Celebrating 30 years

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

A group of young children stand on a hill and pose for a photograph

Every child has rights, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, ability or any other status.

What is the UNCRC?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or UNCRC, is the basis of all of UNICEF’s work. It is the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history  and the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced. The Convention puts children at the heart of development - and this is the core of UNICEF's work. 

Why is the UNCRC special?

This year the UNCRC celebrates is 30th birthday. 

The Convention has 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and set out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.

The Convention must be seen as a whole

All the rights are linked and no right is more important than another. The right to relax and play (Article 31) and the right to freedom of expression (Article 13) have equal importance as the right to be safe from violence (Article 19) and the right to education (Article 28).

The UNCRC is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world – and came into force in the United Republic of Tanzania in 1991.

Girl on a swing

You can read the full convention (pdf) to find out more about the rights that are included.

There are four articles in the convention that are seen as special. They’re known as the General Principles and they help to interpret all the other articles and play a fundamental role in realising all the rights in the Convention for all children. They are:

  1. Non-discrimination (article 2)
  2. Best interest of the child (article 3)
  3. Right to life survival and development (article 6)
  4. Right to be heard (article 12)

The Convention also contains a number of agreements to add further unique rights for children which are optional for countries – they are called Optional Protocols. They include:

  1. The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict
    This requires governments to increase the minimum age that children can join the armed forces from 15 years and to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in armed conflict.
  2. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
    This provides detailed requirements for governments to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes, such as other forms of forced labour, illegal adoption and organ donation.
  3. The Optional Protocol on a communications procedure
    This allows children to submit a complaint to the United Nations when their rights have been violated and their own country’s legal system were not able to offer a solution.