The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. The Convention changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of as passive objects of care and charity. The unprecedented acceptance of the Convention clearly shows a wide global commitment to advancing children’s rights.
Understanding the CRC
Human rights apply to all age groups; children have the same general human rights as adults. In 1989, however, world leaders decided that children needed a special convention just for them because people under 18 years old often need special care and protection that adults do not. The leaders also wanted to make sure that the world recognized that children have human rights too. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights—including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.
In ratifying the Convention or an Optional Protocol, a State accepts an obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights as outlined in the CRC—including adopting or changing laws and policies that are needed to implement the provisions of the agreement.
Governments that ratify the Convention or one of its Optional Protocols must report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of experts charged with monitoring States' implementation of the Convention and Optional Protocols. These reports outline the situation of children in the country and explain the measures taken by the State to realize their rights. In its reviews of States’ reports, the Committee urges all levels of government to use the Convention as a guide in policymaking and implementation. And because the protection of human rights is by nature a permanent and ongoing process, there is always room for improvement.
CRC in Pacific Island Countries
All Pacific Island Countries have ratified the CRC. However, only Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Vanuatu have acceded to the Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Compliance with reporting obligations under these treaties has proved extremely burdensome for the small administrations of these countries, and currently only around a third of Pacific island countries are on track with their CRC reporting obligations.
UNICEF and CRC
The fundamental mission of UNICEF is to promote the rights of every child, everywhere, in everything the organization does. Thanks to its global presence in nearly every country in the world, UNICEF is able to reach places others cannot, and thus is uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of children.
UNICEF has more than 60 years' experience working for children and is the only organization specifically named in the Convention on the Rights of the ChildCRC as a source of expert assistance and advice. In advocating to protect children's rights, to help meet their basic needs, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential, UNICEF helps to strengthen laws and policies and to improve understanding of the Convention at all levels of society. Among other activities, UNICEF supports countries to ratify and implement the Convention and its Optional Protocols. UNICEF draws attention to the duties of governments, families, communities and individuals to respect those rights and provides support for them to do so.
UNICEF also supports the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention and Optional Protocols. UNICEF facilitates broad consultations within countries to maximize the accuracy and impact of reports to the Committee. UNICEF field offices often take part in different stages of the monitoring process. They assist governments in organizing major consultations prior to drafting their reports and participate in the Committee's review of submitted reports, including working with governments to identify implementation strategies in response to the Committee's recommendations.
Field offices often also help ensure that voices that too often go unheard are reflected in the information presented to the Committee. They do this by facilitating wide-reaching consultations at all levels of society, making oral presentations or submitting written reports on the situation of women and children, and encouraging non-governmental organizations to submit their own reports to the Committee as a supplement to government reports.