Thousands of children across the country have sent messages to the Prime Minister on cardboard and paper footprints, to mark the start of a year of action on children's rights.

The messages were hand delivered to Downing Street by 19 children this morning, marking the 20th anniversary of the UK making a legally binding agreement with the United Nations to uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Phooja Khatri, 15, from Harrow, said, “It is an absolute privilege to be here today. Politicians and adults go to Downing Street but for children and young people to be here on such an eventful day is really meaningful and a huge honour. It is so important that young people are heard by politicians.”
 
Rory Murray, 18, from Bracknell, said, “It’s an important moment to mark the 20th anniversary. A lot has been achieved in 20 years especially around giving children the special protection they need but much more needs to be done. In the next 20 yrs I hope to see the UNCRC brought into our domestic law. The Government is getting there on listening to children but they still have a long way to go.”
 
Claire, 17, from Knowsley, added, “I feel really proud to be handing-in thousands of children’s footprints. This will show the Government that children’s rights are important to us. We deserve to know about our rights and to feel that adults are doing the best they can for us.”
 
Joshua Dolding, 11, from Fleet, added, “It was fun and exciting to be here today. It is important for the Prime Minister to hear what children think as he is the one who can make changes for children.”
 
The Convention gives children everywhere a wide range of rights, including to: family support; education that helps them develop fully as individuals and with respect for human rights; an adequate standard of living; the highest attainable standard of health; play and recreation; protection from all forms of violence; and the right to be heard and taken seriously. Above all, this human rights treaty requires that children be respected as human beings with views, feelings and ideas of their own.

Only two UN member states have failed to ratify the children's Convention, making it one of the most widely supported human rights treaties in the world. Unlike the UK, many countries have made the Convention on the Rights of the Child part of their domestic law.

The year of action is run by a coalition of organisations that wants greater awareness and respect for children's rights in England. Sixteen year-old Trishna Jethwa designed the coalition's logo. The design student lives in Leicester and entered a national competition held earlier in the year.  

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Notes to Editors
 
For more information or photography please contact Alicia Jones, UNICEF UK media officer on 07738 014271 or email aliciaj@unicef.org.uk.

 
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that children's best interests be a main concern in all actions concerning them, including in decisions taken by government, local councils and public services. Children in especially vulnerable situations, such as those who have been abused or who are in care or custody, are given extra protection by the Convention. 
 
For more information about the Right Year for Children please visit: http://www.ry4c.org.uk/ 
 
SUPPORTIVE STATEMENTS FROM A SELECTION OF RIGHT YEAR FOR CHILDREN PARTNERS
(The full list of partners can be viewed at www.ry4c.org.uk)

Association of Play Industries
We support the Right Year for Children campaign in its goal to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK law. This can only help to raise greater consideration for play in government decision-making, as well as giving children a stronger voice on their right to play.
John Croasdale, Chairman

British Youth Council
The UN Convention on Rights for the Child underpins and secures the right of the British Youth Council to exist to champion youth voices across the UK and the world we live in. It reminds everyone that when times are hard those who are most vulnerable, blameless, and dependent on others, need special attention to ensure they are safe and their voices heard. Indeed in a world where adults seem to get it wrong by accident, or treat each other badly deliberately, we need to be reminded more about the hopes of our children, whom we trust will make a better job of it in the future. With these rights we can speak up and not just prepare to be the leaders of tomorrow but be a youth of today that can help shape the future for the better.
Liam Preston, Chair 

Children England
Commitment to the UNCRC is one of the universal characteristics that is shared by all of Children England’s members, no matter their size or specialism. 20 years after the UK signed up to the UNCRC, it is time for the Government to match this commitment by fully incorporating it into UK law. The Right year for Children campaign can play a key role in achieving this much delayed goal.
Kathy Evans, Deputy Chief Executive

Children's Commissioner for England
As the Children’s Commissioner for England I have a unique role as the statutory body charged to promote and protect children’s rights. When the UK Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 20 years ago they promised to use the Convention's principles as a benchmark for the wellbeing and the best interests of all children. We now want the UNCRC recognised as a statutory instrument in this country and will press for its systematic implementation across UK legislation. We will continue to work with the Government, statutory and voluntary organisations to achieve this so all children can freely enjoy their rights.
Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England
 
Children's Rights Alliance for England
The Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out what every child is entitled to in order to have the best possible childhood, in conditions of respect, dignity and safety. Successive governments have had 20 years to make a reality of children's rights and our ambition is that 2012 will bring even bigger change for England's 11 million children. 
Carolyne Willow, National Co-ordinator

Children's Rights Officers and Advocates (CROA)
CROA improves access to and promotes the human rights of children and young people in need through campaigning, training and policy support for children's rights officers and advocates, and fully supports the full implementation of the UNCRC into UK legislation.
Management Committee

The Children's Society
The Children’s Society is a strong supporter of children’s rights. Many of the children and young people we work with – refugees, disabled children and children in care – are not well protected in law. The full incorporation of the UNCRC into UK law would help to address this failing, and give marginalised and vulnerable children a stronger voice.
Shan Nicholas, Interim Chief Executive

National Children's Bureau
The anniversary celebration of the Convention is a timely opportunity to show a national commitment to our children and young people and see them as valued members of society. We look forward to further advancing the rights of children and young people and supporting their parents’ special role as articulated in the Convention, to ensure the best outcomes for all children, young people and families. We embrace the UNCRC as a practical tool for achieving this. 
Dr Hilary Emery, Chief Executive

National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS)
NDCS is proud to support the Right Year for Children.  Deaf children and young people’s rights all too often are ignored. Our work seeks to uphold deaf children’s rights, to challenge attitudes which prevent them achieving and to empower deaf children and young people to determine what happens in their lives.
Dr Tyron Woolfe, Deputy Director, Children and Youth

PhotoVoice
As an international organization working through participatory photography and advocating for human rights the Convention provides PhotoVoice with a tool to help make children visible and vocal in the development of Government policy and practice, and to measure the progress our Government is making to protect and transform the lives of children.”
Kevin McCullough, Director
 
Pupil Voice & Participation England (PVPE)
The UNCRC adds important weight to participation as a right of the child, and underpins the mission of Pupil Voice & Participation England (PVPE) to support children and young people in every school and community to have the ability to influence their education, community and future. It is PVPE’s belief that when children and young people have the power to shape their schools, services and wider society they make a positive impact and create improvements for all.
Kate Parish, Chief Executive

Save the Children
It is unacceptable that 3.5 million children live in poverty in the UK today, with 1.6 million children living in severe poverty (nearly 13% of all children). Such a wholesale denial of the right to an adequate standard of living for our children shames our nation and our political leaders. The time is up for paying lip service to our international obligations on children's rights: our children deserve so much more.
Fergus Drake, Director of UK Programme

TACT Fostering and Adoption
As a fostering and adoption charity, TACT fully supports the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child. Acknowledging children’s rights is a fundamental part of fostering and adoption. However, all too often these innate rights are ignored. TACT welcomes the opportunity to celebrate these rights through the work of RY4C. 
Kevin Williams, Chief Executive Officer

UK Youth Parliament
The UK Youth Parliament totally supports the Convention. As a parliament we believe in free speech and free expression on any issue that affects us and this is supported by Article 12 of the Convention. We also believe in the potential of young representative voices to actually make a difference to our society – especially when there is so much inequality still to be addressed. We look forward to a day when these rights are not only accepted in principle but influence the thinking, decision-making and allocation of resources by decision makers so that children are free from fear, poverty and inequality. 
Emma Chadwick, Member of the UK Youth Parliament for Leeds.

UNICEF UK
Promoting children’s rights is at the very heart of UNICEF’s work both here in the UK, and around the world. We have seen the powerful difference that a real commitment to children’s rights – from the local school to the top of government – can make to transforming children futures. At a time when economic pressures globally are putting a squeeze on family incomes, services for children, and job opportunities for young people, it is more important than ever that we protect children’s most basic rights to survive and thrive with dignity.   
Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director

Young Concern Trust (YCT)
YCT’s aims and vision is entirely built upon a recognition of the rights of children and young people to be free to achieve their true potential. YCT sees the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the foundation of its work with children and young people and we support its full implementation as a value benchmark for those we seek to work with and for.
Robert Locke, Director