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The General Assembly of the United Nations has proclaimed 1979 to be the International Year of the Child. It is also the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations' Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The concept of the rights of the child is of relatively recent origin. This modern notion that a child is entitled to special protection, opportunities and facilities emanates from two historical sources. First, it reflects the culmination of the evolution of the concept of childhood. Second, it springs from the development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of the juristic concept of the child as a legal person entitled to the protection of law. A discussion follows of these two sources, although necessarily by means of broad brush strokes to describe practices encompassing numerous centuries and diverse Western countries.

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International Commission of Jurists Review