Prior to the 20th century, childhood wasn't seen as a special part of life - it was merely a transition state between infancy and adulthood. As soon as children were old and strong enough, they had to work.

However, as countries have become wealthier, 'childhood' has been recognised as a time for education, recreation, growth and discovery. Regardless, childhood remains a period of hardship for many children.

The United Nations has sought to set out the rights of children, either directly or indirectly, in most of its 80 human rights treaties.

However, in 1989, ten years after work began on its drafting, the nations of the world agreed to adopt the Convention on the Rights of the Child .

The Convention sets out, amongst other things, children's right to education, health care and economic opportunity; protection from abuse, neglect and sexual and economic exploitation. It also says that decisions that affect kids should be based on their ‘best interests'.

Since it was adopted, the Convention has become the world's most widely ratified human rights treaty. This puts an important responsibility on the governments of the world to do all they can to promote and protect the rights of children and young people.

Click on the links below to find information about children's rights and some of the major human rights issues facing children around the world today: