CRC@25: Child Refugees and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

As a child rights advocate, there are two important celebrations this year that are very relevant to my work and to the people with whom I work. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the World Refugee day is also being held every year, on the 20th of June.

Honoring the anniversary of the CRC cannot be complete without acknowledging the terrible situation of millions of refugee children throughout the world, especially in the Middle East where I work.  As one of the consequences of the war in Syria, children have fled to neighboring countries and currently make up more than half of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon. Children are in fact the largest group of stakeholders in terms of the humanitarian response. There is growing evidence of the devastating circumstances that these refugee children experience and the violation of their rights under the CRC.

A recent child-led report written by Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon and Jordan shows us that most children are not in school. Furthermore, those children that are ‘privileged’ enough to be at school live in constant fear of bullying, humiliation and violence. In the report, children also expressed that they are very concerned about increasing cases of early marriage. Children explained that they face poverty at home and many of them are being forced onto the streets to generate an income for their families.

Violations to basic rights is a daily reality for these children, despite the fact that the CRC explicitly recognizes in article 22 that refugee children have the right to receive appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance.

Throughout my professional life, I have engaged with many children and young people, and it always astounds me how children are able to advocate for child rights regardless of their race, ethnicity, nationality or religion. The CRC has given children a powerful tool to advocate for their rights based on the universal principles granted for all children and this child-led report is further evidence of how children can exercise their right to participate.

Interestingly, 83% of children who participated in the development of the child-led report said that they would participate in the relief efforts if given the chance. This demonstrates that children are asking for an opportunity to help other children, children of their generation, a generation which is at risk of being lost.

I was particularly touched by the desire of many of the children to convert their suffering into advocacy for justice in the future. It is evident that they want peace and justice and these dreams extend to all children around the world, to rise above the sectarianism, hatred and violence in their home countries.

The 25th anniversary of the CRC should remind us how important it is to adhere to its principles and to take into account the reality of millions of refugee children. It is important to keep this in mind when developing programs for children to ensure they benefit from physical, mental and emotional development.

Discover World Vision's CRC@25 blog series.

About the author

Olivia Pennikian is the Advocacy Manager for World Vision Lebanon. Olivia leads the WV Lebanon Advocacy strategy which prioritizes children as the catalysts for policy reform on issues affecting them in order to address the causes of inequality and injustice. Olivia also oversees the Peacebuilding and Faith and Development strategies.