achieving this goal and implementing the guidelines.
Within the UN, the Convention on the Rights of the Child came into being in 1989. This Convention is based on four basic principles: non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to survival and development, and the view of the child. The Convention contains several ideas that have brought about a real change in how we look at children: children are not seen as merely placed under the authority of their parents, but are explicitly recognised as rightholders. According to the Convention, childhood is distinct from adulthood and lasts until the age of eighteen. This time is a protected time, in which children must be able to grow, learn, play, develop and blossom with dignity. This basic convention on the rights of the child was later supplemented by 3 Optional Protocols: an Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) , an Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC), and an Optional Protocol on a Communication Procedure (OPIC). Belgium has ratified both the Convention and the three Optional Protocols.
Within the framework of the Human Rights Council and the Third Committee of the General Assembly, Belgium supports initiatives at EU level to promote and protect children's rights. Belgium also supports the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.
UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, is a partner organisation of Belgian development cooperation.
Also in the context of the Council of Europe, Belgium is committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.