UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

What is the UNCRC?

The United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to all children and young people under 18. The aim of the UNCRC is to recognise children's rights and ensure that children grow up in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.

The Convention is separated into 54 'articles': most give children social, economic, cultural or civil and political rights; while others set out how governments must publicise or implement the Convention.

All children and young people up to the age of 18 years have all the rights in the Convention. Some groups of children and young people - for example those living away from home, and young disabled people - have additional rights to make sure they are treated fairly and their needs are met.

The UNCRC has been ratified by 191 out of 194 countries, territories and states, except the USA, South Sudan and Somalia. The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on 16 December 1991. That means the UK government and governments throughout the UK have to make sure that every child has all the rights outlined in the treaty (except in those areas where the government has entered a specific reservation).

 

What the UNCRC means

Since 16th December 1991, when the treaty came into force in the UK, every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. These include:

  • the right to life, survival and development;
  • the right to have their views respected, and to have their best interests considered at all times;
  • the right to a name and nationality, freedom of expression, and access to information concerning them;
  • the right to live in a family environment or alternative care, and to have contact with both parents wherever possible;
  • health and welfare rights, including rights for disabled children, the right to health and health care, and social security;
  • the right to education, leisure, culture and the arts;
  • special protection for refugee children, children in the juvenile justice system, children deprived of their liberty and children suffering economic, sexual or other forms of exploitation.

The rights included in the convention apply to all children and young people, with no exceptions.

 

What does the UNCRC include?

Articles 1-41 of the Convention set out the rights of children and the corresponding obligations of governments to safeguard these rights. Article 42 requires states to publicise the principles and provisions of the convention to children, young people, parents and carers, and everyone working with children and young people.

The Convention covers the following subjects:

  • Definition of children as all persons less than 18 years of age, unless the legal age of majority in a country is lower.
  • General principles, including the right to life, survival and development, the right to non-discrimination, respect for the views of children and to give consideration to a child's best interests, and the requirement to give primary consideration to the child's best interests in all matters affecting them.
  • Civil rights and freedoms, including the right to a name and nationality, freedom of expression, thought and association, access to information and the right not to be subjected to torture.
  • Family environment and alternative care, including the right to live with and have contact with both parents, to be reunited with parents if separated from them and to the provision of appropriate alternative care where necessary.
  • Basic health and welfare, including the rights of disabled children, the right to health and health care, social security, child care services and an adequate standard of living.
  • Education, leisure and cultural activities, including the right to education and the rights to play, leisure and participation in cultural life and the arts.
  • Special protection measures covering the rights of refugee children, those affected by armed conflicts, children in the juvenile justice system, children deprived of their liberty and children suffering economic, sexual or other forms of exploitation.

 

The History of the UNCRC in the UK

 
19 April 1990UK Government signed the Convention 
16 December 1991UK Government ratified the Convention 
15 March 1994UK submitted initial state reportUK Initial Report (1994)
24 January 1995UN Committee on the Rights of the Child publishes its first Concluding ObservationsUN First Concluding Observations (1995)
14 September 1999UK Government submitted second periodic report

UK Second Report (1999)

UK Update to Second Report (2002)

19 September 2002The UN responded to the second periodic reportUN Second Concluding Observations (2002)
15 July 2007UK Submitted third and fourth periodic report 
2008The UN responded to the third and fourth periodic report

UN Third and Fourth Concluding Observations (2008)

Response to the list of issues raised in connection with the consideration of the third and fourth periodic report of the UK (2008)

23 May 2014UK submitted fifth periodic report UK Fifth Report
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