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All rights for all children - CRC@18

Young people celebrating their eighteenth birthday this year are the first generation born with universal rights of their own. 

20 November is a special date for all of us. Eighteen years ago on this date, the world came together to say yes to children; that children have the same general human rights as adults. In a unanimous decision, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was accepted as a standard to which all governments should aspire towards to protect the most basic rights of children, defined as people 18 years old and below.

In 54 articles and two optional protocols, the CRC establishes in international law what governments must do to ensure that all children grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding and benefit from health care, education and protection.

The CRC affirms that every child –regardless of where they are born, the race or ethnic group they belong to, whether they are a boy or girl, rich or poor– must have a full opportunity to become a productive member of society and must have the right to speak up and be heard.

A motion of social change

On 20 November 2007, the CRC celebrates its 18th anniversary. In many countries in the world, rich as well as poor, the CRC has set in motion a process of social change, building the foundations for a world where all rights for all children are guaranteed and protected.

The push for children’s rights has accelerated and expanded in the last eighteen years growing into a child rights movement benefiting millions. Two main characteristics define the power and potential of the CRC: its legally binding status and its ability to engage and empower people, from government officials to ordinary citizens.

The CRC has played a vital role in shaping and developing the lives of children. It has helped reduce the number of children dying before the age of five, increased regional and global initiatives and partnerships to accelerate girls education as well as promote “free” primary education. In the last few years, there has been a strong emphasis on reaching the millions of excluded children, especially girls and indigenous children, and ensuring their access to health and education services or to basic social services of improved quality.

The CRC is about obligations

The CRC is not about commitments or promises, but about obligations. Protecting and guaranteeing child rights is not an abstract cause, for which no one in particular is responsible and therefore accountable.

Yes, implementing the CRC is a government’s obligation, but the CRC also defines the obligations and responsibilities of a range of other actors: parents, teachers, health workers, scientists, researchers and children themselves.

By adapting laws, strengthening systems and building capacities, the CRC becomes an integral part of a country’s national legislation and culture. By engaging and informing families and communities, they become empowered to participate in the fulfillment of their own rights and to claim and protect the rights of their children. Since the adoption of the CRC the number of child rights organisations, coalitions and alliances has steadily increased. Together they have succeeded in putting child rights higher on the international and national political agendas.

A renewed focus on child rights

In 2002, the UN Special Session on Children gave new impetus to the CRC, with a Declaration and Plan of Action that incorporates obligations resulting from the CRC to build ‘A World Fit for Children’. Additionally, the Millennium Development Goals has at its very heart, children and their rights to life, health, education and protection. 

This focus on children’s rights seems to have taken on a new lease in recent years demonstrated by the renewed emphasis on child survival; by the strong resonance of UNICEF’s Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS campaign and by the rapid and extensive national follow up to the UN Study on Violence against Children.

While it may be difficult to attribute progress for children directly to the implementation of the CRC, it is not impossible. An overwhelming body of ‘circumstantial evidence’ in the form of reports, studies and evaluations already exist, outlining the impact of the CRC on the lives of millions of children and families.

Most notable however, is the process that has been set in motion by the CRC for the world to recognise and take seriously the issue of child rights. It is a process that it is nothing short of a revolution. A quiet revolution that has and, continues to create profound changes for all new generations to come.





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