About the Convention

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) applies to everyone under the age of 18. Its aim is to recognise the rights of children and ensure that they grow up in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.

The UNCRC was drafted in 1989 and is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history. In total, 196 countries have ratified it - including the United Kingdom on 16th December 1991. The USA is the only country that has not ratified the Convention.

The fact that a country has ratified the UNCRC does not guarantee that the rights in it shall be respected, protected and fulfilled. This can only be ensured when steps are taken to implement the Convention into domestic law, policy and practice.

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What rights do children have under the UNCRC?

Every child has 42 substantive rights under the Convention. These rights can be divided into several categories:

  • General Principles
    • Right to life, survival and development;
    • Right to non-discrimination;
    • Right to express views freely;
    • Right to have a child’s best interests taken as a primary consideration in all matters affecting them.
  • Civil Rights and Freedoms
    • Right to a name and nationality
    • Freedom of expression
    • Freedom of thought and association
    • Access to information
    • Right not to be tortured or ill-treated
  • Violence against Children
    • protection from violence, abuse and neglect
    • abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children 
    • school discipline 
    • protection from all forms of sexual exploitation
    • protection from inhuman or degrading treatment 
    • recovery from trauma and reintegration
  • Family environment and alternative care
    • Right to live with and have contact with both parents
    • Right to be reunited with parents if separated from them
    • Right to appropriate alternative care where necessary
  • Basic health and welfare
    • Rights of disabled children
    • Right to health and health care
    • Right to social security
    • Right to child care services
    • Right to an adequate standard of living
  • Education, leisure and cultural activities
    • Right to education
    • Right to play
    • Right to leisure and to participate in cultural life and the arts
  • Special protection measures
    • Rights of refugee children
    • Rights of children affected by armed conflicts
    • Rights of children in the juvenile justice system
    • Rights of children deprived of their liberty
    • Rights of children suffering exploitation

The UNCRC says that governments must safeguard these rights and make sure people know them - including children, young people, parents and carers and everyone working with children and young people. 

Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child oversees what countries are doing to implement the UNCRC and monitors their progress.

The Committee is made up of 18 independent experts on children’s human rights from different countries. The Committee meets three times a year in Geneva.

The Committee has three main roles:

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