What is the UNCRC?

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty that grants all children and young people (aged 17 and under) a comprehensive set of rights. The UK signed the Convention on 19 April 1990, ratified it on 16 December 1991 and it came into force on 15 January 1992.

The UNCRC is presently the most widely ratified international human rights treaty. It is the only international human rights treaty to include civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. It sets out in detail what every child needs to have a safe, happy and fulfilled childhood regardless of their sex, religion, social origin, and where and to whom they were born. All United Nations member states, except for the United States and Somalia, have ratified the Convention.

The Convention gives children and young people more than 40 substantive rights, including the right to:

  • special protection measures and assistance
  • access to services such as education and healthcare
  • develop their personalities, abilities and talents to the fullest potential
  • grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding
  • be informed about and participate in achieving their rights in an accessible and active manner.

The Convention is separated into 54 articles or sections covering different aspects of childhood and rights and freedoms.

The UK Government agreed to make all laws, policy and practice compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child when it ratified it in 1991 (though it registered some reservations which have since been removed). As international law, the Convention is meant to be followed and should be referred to by courts, tribunals and other administrative processes when making decisions that affect children.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body of experts monitoring the implementation of the CRC by States Parties to the Convention. The Committee holds regular sessions per year to review States Parties' reports on progress made in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocols.

Reservation on Article 22

ECPAT UK is proud to have successfully campaigned for the UK Government to remove its Reservation on Article 22 of the Convention with regards to immigration and nationality. When the UNCRC was ratified in 1991, the UK entered a general reservation to the convention as regards the entry, stay in and departure from the UK, of those children subject to immigration control, and the acquisition and possession of citizenship. This was withdrawn, meaning that the principles within the Convention are applied to all children, irrespective of their immigration status – enshrining ECPAT UK’s belief that all children are equal and deserving of their rights and protection.

Optional Protocols

Three Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child exist: