An international agreement for child rights
Thirty years ago, world leaders made a historic commitment to the world’s children by adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – an international agreement on childhood.
It’s become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives around the world.
Everyone under 18 years of age has all the rights in this Convention.
The Convention applies to everyone whatever their race, religion, abilities, whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from.
All organisations concerned with children should work towards what is best for each child.
Governments should make these rights available to children.
Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to guide their children so that, as they grow up, they learn to use their rights properly.
Children have the right to live a full life. Governments should ensure that children survive and develop healthily.
Children have the right to a legally registered name and nationality. Children also have the right to know their parents and, as far as possible, to be cared for by them.
Governments should respect a child’s right to a name, a nationality and family ties.
Children should not be separated from their parents unless it is for their own good. For example, if a parent is mistreating or neglecting a child. Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in contact with both parents, unless this might harm the child.
Families who live in different countries should be allowed to move between those countries so that parents and children can stay in contact, or get back together as a family.
Governments should take steps to stop children being taken out of their own country illegally.
Children have the right to say what they think should happen when adults are making decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.
Children have the right to get and to share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or to others.
Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should guide children on these matters.
Children have the right to meet with other children and young people and to join groups and organisations, as long as this does not stop other people from enjoying their rights.
Children have the right to privacy. The law should protect them from attacks against their way of life, their good name, their family and their home.
Children have the right to reliable information from the media. Mass media such as television, radio and newspapers should provide information that children can understand and should not promote materials that could harm children.
Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their children and should always consider what is best for each child. Governments should help parents by providing services to support them, especially if both parents work.
Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protect them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents, or anyone else who looks after them.
Children who cannot be looked after by their own family must be looked after properly by people who respect their religion, culture and language.
When children are adopted the first concern must be what is best for them. The same rules should apply whether children are adopted in the country of their birth or if they are taken to live in another country.
Children who come into a country as refugees should have the same rights as children who are born in that country.
Children who have any kind of disability should receive special care and support so that they can live a full and independent life.
Children have the right to good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that they will stay healthy. Richer countries should help poorer countries achieve this.
Children who are looked after by their local authority rather than their parents should have their situation reviewed regularly.
The Government should provide extra money for the children of families in need.
Children have the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental needs. The government should help families who cannot afford to provide this.
Children have the right to an education. Discipline in schools should respect children’s human dignity. Primary education should be free. Wealthier countries should help poorer countries achieve this.
Education should develop each child’s personality and talents to the full. It should encourage children to respect their parents, their cultures and other cultures.
Children have the right to learn and use the language and customs of their families, whether or not these are shared by the majority of the people in the country where they live, as long as this does not harm others.
Children have the right to relax, play and to join in a wide range of leisure activities.
Governments should protect children from work that is dangerous or that might harm their health or education.
Governments should provide ways of protecting children from dangerous drugs.
Governments should protect children from sexual abuse.
Governments should make sure that children are not abducted or sold.
Children should be protected from any activities that could harm their development.
Children who break the law should not be treated cruelly. They should not be put in a prison with adults and should be able to keep in contact with their family.
Governments should not allow children under 15 to join the army. Children in war zones should receive special protection.
Children who have been neglected or abused should receive special help to restore their self-respect.
Children who are accused of breaking the law should receive legal help. Prison sentences for children should only be used for the most serious offences.
If the laws of a particular country protects children better than the articles of the Convention, then those laws should override the Convention.
Governments should make the Convention known to all parents and children.
Learn more about the Convention on the Rights of the Child with our simplified guide:DOWNLOAD Pdf
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UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, is the world’s leading children’s charity, and has been since 1946.