English | Français | Español |||
United Nations Special Session on Children Go to UNICEF homepageGo to UN homepage
Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas
Photo: Kurdish girl. Iraq, 1997. Copyright Sebastiao Salgado/Amazonas

This page is background information, last updated in May 2002 and still available for reference. For the latest on the Special Session on Children, please go to the Special Session index.

The Convention | Path | Ratification | Optional protocols | In action


Child rights in action

UNICEF calls for the universal signature and ratification of child-related treaties and invites all States that have not done so to take action on these instruments at the Special Session on Children and thereby concretely express their commitment to improving children's lives.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a universally agreed set of standards and obligations which place children center-stage in the quest for a just, respectful and peaceful society.

It spells out the basic human rights for all children, everywhere, all the time: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. The Convention protects these rights by setting standards in health care, education as well as legal, civil and social services. These standards are benchmarks against which progress can be assessed and States that ratify the Convention are obliged to keep the best interests of the child in mind in their actions and policies.

The Convention rests on four foundation principles:

  1. non-discrimination (article 2);
  2. best interests of the child (article 3);
  3. the child's right to life, survival and development (article 6);
  4. and respect for the views of the child (article 12).

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.

The Convention defines a child as a boy or girl under the age of 18 and considers a child as both an individual as well as a member of a family and a community. A child is a human being with the full range of rights.

This series of commitments was agreed to on 20 November 1989 by the United Nations General Assembly and since then 191 States have ratified it. It is the most widely adopted international human rights treaty in history.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child will provide the underlying framework for negotiations during the UN Special Session on Children in May 2002.

Special Session home

Background information:

Agenda & activities
Preparatory process
Information for NGOs
Child rights in action
How is your country doing?
What you can do
Press centre
Under-18 zone
Contact us
Official coverage (United Nations)

For more information

Read more about the Convention on the Rights of the Child.