Since its adoption in 1989 after more than 60 years of advocacy, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified more quickly and by more governments (all except Somalia and the US) than any other human rights instrument.
This Convention is also the only international human rights treaty that expressly gives non-governmental organisations (NGOs) a role in monitoring its implementation (under Article 45a).
The basic premise of the Convention is that children (all human beings below the age of 18) are born with fundamental freedoms and the inherent rights of all human beings. Many governments have enacted legislation, created mechanisms and put into place a range of creative measures to ensure the protection and realisation of the rights of those under the age of 18. Each government must also report back on children’s rights in their country.
Two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child exist:
- The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, dated 18 January 2002 (A/RES/54/263, dated 25 May 2000)
- The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict Adopted (A/RES/54/263, dated 25 May 2000)
Guiding principles of the Convention
Definition of the child (Article 1)
The Convention defines a ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18, unless the laws of a particular country set the legal age for adulthood younger. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the monitoring body for the Convention, has encouraged States to review the age of majority if it is set below 18 and to increase the level of protection for all children under 18.
Non-discrimination (Article 2)
The Convention applies to all children, whatever their race, religion or
abilities; whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from. It doesn’t matter where children live, what language they speak, what their parents do, whether they are boys or girls, what their culture is, whether they have a disability or whether they are rich or poor. No child should be treated unfairly on any basis.
Best interests of the child (Article 3)
The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers.
Right to life, survival and development (Article 6)
Children have the right to live. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
Respect for the views of the child (Article 12)
When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account. This does not mean that children can now tell their parents what to do. This Convention encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision-making — not give children authority over adults. Article 12 does not interfere with parents’ right and responsibility to express their views on matters affecting their children. Moreover, the Convention recognises that the level of a child’s participation in decisions must be appropriate to the child’s level of maturity. Children’s ability to form and express their opinions develops with age and most adults will naturally give the views of teenagers greater weight than those of a preschooler, whether in family, legal or administrative decisions.
Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body of experts monitoring the implementation of the CRC by States Parties to the Convention. The Committee holds regular sessions per year to review States Parties reports on progress made in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention and its Optionsl Protocols. The Committee can make suggestions and issue recommendations to governments and the General Assembly on ways to meet the Convention’s objectives.
Information and links on the Committee’s activities:
- CRC sessions
The Committee meets three times a year for a period of three weeks in January, May-June and September. Each session, the Committee examines reports from about 10 States Parties, dicusses issues with a government delegation and issues recommendations (called “Concluding Observations”).
NGOs are invited to submit “Alternative Reports” to States Parties reports to give a different perspective to the Committee. All Alternative Reports are made available through the NGO Group for the CRC and hosted on the CRIN website by session. NGO reports can also be searched on the CRIN website by country, session and author.
Informations about past and forthcoming sessions, including State reports and Concluding Observations can be found on the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
- Days of General Discussion
Once a year, at its September session, the Committee holds a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on a provision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in order to issue more detailed recommendations to governments. Each year, children, NGOs and experts are invited to submit documents to inform the Committee’s one-day debate with stakeholders (UN agencies, Committee members, NGOs, academics, lawyers, children, etc).
- Report to the UN General Assembly
Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, hears a statement from the CRC Chair and the GA adopts a Resolution on the Rights of the Child. Read the 2006 CRC Report to the GA and the 2006 GA Resolution on the Rights of the Child.
- Regional workshops on follow up to Concluding Observations
OHCHR, in cooperation with host governments, occasionally organises regional and sub-regional workshops to follow up on implementation of the Convention and other Treaty Bodies’ Concluding Observations. CRC workshops have been held in Damascus (Syria), Bangkok (Thailand), Doha (Qatar), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Suva (Fiji) and San José (Costa Rica), and recommendations have been issued to the regions concerned.
- General Comments
The Committee occasionally publishes its interpretation of provisions of the Convention in the form of General Comments, sometimes, following a Day of General Discussion debate.
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