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Convention on the Rights of the Child


The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is one of the nine core UN human rights treaties; seven of which have been ratified by the UK. It sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all children.

By ratifying this Convention in 1991, the UK agreed that public bodies should consider the best interests of the child when doing anything that affects children. The CRC protects the rights of children in all areas of their life, including their rights to:

  • express their views freely and be heard in legal proceedings that affect them
  • privacy and family life
  • freedom from violence, abuse and neglect
  • protection of child refugees
  • health
  • social security
  • an adequate standard of living
  • education
  • freedom from economic and sexual exploitation, and
  • be treated with dignity and respect within the criminal justice system.

The full text of CRC can be found on the UN website.

How the CRC treaty cycle works

Each treaty operates on its own unique timetable. We are now in a period of follow-up activity for the CRC where we will be working with the government and civil society organisations to implement the Committee's recommendations (‘Concluding Observations’), adopted in 2016. 

A flow chart showing the various milestones of the CRCtreaty cycle

Work by the Commission relevant to the CRC

We have published the following reports, research and evidence as part of our treaty monitoring activity:

  • Updated submission (Welsh language PDF) to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child ahead of the UK’s public examination  (April 2016)
  • Shadow report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on the UK’s implementation of the CRC (August 2015)

Our other work that relates to the treaty includes: 

Next steps

  • Following the Concluding Observations of July 2016, the Commission is implementing a programme of work to make sure that the UK and devolved Governments take concrete action to make the changes recommended by the UN. Our work includes engagement with Government, Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders.
  • The next State report under CRC is due from the UK Government by January 2022.

In July 2016 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published its Concluding Observations.

Issues covered in the report include:

  • Access to civil law justice
  • Violence against children and child trafficking
  • Children deprived of a family environment
  • Privacy, including stop and search
  • Standard of living and social security, including child poverty and homelessness
  • The rights of asylum-seeking, refugee and migrant children
  • Health
  • Education, leisure and cultural activities
  • Youth justice
  • Improving the implementation of the CRC in the UK

The CRC is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a body made up of 18 independent experts. These experts are nominated by states that have ratified the CRC.

States submit reports to the Committee every five years. These ‘state reports’ set out the laws and policies put in place to implement the CRC and their impact on children’s enjoyment of their rights contained in the treaty.

The Committee considers each state report, drawing on other information from a wide range of sources. As one of the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), the Commission can submit information to this process in what is known as a ‘shadow report’. The Committee uses all this information to identify a ‘list of issues’ to raise with the state concerned. Civil society organisations can also submit ‘shadow reports’ and the Commission supports civil society to understand and use the treaties to improve government accountability.

The Committee examines each state report, using the ‘list of issues’ as a basis for discussion with the relevant government. The Committee’s report, complete with recommendations for action, is known as the ‘Concluding Observations’. States must publish these recommendations, act on them and report on progress in their next state report.

More information about this procedure can be found on the UN Human Rights website. The UK's most recent state report and all other documents, including the UN’s Concluding Observations and the shadow reports from the last examination in 2016, can be found on their website.

The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was ratified by the UK in 2009. It sets out the measures needed to implement Articles 34 and 35 of the CRC. These 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. You can read the full text of this Optional Protocol on the UN website.

The UK’s performance in implementing the Protocol was last examined by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in June 2014. You can read the Committee’s findings in its ‘Concluding Observations’ report.

The Commission highlighted various concerns in its ‘shadow report’ sent to the Committee to aid their examination of the UK’s progress.

The Committee sometimes issues ‘General Comments’ which explain the application of the treaty in particular situations and set out the Committee’s interpretation of specific treaty provisions, such as the right to social security. You can find these General Comments on the UN website.

General discussion days

The Committee also organises discussion days on issues that affect children’s rights. These are open to states that have ratified the treaty, UN agencies and bodies, non-governmental organisations, National Human Rights Institutions, academics and youth groups. These discussions end in the adoption of recommendations. Further information on these discussions can be found on the UN website.

Last updated: 18 Apr 2018