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Human Rights-based Approach to Programming

Human Rights and Children

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1771/Giacomo Pirozzi
Liberia: Fifth-grader Jorenna Paye sings in a school that is part of an initiative to build high-quality educational facilities in a county still dealing with the affects of a 14-year civil war and hosting approximately 54,000 refugees who have fled fighting in Côte d’Ivoire.

UNICEF’s mission is to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided in doing this by the provisions and principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Built on varied legal systems and cultural traditions, the Convention is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. These basic standards—also called human rights—set minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be respected by governments. They are founded on respect for the dignity and worth of each individual, regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to every human being everywhere. With these rights comes the obligation on both governments and individuals not to infringe on the parallel rights of others. These standards are both interdependent and indivisible; we cannot ensure some rights without—or at the expense of—other rights.

In advocating to protect children's rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential, UNICEF helps to change the legal and policy framework of States Parties and to improve understanding of the Convention itself at all levels of society.

Among other activities, UNICEF works to support ratification and implementation of the Convention and the Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, as well as the new Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure, which allows individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention and its first two optional protocols.

UNICEF also supports the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention and Optional Protocols by States Parties. UNICEF is given a special role under the Convention with respect to monitoring. In addition to contributing advice and assistance to the Committee, UNICEF facilitates broad consultations within States to maximize the accuracy and impact of reports to the Committee.

The other keystone of UNICEF's mandate and mission is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which provides a basis for UNICEF’s commitment to inclusive programming and a gender-equal world. UNICEF stresses the linkages between the CRC and CEDAW, and uses the two in conjunction as a comprehensive basis for consideration of the rights of girls.

In addition, there are a number of other relevant international standards which also guide UNICEF’s work. For example, the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and have those rights protected. Similarly, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) help orient UNICEF’s work with indigenous and minority children.

United Nations Development Group's Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism (UNDG-HRM)

UNICEF is also an active member of the United Nations Development Group's Human Rights Mainstreaming mechanism (UNDG-HRM), which responds to the call from the Secretary General in 2008 for a dedicated senior level mechanism to institutionalize the mainstreaming of human rights in the UN’s development work and builds on the achievements of the Action 2 Programme on Human Rights Strengthening. Effective 5 January 2012, UNICEF is co-chairing the HRM.

Mainstreaming Human Rights For Better Development Impact and Coherence - Fact Sheet

UNDG Human Rights Mainstreaming Mechanism Statement for Rio + 20 (UNDG HRM)




Materials designed to integrate HRBA into programme work

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

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