What is an Optional Protocol?

Human rights treaties are often followed by ‘Optional Protocols’. These set out extra provisions which have been written after the treaty was adopted. Optional protocols can be used to:

  • expand upon the obligations in the original treaty, or
  • address new and emerging concerns which the treaty does not cover.

These protocols are ‘optional’ because they are not automatically binding on the states which have ratified the original treaty. It is up to each state to decide whether or not it wants to be bound by an Optional Protocol. If it wants to be bound then it must ratify the Optional Protocol. 

What are the Optional Protocols to the UNCRC?

The UNCRC has three Optional Protocols. These must be guided by the general principles of the Convention (non-discrimination, best interests of the child, child participation, survival and development).

Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure 

Which Optional Protocols has the UK signed up to? 

The UK has signed up to the first two Optional Protocols. Currently, the UK has not signed up to Optional Protocol 3 on the Communications Procedure.

Optional Protocol 3 allows individuals to make a complaint to the CRC Committee if they believe their rights under the Convention have been violated. The Committee issued it’s first decision under this mechanism in January 2018.

Read more about this here.