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Convention on the Rights of the Child: 20 years

arton1706On 20 November, UNICEF and civil society partners are convening representatives of governments, civil society and the private sector, as well as children and young people at the United Nations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The two-hour event will highlight the transformative impact of the Convention on the wellbeing of children over the past two decades, while also acknowledging challenges that remain to the realization of all rights, for all children, everywhere.

Click here for the list of speakers.

For perspectives on the Convention, click here.

For worldwide events, click here.

See also UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children and the recently launched Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), adopted on 20 November 1989, provides a “rights-based” approach to child protection. The Convention is the first legally binding international instrument to incorporate the full range of human rights–including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The Convention has been ratified by 193 States Parties, and currently only two countries have not ratified it: the United States and Somalia.

The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and its two Optional Protocols (the involvement of children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography).

The Convention 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.

Every right spelled out in the CRC is inherent to the human dignity and harmonious development of every child. The Convention protects children’s rights by setting standards in health care; education; and legal, civil and social services.

By agreeing to undertake the obligations of the CRC (by ratifying or acceding to it), national governments have committed themselves to protecting and ensuring children’s rights – and they have agreed to hold themselves accountable for this commitment before the international community. States Parties to the Convention are obliged to develop and undertake all actions and policies in the light of the best interests of the child.

From 8-10 May 2002, the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children (UNGASS) brought together over 65 Heads of State and Government, almost 1,500 NGO representatives and saw the integrated participation of child and youth delegates. UNGASS adopted an outcome document, “A World Fit for Children,” which contains a political declaration, a review of progress and a Plan of Action. Read NGLS Roundup 92.

A World Fit for Children (WFFC) + 5 high-level plenary meeting was held at UN headquarters in New York in December 2007. It sought to evaluate the progress made in the implementation of the WFFC Plan of Action and its four core areas (promoting healthy lives; combating HIV and AIDS; providing quality education; and protecting against abuse, exploitation and violence) and to renew commitments to children. Read NGLS Roundup 130.

Click here for a summary of the rights under the Convention.

See also:

Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict

The United Nations Study on Violence against Children


This article is available in Spanish.

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.

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