The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a legally-binding international agreement that provides for out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, no matter their race or religion.


6/8/20225 min read


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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a legally-binding international agreement that provides for out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child, no matter their race or religion. The UNCRC consists of 54 articles that provides for children’s rights and specifies how governments should work together to provide them to all children.

The Convention must be seen as a whole: all the rights are linked and no right is more important than another. According to the convention, governments are required to meet children’s basic needs and help them reach their full potential. It is important to note that that every child has basic fundamental rights. These include the right to:

  • An education that helps the children to fulfil their potential (Article 28)

  • Life, survival and development (Article 6)

  • Protection from violence, abuse or neglect (Article 19)

  • Be raised by, or have a relationship with, their parents

  • The right to relax and play (Article 31)

  • Right to be heard (Article 12)

  • Best interest of the child (Article 3)

In 1989 something incredible happened. World leaders assembled and made a historic commitment to the children’s world. They made a promise to every child to protect and fulfil their rights, by adopting an international legal framework – the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 2000, two optional protocols were added to the UNCRC. The first asks governments to ensure children under the age of 18 are not forcibly recruited into their armed forces. The second calls on states to ban child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children into slavery. These have now been approved by more than 120 states.

Another optional protocol was added in 2011. This aids children whose rights have been violated to complain directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Since it was adopted by the United Nations in November 1989, 196 countries have signed up to the UNCRC, with only one country still to ratify.

The UNCRC is also the only international human rights treaty to give non-governmental organizations (NGOs), like Save the Children, a direct role in supervising its enforcement. It’s become the most widely approved human rights treaty in history and has aided the transformation of children’s lives around the world.

All countries that sign up to the UNCRC are bound by international law to ensure it is enforced. This is monitored by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

But still not every child has the opportunity to enjoy a full childhood. Also, too many childhoods are cut short. It is the responsibility of our generation to ask that leaders from government, business and communities satisfy their commitments and take action for child rights now, once and for all. They must commit to making sure every child, has every right.

Children are not just properties who belong to their parents and for whom decisions are made, or adults in training. Instead, they are human beings and individuals with their own rights. The Convention says childhood is separate from adulthood, and lasts until 18; it is a special, protected time, in which children must be allowed to grow, learn, play, develop and flourish with dignity. The Convention went on to become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives


The Convention is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. It has inspired governments to change laws and policies and make investments so that more children finally get the health care and nutrition they need to survive and develop, and there are stronger safeguards in place to protect children from violence and exploitation. It has also enabled more children to have their voices heard and participate in their societies.


Despite this progress, the Convention is still not fully implemented or widely known and understood. Millions of children continue to suffer violations of their rights when they are denied adequate health care, nutrition, education and protection from violence. Childhoods continue to be cut short when children are forced to leave school, do hazardous work, get married, fight in wars or are locked up in adult prisons.

And global changes, like the rise of digital technology, environmental change, prolonged conflict and mass migration are completely changing childhood. Today’s children face new threats to their rights, but they also have new opportunities to realize their rights.


The hope, vision and commitment of world leaders in 1989 led to the Convention. It is up to today’s generation to demand that world leaders from government, business and communities end child rights violations now, once and for all. They must commit to action to make sure every child, has every right


There are two ways for a State to become a party: by signature and ratification or by accession. In ratifying or acceding to the Convention or an Optional Protocol, a State accepts an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the rights as outlined – including adopting or changing laws and policies that are needed to implement the provisions of the agreement.

The Optional Protocols to the Convention are considered independently of the Convention and must be ratified or acceded to separately, but the process is the same. States do not need to be a party to the Convention in order to ratify or accede to one or both of the Optional Protocols. Signature


Signature constitutes a preliminary endorsement of the Convention or Protocol. Signing the instrument does not create a binding legal obligation, but does demonstrate the State’s intent to examine the treaty domestically and consider ratifying it. While signing does not commit a State to ratification, it does oblige the State to refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.


Ratification or accession means an agreement to be bound legally by the terms of the Convention. Though accession has the same legal effect as ratification, the procedures differ. In the case of ratification, the State signs first and then ratifies the treaty. The procedure for accession has only one step – it is not preceded by an act of signature.

The formal steps for ratification or accession differ according to the national legislative requirements of the State. Before the ratification or accession, a country normally reviews the treaty to ascertain whether national laws are consistent with its provisions and to decide the most appropriate means of promoting compliance with the treaty.

Most commonly, countries that are promoting a Convention sign shortly after it has been adopted. They then ratify the treaty when all of their domestically required legal procedures have been fulfilled. Other States may begin with the domestic approval process and accede to the treaty once their domestic procedures have been completed, without signing the treaty first.

Both ratification and accession involve two steps. First, the appropriate national organ of the country – Parliament, Senate, the Crown, Head of State or Government, or a combination of these – follows domestic constitutional procedures and makes a formal decision to be a party to the treaty. Second, the instrument of ratification or accession, a formal sealed letter referring to the decision and signed by the State’s responsible authority, is prepared and deposited with the United Nations Secretary-General in New York

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact



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