UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)
OPFS supports the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). We believe every child and young person under the age of 18 has rights, no matter who they are, where they live or what they believe in. These rights are based on what they need to survive and flourish, such as clean water, good healthcare, protection from abuse and the chance to go to school. They take account of the particular needs of children, recognising that there are special factors involved in the development, nurture and protection of children, which differentiate them from adults. Fundamental to all children’s rights is the belief that children are entitled to expect from adults appropriate care, protection and consideration.
See below for an extract from the Scottish Government – Children’s Rights in Scotland: A Quick Reference Guide.
The UNCRC is one of the core international human rights treaties – a universally agreed set of minimum child rights standards which is the most widely ratified of all the international conventions, and with which States must comply.
The UNCRC sets out a holistic framework for the rights of all children. The different articles are interdependent – the mutually-reinforcing nature of children’s rights means that civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights all have equal status and are indivisible.
Governments are expected to do all they can to implement the UNCRC – to make sure all law, policy and decisions which impact on children from birth to 18 comply with their human rights.
The general measures of the Convention include measures which give legal effect to the UNCRC, as well as ‘non-legal measures’, or other processes that can be used to progress implementation of the Convention.
The UNCRC introduces the concept of a child’s ‘evolving capacities’ (Article 5), which states that direction and guidance, provided by parents or others with responsibility for the child, must take into account the capacities of the child to exercise rights on their own behalf.
It includes four general principles that are not only rights in themselves but underpin every other right in the Convention:
- For rights to be applied without discrimination (Article 2)
- For the best interests of the child to be a primary consideration (Article 3)
- The right to life, survival and development (Article 6)
- The right to express a view and have that view taken into account (Article 12).
The UNCRC also provides children with a series of individual rights, such as the:
- Right to a name and nationality
- Right to health
- Right to play and recreation
- Right to an adequate standard of living.
There are also additional rights for specific groups of children, such as:
- Disabled children
- Children who have been exploited or mistreated
- Refugee and migrant children
- Children in custody
- Children in care.
Children’s rights are inextricably linked with the rights of parents and carers, whose important role in children’s lives is recognised throughout.
Having played a key role in negotiating its 54 Articles, the UK Government ratified the UNCRC in 1991. The 18-member UN Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors the implementation of the Convention, and provides guidance to governments in the interpretation of the Articles of the Convention through the publication of General Comments.
In addition, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has produced a UNCRC implementation handbook which identifies specific implementation issues connected to each Article of the Convention. Also, there is a Scottish Government produced training toolkit.
To date, the UK Government has submitted five periodic reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, with the fifth periodic report due to be examined by the Committee in 2016. The most recent set of Concluding Observations from the Committee dates from 2008, with 124 recommendations for change and/or improvement.
In addition to the Articles of the Convention, there are three Optional Protocols to the UNCRC:
- Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
- Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
- Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (i.e. complaints mechanism to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child).
The UK Government has ratified the first two. A set of Concluding Observations to each has been published. The third Optional Protocol is still under consideration by the UK Government.