Children's human rights
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an internationally binding human rights agreement. The convention has 54 articles, 42 of which set out the rights of children and young people. The rest are about how governments must publicise and carry out the convention.
Rights given under the convention
Children and young people up to 18 years old have all the rights set out in the convention. These cover social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights.
A convention is an agreement between countries to obey the same law. When the government of a country ratifies a convention, that means it agrees to obey the provisions set out in that convention.
What the treaty means
Since the treaty was ratified, every child in the UK has been entitled to over 40 specific rights. The different rights are not ranked in order of importance; instead they interact with one another to form dynamic parts of an integrated unit.
- 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 about them
- the right to live in a family environment or alternative care and to have contact with both parents if possible
- health and welfare rights - including rights for children with disabilities - 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 in the convention apply to all children and young people, with no exceptions.
Safeguarding the Convention
The Committee for the Rights of the Child is a United Nations (UN) body of 18 independent experts on child rights from around the world. Members are elected for a term of four years by states parties in line with article 43 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Members serve in their personal capacity and may be re-elected if nominated. Only states parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC or Convention) can nominate and elect Committee members.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by its States parties. All countries must report their work in children’s rights every five years to the committee. During the reporting cycle, the committee talks to each state so they can accurately assess children's rights in that country.
The reporting cycle ends with the committee issuing a set of Concluding Observations. The Concluding Observations point out progress achieved, main areas of concern and recommendations to the state on how to fulfil their obligations and advance children's rights.
The UN Committee considered the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in May 2016. The Committee published its final set of Concluding Observation in July 2016.
The next examination of how the UK is implementing the UNCRC will take place under the UN’s new Simplified Reporting Process where governments prepare focused submissions to UN human rights treaty monitoring processes by being asked to report on fewer and more specific issues. These are set out in a document called the ‘List of Issues Prior to Reporting’ (LOIPR). The UN Committee is expected to publish the LOIPR in February 2021. The UK Government must reply to the LOIPR within one year.
The UN Committee and UK Government will then have constructive dialogue in relation to the UNCRC in September 2022.
Northern Ireland has a Commissioner for Children and Young People who safeguards and promotes the rights and best interests of children and young people and other rights guaranteed by the convention. The Commissioner reports to the Assembly and Parliament.
More useful links
- Committee on the Rights of the Child ('United Nations Human Rights Office of th…
- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) web…
- OHCHR Simplified reporting procedure
- Department of Education
- Children’s Services Co-operation Act (Northern Ireland) 2015(external link open…