Convention on the Rights of the Child


The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1989. The Convention has one signatory – the United States – and 196 countries have ratified or acceded to it. (Signatories are qualified to ratify, accept or approve a treaty. Ratification is an 'international act' whereby a State indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty.)

The Convention’s Preamble recognises that children need special safeguards, care and legal protection, before and after birth, due to their “physical and mental immaturity.” It invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, stating that everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms enshrined in these treaties, without distinction of any kind.

The 54 Articles of this 7,610-word Convention are divided into three parts. Part I (Articles 1-41) covers recommendations to State Parties on safeguarding the rights of the child. Part II (Articles 42-45) proposes establishing a Committee on the Rights of the Child comprising nationals of the State Parties to the Convention, and prescribes the manner in which State Parties shall report the measures they have adopted to observe the rights recognised by the Convention. Part III (Article 42-45) discusses the process by which the Convention is to be ratified and amended. (In UN documents, a ‘State Party’ to a treaty is a country that has ratified or acceded to that particular treaty, and is therefore legally bound by the provisions in the instrument).

The following are excerpts from 10 of the 54 Articles, which remain especially relevant to the present times:

Article 1: A child means every human being below the age of 18 years, unless “…under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.”

Article 2:  States Parties shall – within their jurisdiction – ensure the rights set forth in the Convention to each child without discrimination based on the child’s national, ethnic or social origin, or their race, colour, gender, language, religion, disability, political or other opinion, disability or any other status.

Article 4: States Parties shall implement legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure the rights recognised in this Convention. They shall undertake measures for the economic, social and cultural rights of children, to the maximum extent of their available resources.

Article 13: The child shall have the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart all kinds of information and ideas – orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media.

Article 17: States Parties shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources of mass media, especially those aimed at the promotion of their social, spiritual and moral well-being, and their physical and mental health.

Article 23: States Parties shall ensure that a mentally or physically disabled child shall enjoy a full and decent life in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's participation in the community. They shall also recognise the right of the disabled child to special care and shall – subject to available resources – ensure the extension of assistance to the child.

Article 24: States Parties shall recognise the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health, and facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall ensure that no child is deprived of their right to access such healthcare services. State Parties shall take measures to reduce infant and child mortality; ensure the provision of medical assistance and healthcare to all children, with an emphasis on primary healthcare; combat disease and malnutrition by applying available technology and providing adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water; ensure pre-natal and post-natal healthcare for mothers; ensure that all segments of society – particularly parents and children – have access to basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, the advantages of breastfeeding, hygiene and environmental sanitation and the prevention of accidents; and develop preventive healthcare and family planning education and services. States Parties shall take such measures with a view to abolish traditional practices which are prejudicial to the health of children.

Article 28: States Parties shall recognise the right of the child to education. They shall make primary education compulsory and freely available to all; encourage the development of different forms of secondary education and make these available and accessible to every child, and introduce free education and offer financial assistance in case of need; make higher education accessible to all, on the basis of the country’s capacity; make educational and vocational information and guidance available and accessible to all children; take measures to encourage regular attendance at schools and to reduce drop-out rates. States Parties shall also take all appropriate measures to ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with the child's human dignity.

Article 30: In States with ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities, a child belonging to a minority or an indigenous community shall not be denied the right to engage in their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

Article 32: State Parties recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation, and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous; to interfere with the child's education; or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. State Parties shall take legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to ensure the implementation of this Article. They shall implement the minimum age for employment in different occupations, regulate the hours and conditions of employment of children, and provide for penalties or other sanctions to ensure that this Article is enforced.

Focus by Tanishka D’Lyma.


United Nations


United Nations


20 Nov, 1989