The Convention on the Rights of the Child should be the main benchmark and inspiration for all government action regarding children. By ratifying the Convention, States commit to undertaking "all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures" for the full realization of the rights it contains.
Translating child rights principles into practice requires action and leadership by governments.
The main way the Convention is enforced is through ongoing monitoring by an independent team of experts called the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Governments that ratify the Convention or one of its Optional Protocols must report to the Committee, which is made up of 18 experts in the field of children's rights from different countries and legal systems. They are nominated and elected by States parties but act in a personal capacity, not as representatives of their countries.
Reports to the Committee outline the situation of children in the country and explain the measures taken by the State to realize their rights. Reports are submitted by the State within two years of ratification and every five years thereafter. The Committee has adopted guidelines detailing the information States are expected to give in their implementation reports.
In reviewing States' reports, the Committee looks at how well governments are setting and meeting the standards for the realization and protection of children's rights as outlined in the Convention or Optional Protocol. Along with this regular reporting, the Committee may request additional information or complementary reports.
In its reviews, the Committee provides implementation and improvement recommendations to each individual State, which it will review the next time the country is examined. It urges all levels of government to use the Convention as a guide in policy-making and legislation, to:
- Develop a comprehensive national agenda;
- Develop permanent bodies or mechanisms to promote coordination, monitoring and evaluation of activities throughout all sectors of government;
- Ensure that all legislation is fully compatible with the Convention and, if applicable the Optional Protocols, by incorporating the provisions into domestic law or ensuring that they take precedence in cases of conflict with national legislation;
- Make children visible in policy development processes throughout government by introducing child impact assessments;
- Analyse government spending to determine the portion of public funds spent on children and to ensure that these resources are being used effectively;
- Ensure that sufficient data are collected and used to improve the situation of all children in each jurisdiction;
- Raise awareness and disseminate information on the Convention and the Optional Protocols by providing training to all those involved in government policy-making and working with or for children;
- Involve civil society – including children themselves – in the process of implementing and raising awareness of child rights; and
- Set up independent national offices – ombudspersons, commissions, focal points within national human rights institutions, or other institutions – to promote and protect children's rights.
States parties to the Convention’s Optional Protocols have many of the same guidelines, as well as requirements specific to the Protocols. For example, the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography requires States to provide legal and other support services to child victims and specifically calls for international cooperation to prevent and punish these abuses.
The involvement of non-governmental organizations
Non-governmental organizations play a major role in raising public awareness about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its goals, and supporting its implementation. The Convention acknowledges these contributions by specifically inviting their participation in the reporting and monitoring process, a first among human rights treaties. Governments are urged to involve all sectors of society in the preparation of reports. A few governments consult non-governmental organizations extensively in the reporting process and incorporate their contributions into reports to the Committee, but individual non-governmental organizations or coalitions can and do prepare alternative reports for the Committee's consideration.
UNICEF's role in the monitoring process
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the first human rights treaty that grants a role in its implementation to a specialized United Nations agency – UNICEF. Under the Convention, UNICEF is entitled to be present when the Committee reviews implementation of the Convention in a given country. UNICEF can be invited to provide expert advice and to submit reports. The Committee can also require the State to turn to UNICEF for technical advice or assistance.
Find out more about UNICEF’s role with the Convention.