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Convention on the Rights of the Child

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Convention on the Rights of the Child

© UNICEF Bolivia/2003
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified by Bolivia in 1990

As from November 20, 1989, when the Convention on the Rights of the Child was approved, all boys, girls and adolescents are officially considered subjects with rights. To date, almost all countries in the world have ratified the CRC, making it the most widely accepted international instrument for Human Rights in the world. Based on the "superior interest of the child" it constitutes a landmark in the history of child protection owing to its universal, unconditional, extended and integrated character.

On 20 November, 1989 the U.N. General Assembly approved the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This document contains the so-called doctrine of "integrated protection", supported by other international instruments such as the Rules of Beijing, the Riad Guidelines and Rules for the Protection of Minors under Arrest, by which all children and adolescents are considered subjects with rights.

On 2 September, 1990 the Convention entered into effect following its ratification by 20 States. CRC ratification means each State has a legal obligation to apply the Convention and to account for implementation and progress on the rights of the child within its territory.

To date,  with the exception of the United States of America and Somalia, have ratified the Convention. Thus, it is the most widely accepted international Human Rights instrument in the world.

International background

The first Declaration on the Rights of the Child approved by an international organization, the League of Nations, dates back to 1924. It was called the Geneva Declaration. Later on in 1945, the creation of the United Nations turned child protection into a principal objective.

In 1946 the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund, UNICEF was created. On 20 November, 1959 the U.N. General Assembly adopted the second Declaration on the Rights of the Child, deepening and extending the contents and dispositions present in the Geneva Declaration.

The most important aspect of this second declaration, is its second Article, that states the fundamental principle to be applied for any measure in favour of children: "the superior interest of the child".

Four main principles

Thirty years later, the CRC would also contain the superior interest of the child as one of its four basic principles. This norm, contained in Article 3, establishes that all measures or procedures which affect children must primordially consider the superior interest of the child.

The other guiding principles of the CRC are: non-discrimination by race, sex, religion, origin, economic status…etcetera (Article 2); and the right to life, survival and development (Article 6). The first article refers to all children having the same right to develop their potential. In order to ensure observation of the latter, it is fundamental to guarantee access to basic services for all children.

Lastly, respect for the opinion and participation of children (Article 12) establishes that the ideas and points of view of children must be respected. Also, children must participate in decision making on those questions which affect them, in accordance with their age.

Transcendency without precedent

The CRC has had great influence owing to its character: universal, it covers all children, in all situations and in all countries; unconditional, it calls on even the poorest countries to protect the rights of the child; and integrated, as all rights are essential, indivisible, interdependent and shared by all.

Another important aspect of the CRC is its extent, as it covers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It guarantees the right to life (Article 6), to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Articles 13 and 14), to health (Article 24), to a level of life permitting self-development (Article 27) and to recreation, play and cultural activities (Article 31).

In order to ensure that States fulfill all these rights, the Convention established the creation of the Child Rights Committee. All the States which approved the CRC are obliged to present periodical reports. So as to ensure their objectivity, the 10 members of the committee work totally independently from their respective governments.

Articles and preamble

The Convention has 54 articles divided as follows:

  • Preamble, containing the declaration of intent by participating countries.
  • Part One, contains all the rights.
  • Part Two, establishes everything relative to the Child Rights Committee.
  • Part Three, refers to the signing, ratification, and reservations.
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