UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Every child has the right to an education, to be healthy, to grow up safe and to be heard.

A child looks into a classroom in Indonesia

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a legally-binding international agreement setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, regardless of their race, religion or abilities.

Since being adopted by the United Nations in November 1989, 193 countries have ratified the convention, meaning they have agreed to do everything they can to make the rights a reality for children around the world.

All signatories are bound to the UNCRC by international law, and its implementation is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Under the terms of the convention, states are required to meet the basic needs of children and help them reach their full potential. Central to this is the acknowledgment that every child has basic fundamental rights. These include:

  • The right to life
  • The right to his or her own name and identity
  • The right to be protected from abuse or exploitation
  • The right to an education
  • The right to having their privacy protected
  • To be raised by, or have a relationship with, their parents
  • The right to express their opinions and have these listened to and, where appropriate, acted upon
  • The right to play and enjoy culture and art in safety

On 25 May 2000, two optional protocols were added to the UNCRC. The first of these asks governments to ensure that children under the age of 18 are not forcibly recruited into their armed forces. It also requires governments to do everything they can to make sure members of their armed forces who are under the age of 18 do not take part in combat.

The second of these protocols calls on states to prohibit child prostitution and child pornography and the sale of children into slavery. So far, both protocols have already been ratified by more than 120 states.

The UNCRC is also the only international human rights treaty to give NGOs (non-governmental organisations) like Save the Children a direct role in overseeing its implementation, under Article 45a.