Creating a fairer Britain
The UN 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. 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, including the rights to:
Read the Convention on the Rights of the Child (PDF)
The UK signed the convention on 19 April 1990, ratified it on 16 December 1991 and it came into force on 15 January 1992.
When a country ratifies the convention it agrees to do everything it can to implement it. The convention has not been incorporated into UK law. However, in 2010 the UK Government committed to give “due regard” to the convention when making new policy and legislation. The Welsh Government has also been using the Convention as the basis for policy making for children and young people in Wales since 2004.
The UK first reported to the UNCRC on 15 March 1994. Since then it has produced a further 3 periodic reports. The UK’s performance in implementing the convention was last examined by the UN in September 2008.
As one of the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions, the Commission can submit a shadow report to the UNCRC, setting out our evidence about the UK’s performance in implementing the convention.
Read our shadow report to the Committee
Some of the key observations made by the UNCRC reflected the priority issues the Commission raised in its shadow report, including:
Find out more about what the UN Committee concluded after examining the UK Government's performance
The UK will be submitting its next (fifth) periodic report in January 2014. The Department for Education takes the lead in coordinating the UK’s State report to the UNCRC, securing contributions from the devolved administrations, which are responsible for implementing UNCRC in their jurisdictions. It has recently conducted a call for views on the draft state report:
In line with the Commission’s role in facilitating the participation of civil society in monitoring the implementation of UN treaties, we commissioned the Children’s Rights Alliance (England) to coordinate a response to the call for views on behalf of the Children’s sector in England. Read the response
The UK’s performance in implementing the convention is expected to be examined again in 2016.
Articles 34 and 35 of UNCRC require states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and take all measures possible to ensure that they are not abducted, sold or trafficked. The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography supplements this by providing states with detailed requirements to end these activities.
The Protocol came in to force in 2002, with the UK government ratifying it in 2009. The UK submitted its first state report on 6 June 2011 under the Optional Protocol (Read report) . The UK’s performance in implementing the Optional Protocol will be examined by the UNCRC in June 2014.
In 1990 the UN decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to investigate the exploitation of children around the world. The Special Rapporteur is expected to submit reports to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, making recommendations Governments, United Nations bodies and non-governmental organizations in order to protect the rights of children.
The Special Rapporteur’s most recent report (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography) was submitted to the Human Rights Council in March 2014. Coming at the end of her six year mandate, the report provides an overview of the major, recent, global developments in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
As one of the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions, the Commission can make oral statements at the Human Rights Council in response to the reports of Special Rapporteurs. In March 2014, the Commission delivered a joint statement with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which focused on the need to improve the UK’s criminal laws to better protect children from different forms of sexual exploitation.