Childhood, Rights and 2030 Agenda

Childhood, Rights and 2030 Agenda
2019. Ibrahim (left, made-up name) aged 14 plays with his brother in his refuge at Kaya, in Burkina Faso. Ibrahim and his 12 siblings share two tents set up near a state school. They were displaced from their home town, 80 km away, due to the danger in the area. The humanitarian situation in Burkina Faso was one of the forgotten crises of 2019 and also the fastest-growing © UNICEF/UNI280378/Tremeau

Childhood, Rights and 2030 Agenda

The virtual exhibition Childhood, Rights and 2030 Agenda  (which opens on 20th November, International Children’s Day) offers a historical journey through the social construction of childhood and adolescence as essential stages of life, from the 17th and 18th centuries up to the present day, when the international community is committed, via the objectives in the Sustainable Development Goals set out in Agenda 2030, to prioritize boys and girls when designing public policies so that nobody gets left behind. Our photographic journey is divided into four stages:

-The historical construction of the concepts of childhood and adolescence which corresponds to the first five works in the exhibition.

-The recognition of childhood as subject to rights, which comprises works six through to eleven.

-30 years of the Convention on Children’s Rights, photos twelve to eighteen.

-The focus of childhood rights and 2030 Agenda, which is represented by the last three works.

The historical construction of the concepts of childhood and adolescence historically reviews the social consideration received by children at different times and how, from a state of absolute helplessness, as is evident from the frequent practice of infanticide during the 16th century, it progressed to the recognition of the existence of biological, psychological and social rights which needed suitable attention if the boys and girls were to develop adequately.

There follows a series of photographs which relate to the main milestones in achieving recognition of childhood rights and Positive Rights. Once the needs of children and adolescents had been accepted as real, and when they were in a critical state in Europe after the First World War, a movement emerged in favour of protecting children, as was recorded in the «Geneva Declaration» (1924), the first precedent for all the later legislation on the protection of Children’s Rights. This document was followed by the «Declaration of Children’s Rights» (1959) and, later, the «Convention on Children’s Rights» (1989) which marks a turning point in the social consideration of childhood. As from this moment, boys and girls were recognised as subject to rights and not as passive objects of the right to protection, which also involves bearing in mind their opinion in the making of decisions that affect them, and that such decisions should always be made in pursuit of their best interest, particularly in such situations as can lead to a conflict of rights.

The passing and later ratification, in 1990, of the Convention gives rise to a 30 year period during which the UN firmly commits itself to Children’s Rights and to the design, development and implementation of public policies to guarantee them.

This commitment was initially reflected in the «Millennium Development Goals», established for 2015, and later in the Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals. The exhibition finishes with a series of photographs which illustrate the role the focus on Children’s Rights plays in achieving the objectives of 2030 Agenda, both at a national and international level.

 The author would like to express her special gratitude to UNICEF España for collecting and authorising the use of the photos which illustrate the different parts of this Temporary Exhibition at the Virtual Museum of Human Ecology.


Mª Angeles Espinosa Bayal is a Full Professor of Evolutionary Psychology and Education at the Psychology Faculty at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Mª Angeles Espinosa is Director of the Instituto Universitario UAM-UNICEF de Necesidades y Derechos de la Infancia y la Adolescencia (IUNDIA) (University Institute UAM-UNICEF for Children and Adolescents’ Rights and needs) and is a member of the UNICEF España Trust Foundation, the Permanent Commission of the Instituto Universitario de Estudios de la Mujer (University Institute for Womens’ Studies) and the Cátedra UNESCO Red UNTWIN en Políticas de Género e Igualdad de Derechos entre Mujeres y Hombres de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UNESCO Chair Red UNTWIN for Gender Politics and Equal Rights for Women and Men at the UAM).

This Temporary Exhibition has been prepared within the framework of the cooperation agreement of December 2019 between the Asociación para el Estudio de la Ecología Humana, the Instituto Universitario de Estudios de la Mujer de la UAM, and the Cátedra UNESCO Red UNITWIN de Políticas de Género e Igualdad de Derechos entre mujeres y hombres de la UAM for the implementation of the gender content of the Virtual Museum of Human Ecology.