|Families have the primary responsibility for raising children, but governments must help those needing assistance.|
While the Convention on the Rights of the Child is addressed to governments as representatives of the people, it actually addresses the responsibilities of all members of society. Overall, its standards can be realized only when respected by everyone—parents and members of the family and the community; professionals and others working in schools, in other public and private institutions, in services for children, in the courts and at all levels of government administration—and when each of these individuals carries out his or her unique role and function with respect to these standards.
The role of governments, families and children
Governments are obliged to recognize the full spectrum of human rights for all children and consider children in legislative and policy decisions. While many States are beginning to listen seriously to children's views on many important issues, the process of change is still in its earliest stages.
Children have a right to express their opinions and to have their views taken seriously and given due weight. But children also have a responsibility to respect the rights of others, especially those of their parents.
The Convention specifically refers to the family as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of its members, particularly children. Under the Convention, States are obliged to respect parents' primary responsibility for providing care and guidance for their children and to support parents in this regard, providing material assistance and support programmes. States are also obliged to prevent children from being separated from their families unless the separation is necessary for the child's best interests.
Fulfilling obligations: putting principles into practice
Under the Convention, State Parties have an obligation to amend and create laws and policies to fully implement the Convention. As a result, the Convention has inspired a process of national legal implementation and social change in all regions of the world. Local and national governments have amended laws to take into consideration the best interests of the child and adopted social policies that promote realization of children’s rights. Individuals, including children, and communities have actively voiced their views and called for change.
UNICEF has undertaken advocacy, cooperated with governments and organizations and provided technical assistance to further implementation of the Convention. Other United Nations agencies, such as the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR); the World Health Organization (WHO); and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) actively promote the rights embodied in the Convention. And many non-governmental organizations work for better implementation of the Convention.
For more information on how the rights and principles in the Convention are put into practice, see the ‘Implementation’ page in the ‘Using the Convention and Protocols’ section on the left menu.
Definition of key terms [PDF]