Ghazal Alyazidi

International Children's Day is a global occasion that occurs on the twentieth of November every year.

The celebration of this day aims to signify the importance that all children around the world should receive attention and care, in addition to raising awareness and highlighting the issues that children suffer globally and urging society segments to think about better ways to provide an optimal environment for children.

Interest in children's issues began to appear on the scene after the end of World War II, as the problems of children in Europe worsened and required urgent intervention. Therefore, one of the priorities of the United Nations after its foundation was the establishment of its United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Its primary mission was to stop the deterioration of the health and educational situation of children, to pay attention to their issues and provide them with the necessary needs.

The reason for choosing this date is due to the anniversary of the twentieth of November 1959, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the initial foundations of the agreement were laid down, and the anniversary of its final adoption was also on the twentieth of November of 1989. The yearly celebration of the International Children's Day began in 1990, this year’s celebration marks the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, thirty years was a milestone in highlighting the global issues facing Children and creating a significant change in legislating basic concepts and rights for them.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international charter that clarifies the basic rights and duties that must be provided to children around the world, and this includes civil, educational, social, health and other fundamental rights, the implementation and follow-up of these rights and their results are supervised by specialized committees at the United Nations to monitor the situation of children in the member states of the Convention.

It is noteworthy that all countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations with the exception of the United States, which has signed the Convention but has not ratified its provisions, which means that they are not obligated to implement it.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every person under the age of eighteen is classified as a child. The agreement includes 54 articles, in addition to two optional protocols, in which the articles include all the basic rights that guarantee a safe and healthy environment for raising children in a way that guarantees them the simplest rights with regard to education, health and social care, such as protection from family violence and physical assault and preventing child labor. As for the two optional protocols, they include not involve children in wars, and the criminalization of their sale or exploitation in everything that is classified as immoral. For countries, signing the agreement and ratifying its provisions make them legally binding in front of their peoples and the international community to protect the rights of children therein in the way it was rectified.

At the international level, Saudi Arabia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Child in 1995, and entered into effect in 1996, with reservations on some articles, some of which are inconsistent with Islamic law and some that inconsistent with its laws. For example, article 14 was reserved, stipulating that “states parties respect the child’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Article 21, which is concerned with the issue of adoption, was also reserved, because adoption, as stipulated in the clause, contradicts Islamic law, which opposed adoption in the form stipulated, and allowed other aspects of caring for the orphan, as a social security.

It is important to note Saudi Arabia's accession to international agreements and optional protocols, to demonstrate to the world its internal concern in the most important issues in the international forums, and to refute any misconceptions about the kingdom and its society, on the other hand, it is important to note the right of states to reserve articles that conflict with their laws, and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) has guaranteed this right to states. A number of Arab and Islamic agreements have also been ratified, including the “Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam” adopted by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 2005.

On the internal level, the Saudi internal policies included the rights of the child which ensure educational, health, social and other care for them, all of which are specified in timetables to monitor and advance the results. For example, the system of protection from violence and abuse in the Kingdom is concerned with following up issues such as cases of physical violence and family neglect suffered by children, and the intervention includes all members of the family in which the child is exposed to harm, and the concerned authorities take all measures that must be taken and followed up in order to achieve the best ways to care for the child and his/her stability. In addition, a large part of the institutions’ role is to educate and spread awareness about the problems children may face and ways to reduce them.

The Family Safety Program is as equally important, for being one of the institutions concerned with protecting children from violence, and among its projects is the “Child Support Line”, which is meant for receiving reports of violence against children and taking the necessary measures. It is noteworthy that Saudi internal efforts to protect children's rights are not limited to citizens, as they also include Syrian and Yemeni children, by providing them with free educational and health care services inside the Kingdom.

Finally, Saudi efforts to protect children's rights are not only limited to its geographical borders, but also extend beyond it. As an example of this, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) works to rehabilitate children who have been recruited by militias in Yemen, or who have been affected by the war, and are integrated into the schools they left behind, in addition to providing health care such as basic vaccinations, and continuous cooperation with international organizations to eliminate cholera.

Saudi support for children's rights internationally includes the children of Palestine as well, through generous and continuous financial support to UNRWA, which is being used to improve health centers, educational institutions and sports facilities affiliated with schools, so that Palestinian children can obtain the most basic rights that they should have.