Convention on the Rights of the Child: Summary

A ten-year-old boy salutes

Standing to attention, shopfront, Ankara Citadel.
Photograph by Rana Mullan
© UNICEF Turkey 2004

A century that began with children having virtually no rights is ending with children having the most powerful legal instrument that not only recognises but protects their human rights.

Carol Bellamy,
UNICEF Executive Director

The CRC is the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. First approved in 1989, it has now been ratified by 191 countries, accounting for all but two of the UN member states.

The CRC is a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations. It spells out the rights to which every child is entitled, regardless of where they were born or to whom, regardless of their sex, religion or social origin.

These include:
the right to survival;
the right to develop to the fullest;
the right to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation;
the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life.

Incorporating the full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights, the CRC is guided by four underlying values of:
the best interests of the child;
survival and development;


The CRC begins by defining a child as anyone under the age of eighteen. The rights outlined in the CRC apply to all children, everywhere. In all issues concerning children the best interests of the child will prevail. Signatory States are responsible for ensuring that necessary measures are take to ensure the full rights of the child are respected.

The main points covered are:

the role and responsibilities of parents and where these are neglected the role of the State itself;

the right to have and to keep a name and nationality;
the right to survival and development;
the right to health and health services;
the right to education;
the right to social security;
the right to a decent standard of living;
the right to leisure, recreation and cultural activities;

the right to be protected from abuse and neglect;
the right to be protected from drug abuse;
the right to be protected from sexual exploitation;
the right to be protected from economic exploitation;
the right to be protected from sale, trafficking and abduction;
the right to be protected from all other forms of exploitation;
the right to be protected from torture and deprivation of liberty;
the right to be protected from armed conflict both directly and indirectly;

the right to freedom of expression;
the right to freedom of thought;
the right to freedom of conscience and religion;
the right to freedom of association;

the right of children to have their opinions considered in all issues concerning them;
the right to have access to appropriate information;
the right to privacy.

The rights of children with special needs, such as:
refugee children;
handicapped children;
children of minorities or indigenous people;
children without families including conditions to govern adoption.

The right of children to an appropriate and fair juvenile justice system with special emphasis on rehabilitative care.

In countries where existing standards offer even greater protection for children than that demanded by the CRC, such standards should be maintained.

The final clauses relate to implementation and monitoring and to ratification, amendment, reservations and denunciation.

The full text of the CRC is reproduced on the following pages.

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