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The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as every “human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. [1] Some English definitions of the word child include the fetus and the unborn. Biologically, childhood is between birth and puberty. In a developmental definition, childhood is the age group between infancy and adulthood. Some classify Youth or adolescence between childhood and adulthood. Legally, being considered “youth” might give special treatment under the law (e.g. criminal law or entitlements). In general, children have different rights than adults, and they are under the care of an adult until they reach legal maturity.

It is quite recent, that children are considered a unique and separate population group that deservice special children’s policy. Not so long ago, children were view as property, completely at the disposal of the adults surrounding them. The international law, and in particular the growing consensus on the extension of basic human rights in the twentieth century led to the acceptance of the autonomy of children as well as the acknowledgment  of the child as an individual human being with special needs and rights.

Children’s Rights

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1989. It is a set of universally agreed standard and obligations to protect the rights of children regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability. It is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. it was signed by 192 of the 192 UN member countries.

In 2002, leaders from 189 countries came together at the United Nations for a Special Session of the UN General Assembly on Children. This led to an international agreement on protecting and promoting children’s rights, called A World Fit for Children. This agreement sets 21 time-bound goals for children’s well-being in the next decade, to be achieved in conjunction with the Millennium Development Goals.

Key Numbers on Children worldwide

In 2009, 6,775 million children and young people aged 0-14 lived in this world. This is an increase from  5,2 billions in 1990. The number of young people will increase further, numbering in 2025 (projected) 7,950 million. This increase in absolute numbers stands in contrast to the relative share of this age group to the total world population. The share of children and young people aged 0-14 in the world population has decreased from 32.9% in 1990 to 27.5% in 2009. This reflects a growth rate of 1.3% annually which is however projected to decrease to 1.1% in the period 2009/2015 and further decrease to 0.9% between 2015-2025. This trend is the same for all countries but there are regional differences in both absolute and relative changes.[3]

World Bank Infant Mortality map

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See also


  2. Ben-Arieh, A. (2006). “Measuring and monitoring the well-being of young children around the world”. Background paper prepares for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007, UNESCO. Available at:
  3. Table with Population Data from The World Bank. Retrieved on 24 June, 2011, from: and can be compiled from here (Population):


Doing Better for Children



Save the Children

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Children

Foundation for Child Development

International Society for Child Indicators

OECD countries: Statistics on Child well-being