The Convention on Rights of the Child (hereinafter referred as “CRC”) is the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. Human rights are those rights which are essential for living as human beings – basic standards without which people cannot survive and develop in dignity. 

In 1945, the UN Charter laid the groundwork for the Convention by urging nations to promote and encourage respect for human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights followed three years later in 1948. 

Several Declarations on the Right of the Child were agreed during the 20th century, the last in 1959 “recognizing that mankind owes to the child the best it has to give.”

The International Human Rights framework was therefore built to contain covenants (or conventions). In 1976, the first two covenants – the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights—became binding on States parties.

In 1978, on the eve of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Child, a draft text was proposed for CRC.

Final approval from United Nations Member States came when the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the text of the CRC on 20 November 1989.The Convention then became legally binding in September 1990, after 20 States had ratified it. It has now been ratified by 193 parties. 

The convention sets out rights of the child in 54 Articles and two Optional Protocols. It spells out the basic human rights that children everywhere have:

  • 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 four core principles of the Convention are

  • non-discrimination;
  • devotion to the best interests of the child;
  • the right to life, survival, and development; and
  • respect for the views of the child.

The convention expressly recognizes that parents have the most important role in the bringing up children.

The articles of the Convention may be grouped into four categories of rights and a set of guiding principles.

  1. Guiding Principles – They represent the underlying requirements for any and all rights to be realized. The guiding principles of the Convention include non-discrimination; adherence to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to participate. (Article 1-3, 6, 12)
  2. Survival and Development Rights – They include rights to adequate food, shelter, clean water, formal education, primary health care, leisure and recreation, cultural activities and information about their rights. These rights require not only the existence of the means to fulfill the rights but also access to them. Specific articles address the needs of child refugees, children with disabilities and children of minority or indigenous groups. (Articles 4-10, 14,18, 20, 22-31, 42)
  3. Protection Rights– Include protection from all forms of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty, including the right to special protection in times of war . (Articles 4, 11, 19, 20-22, 32-41)
  4. Participation Rights– Include the right to express opinions and be heard, the right to information and freedom of association. (Articles 4, 12-17)

Articles 43 – 54 (Implementation measures) –  discuss how governments and international organizations like UNICEF should work to ensure children are protected in their rights. 

Optional protocols complement and add to existing treaties. They are ‘optional’, so States must independently choose whether or not to be bound by them. They are treaties in their own right and are open to signature, accession, or ratification by States that are party to the main treaty. 

The UN General Assembly, in 2000 adopted two Optional Protocols to the CRC to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts and from sexual exploitation.

On 14 April 2014, a third Optional Protocol was adopted, allowing children to bring complaints directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee will then investigate the claims and can direct governments to take action.

India ratified UNCRC on 11 December 1992, agreeing in principles all articles except with certain reservations on issues relating to child labor.


Source: UNICEF website.

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