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Dr. William R. Fernekes
Social Studies Supervisor
Hunterdon Central Regional High School

Issues and problems relating to children's rights know no boundaries, no religious orientation, no gender.

First though, as global citizens, we must realize that the definition of a "child" has varied over time, and is varied across societies in this modern day and age. Cultural expectations of the roles and responsibilities of being a child in a family shape national political definitions of a child in terms of laws that protect children against abuse, laws that provide for basic and advanced needs of children, and laws that promote child development and participation in their society.

Often caught in the crossfire, children have been forced to grow up overnight in the face of civil war. Some are drafted as soldiers to fight in the conflicts. Other children, whose countries may not be undergoing revolutionary change but are hard pressed to protect children, may fall through the cracks of society and enter an unsympathetic criminal justice system.

When the economic and political spheres meet, countries struggle balancing the needs of a global marketplace with the fundamental principles laid out in national laws or international treaties and conventions. Child labor is a continuing area of concern for the global citizen. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that over 250 million children in the world work with 125 million of them working full-time. The developing countries of the world, those countries that also have the highest birth/population growth rates and the highest percentages of their population under the age of 15, are where most of the children who work will be found. Sadly, the ILO realizes that the next generation of surveys will have to take into account the next generation of child workers, those 5 years and older. International organizations have found it most difficult to affect sovereign governments to enforce the already existing law or to abide by international conventions concerning child labor. Exploitation is common.

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been established as advocates for children. Private citizens, upset at the condition of children in particular regions and situations, have created their own "watch" and "action" organizations. A fundamental question that is asked is "Can one person make a difference?" Each tackles the problem in a unique way.

The lessons on this site have been supplemented with extension activites and involve multiple learning styles. Use of the internet is key for most of the lessons, but these lessons are only the beginning of the journey for a global citizen.

To learn more about the influence of Children's Rights on our global society, click on the links below:
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