20 Years - The Convention on the Rights of the Child

About the Convention

A boy in Kanyabayonga, a village near Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in late 2008. The town had been attacked by armed militias three weeks before, part of an ongoing civil conflict in eastern DR Congo that has displaced 800,000 people.

What is the CRC?
In 1989, 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.

The Convention has achieved near-universal acceptance, having now been ratified by 193 parties – more than belong to the United Nations or have acceded to the Geneva Conventions.

The provisions and principles of the CRC guide UNICEF in its mission of advocating for the protection of children’s rights, helping children to meet their basic needs and expanding their opportunities to reach their full potential.

The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; devotion to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.

Every right spelled out in the CRC is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children's rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.

By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the CRC (by ratifying or acceding to it), national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children's rights – and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.

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