The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognises the importance of childhood as a crucial time of growth and development, and also of increased vulnerability.
By adopting the Convention, the world has promised every child the extra care, protection and opportunities for rest and play they need to ensure that their childhood is a time free from exploitation or adult responsibilities.
Although progress has been made, many children are still denied their right to a childhood. Millions are living on city streets around the world. Approximately one in six children worldwide is engaged in some form of child labour, including hazardous work.
Other children are bought and sold, neglected or hurt. An estimated 1.2 million children worldwide have been trafficked, often for the purposes of cheap labour or commercial sexual exploitation. Some children have to grow up quickly as a result of caring for sick parents or orphaned brothers and sisters, with no-one to care for them in turn.
Protecting children against exploitation
UNICEF uses its influence at the highest levels of government and within the UN to put laws and policies in place which protect children against exploitation, including child labour and trafficking.
We work with families to address the underlying issues that force children into the workplace and provide training and rehabilitation for children who have been living on the streets or working.
We support communities to provide care and protection for orphaned and vulnerable children and we work with partners to ensure children have access to high-quality sport and play.