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Convention on the Rights of the Child

Rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child

© UNICEF/HQ03-0535/Pirozzi
A man embraces his young grandson in Togo, a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first instrument to incorporate the complete range of international human rights— including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as aspects of humanitarian law.

The articles of the Convention may be grouped into four categories of rights and a set of guiding principles. By clicking on any of the categories below, you can link to a plain-language explanation of the applicable articles in the Convention. Additional provisions of the Convention (articles 43 to 54) discuss implementation measures for the Convention, explaining how governments and international organizations like UNICEF will work to ensure children are protected in their rights. You can see the full text of the Convention by clicking on the link in the box on the right.

Guiding principles (pdf): The guiding principles of the Convention include non-discrimination; adherence to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to participate. They represent the underlying requirements for any and all rights to be realized.

Survival and development rights (pdf): These are rights to the resources, skills and contributions necessary for the survival and full development of the child. They include rights to adequate food, shelter, clean water, formal education, primary health care, leisure and recreation, cultural activities and information about their rights. These rights require not only the existence of the means to fulfil the rights but also access to them. Specific articles address the needs of child refugees, children with disabilities and children of minority or indigenous groups.

Protection rights (pdf): These rights include protection from all forms of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty, including the right to special protection in times of war and protection from abuse in the criminal justice system.

Participation rights (pdf): Children are entitled to the freedom to express opinions and to have a say in matters affecting their social, economic, religious, cultural and political life. Participation rights include the right to express opinions and be heard, the right to information and freedom of association.  Engaging these rights as they mature helps children bring about the realization of all their rights and prepares them for an active role in society.

The equality and interconnection of rights are stressed in the Convention. In addition to governments’ obligations, children and parents are responsible for respecting the rights of others—particularly each other. Children’s understanding of rights will vary depending on age and parents in particular should tailor the issues they discuss, the way in which they answer questions and discipline methods to the age and maturity of the individual child.

Human rights provisions

Children and young people have the same basic general human rights as adults and also specific rights that recognise their special needs. Because the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) brings together rights articulated in other international treaties there are many parallels between the Convention and other treaties.

The five other core human rights instruments are: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Torture Convention); the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Race Discrimination Convention); and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Women’s Convention). Among other rights found in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and shared with one or more of these instruments are:

Non-discrimination (Article 2): All human rights instruments prohibit any discrimination—distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference—in the provision, protection and promotion of rights. In other words, everyone has the human rights in these treaties, irrespective of their race, sex, religion, national origin or any other trait. The Race Convention wholly prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin or ethnicity and outlines steps that governments must take to end it. The Women’s Convention likewise calls for an end to discrimination, based on sex, and outlines specific areas of life in which women must be treated equally in order to eliminate discrimination;

  • Right to life (Article 6): also found in Article 6 of the ICCPR; 
  • Right to freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 37): outlined for everyone in the Torture Convention and also included as Article 7 of the ICCPR;
  • Right of detained persons to be treated with dignity (Article 37): Article 10 of the ICCPR broadly states this right and the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that children in this situation must be treated in a way that takes their age into account;
  • Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 14): found in Article 18 of the ICCPR;
  • Right to freedom of opinion and of expression (Article 13): found in Article 19 of the ICCPR;
  • Right to adequate standard of living (Article 27): found in article 11 of the ICESCR; 
  • Right to health and health services (Article 24): found in Article 12 of the ICESCR; and
  • Right to education (Article 28): found in Article 13 of the ICESCR.

Many Articles of both the ICCPR and the ICESCR call attention to the special needs of families and children.  These include Article 24 of the ICCPR (calling for the protection of children and registration at birth of their name and nationality) and Article 10 of the ICESCR (calling for specific attention, protection and assistance to children).

These examples show that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is founded on rights inherent to everyone, but that it also builds on concerns for the specific needs and vulnerabilities of children.  For the text of any of the human rights conventions, see the box at right. 




Full text of the Convention

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