Children’s Lives versus Children’s Rights

Updated: 21 May 2008, 22:58

Originally written: 12 December 2004

Child rights are supposedly enshrined in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by most countries.

Dr. Richard Horton, writing in the respected medical journal, The Lancet, accuses UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy of focusing the agency’s resources too heavily upon highlighting children’s “rights.” Dr. Horton, the editor of The Lancet, writes:
A preoccupation with rights ignores the fact that children will have no opportunity for development at all unless they survive
Bellamy, releasing UNICEF’s 10th annual report on the State of the World’s Children, said governments are not protecting children’s rights to a decent upbringing. The report says that one billion of the world’s two billion children are victims of poverty, violent conflict, and AIDS. According to the report, one in six children is severely hungry, and schools are targets of war.

Bellamy said “we’ve failed to deliver on the promise of childhood,” and “too many governments are making informed, deliberate choices that actually hurt childhood.” Bellamy admits that highlighting children’s rights has had mixed results in terms of reducing child poverty.

The apparent difference between UNICEF, and Dr. Horton, is the weighting of children’s rights against their lives.

History teaches us that “rights” and lives can be easily extinguished when they prove inconvenient. People talk of “rights” as if they are inalienable. That leads Capitalism’s Gravediggers to believe that history’s lessons have not been learned by most. Nonetheless, these lessons provide an appropriate stage for the current discussion.

Fifteen years after children’s rights were defined and enshrined by the United Nations, children are still starving, are still sex slaves, are still slaves, and are still conscripted as soldiers/killers. Such United Nations declarations are worse than useless. They encourage people to think that the social problems we want solved are being solved. In reality, those problems are not being addressed in a meaningful manner.

Instead, the United Nations, and supposedly progressive nations, make ridiculous statements such as “don’t use children as sex slaves” and “don’t force children to be killers.” If such statements were useful, they would not be necessary, because the situations would not occur in the first place. Do people honestly believe that child-slavers, or militias which force children to become soldiers, are going to be surprised to discover that many people believe that using children as sex slaves or soldiers is wrong?

Many will say that talking is useless, so we should invade the “bad” countries to free the children. The promoters of invasion hope that the number of children blown up, or orphaned, by the “good” invaders will be acceptable. They hope that the number of children who die because the country’s infrastructure will be destroyed, will be acceptable. But after all, the children are — through the miracle of death-speak — only collateral damage. Also, even in the “good” nations, children are forced into prostitution: “sex slavery.” Which nation is “good” enough to invade the United States, or Canada, or any other “industrialized nation?”

As always, if the problems are to be resolved, we must address the cause. That cause, as with most of the problems we face today, is capitalism. Capitalism makes child slavery profitable. Capitalism makes people poor enough to believe they have nothing to lose by joining a war for the war-lords and terrorist bosses. Capitalism breeds poverty, which breeds despair, which breeds violence. Those who seek to benefit from war, use the despair and acceptance of violence, to make war acceptable. The winners in war are the capitalists who profit from many aspects of war, such as weapons sales, rebuilding, reduced expectations from workers, and more amenable criminals running the government.

The solution, therefore, is to end capitalism and its non-stop war on children. Remember? That is the topic of this article: children’s supposed rights and lives.

Capitalism has developed the means of production so that everyone could be well fed. But capitalism cannot, because of its very structure, feed the starving. Capitalism has developed medical knowledge which could prevent millions of child deaths annually, but the children die. Capitalism has given us the ability to solve most of humanity’s problems, but the problems remain.

It is not a lack of will which prevents capitalism from solving the problems it causes. It is a lack of will to replace capitalism and thereby give us the freedom to resolve the problems. It is a lack of your will.


You can download the free report The State of the World’s Children 2005 - Official Summary from UNICEF. It is 22 pages, mostly of easily understood statistics. Some examples:

Childhood Shelter, water and health care Education, communication and information Survival Immunization
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