Our mandate: no child left behind

UNICEF has a mandate to uphold the rights of all children. We work to ensure every child is protected, healthy and educated, focusing on the children left behind by wider economic and social progress.

Five-day-old Syrian baby Iliyas is getting dressed after a bath.

Our mandate

UNICEF has a mandate to safeguard the rights of all children, everywhere. That mandate is rooted in the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which sets out universal and indivisible rights that apply to every child, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015, which apply to every country.

In the 21 countries and territories in Europe and Central Asia where we have programmes, our focus is on the children who are overlooked and left behind by economic and social progress. Even in the most prosperous nations, there are always children who, because of who and where they are, do not get the childhood they deserve - and to which they are entitled under the Convention. 

We remind governments in the region of the commitments they have made to all children through the CRC and the SDGs and help them monitor their progress.

Seven year-old Mariam, affected by cerebral palsy, lies on the grass with her teacher and smiles up at the camera.
UNICEF/UN038640/Pirozzi

The Convention on the Rights of the Child 

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has changed the way children are viewed and treated – i.e., as human beings with a distinct set of rights instead of passive recipients of charity. It recognizes that childhood is a vulnerable time, and that children need special care and protection. 

The CRC is the first global set of legally binding rights to apply to all children. It has been ratified by every country on earth, with the exception of the United States, making it the most widely ratified human rights agreement in history.

Through its 54 articles, the CRC sets minimum standards for children’s well-being at each stage of their development. It applies to everyone under the age of 18 (the definition of a child), regardless of their gender, origin, religion, disability.

The CRC is guided by four fundamental principles that apply to every child.

  • Non-discrimination (Article 2). 
  • The best interests of the child (Article 3). 
  • Survival, development and protection (Article 6). 
  • Participation (Article 12). 

Optional Protocols to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

The UN General Assembly adopted two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2000: to protect children from involvement in armed conflicts and from sexual exploitation. Since 2014, a third Optional Protocol has enabled children to report violations of their rights directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors compliance with the CRC.

For more information: 
The Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Optional Protocols

The Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by world leaders in 2015 apply to all countries, and to every citizen within them. The SDGs aim to ensure equity, with everyone having the same safeguards and life opportunities within every country - rich or poor - by 2030. 
 
The achievement of all 17 SDGs would improve life for everyone, children as well as adults. However, some of the SDGs and their related targets are particularly relevant for the well-being of children. 

Goal 1: No poverty 
1.2. Halve the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty.

Goal 2: Zero hunger 
2.1. End hunger and ensure access by all people, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food
2.2. End all forms of malnutrition, including achieving internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under five years of age by 2025.

Goal 3: Good health and well-being
3.2. End preventable deaths of newborns and children under five

Goal 4: Quality education 
4.1. Ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes 
4.2. Ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.

Goal 5: Gender equality 
5.1. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere 
5.2. Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls 
5.3. Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
8.7. Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms. 

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions
16.2. End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children

For more information: 
Sustainable Development Goals

Blocks and icons of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals
United Nations