HUNDREDS of young people had a fresh insight into the rights and responsibilities of children after attending a conference held at the Baptist University last weekend. The focus of the conference was the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The event was organised by the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights (HKCCR). HKCCR chairman Anne Marden said the programme aimed at making young people aware of the convention and encouraging them to think about the issues involved. 'This is the first time that young people here have been given the chance to discuss issues that affect their own lives at an open forum,' Ms Marden said. The conference was just the first step along the road in learning about respect for human rights and social responsibility, she added. 'But we hope it will lead to a deeper understanding of the UN statement that 'recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world'. ' The convention, adopted by the UN in 1989, sets out internationally agreed upon minimum standards. It was formally endorsed by over 170 countries, including Hong Kong and China, last year. The convention contains 54 articles covering the main areas of children's lives. 'It reaffirms that children, because of their vulnerability, need special care and protection, and points out their rights in matters to do with nationality, employment, detention, education and health, among other things,' Ms Marden said. Anthony Poon Ho-kuen, one of the participants, said the conference was a valuable learning experience. 'I knew nothing about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The conference was an eye-opener. It has given me a better understanding of our rights.' The programme included games, a debate and a series of workshops based on the convention's three main themes, namely Survival, Protection and Development. Ho-kuen said the workshops encouraged him to think about issues covered in the convention. Another participant, Van Huynh of the New Horizons Vietnamese Refugee Departure Centre, said she had learnt much from the conference. 'I didn't realise that we refugee children are entitled to protection and humanitarian assistance under the convention.' She said she was impressed to know that every child has the right to freedom from discrimination, including Vietnamese children. Accompanying the Vietnamese girl and her little brother was their English teacher Natasha Edwards. 'I want my students to know about the importance of the convention,' Ms Edwards said. 'They have the right to be heard and the right to participate.' The day ended with a variety entertainment and the singing of songs led by brothers Peter and Andrew Cheung.