This treaty was ground-breaking because it was the first time children's basic needs were established as rights. UNCROC makes it clear that people and governments everywhere have a responsibility to children and it paved the way for protecting children around the world, including child labourers and child soldiers.
While UNCROC has not eradicated all the suffering that children endure, it has created a vision of hope for a better world and has lead to significant improvements in the lives of millions of children.
It was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989 and within a year it entered into force as international law.
Although there have been other international treaties and agreements about children's rights, UNCROC is the only one to be ratified by 191 out of 193 countries, all except Somalia and the United States of America. This makes it the most widely and rapidly accepted human rights convention in history. It is the foundation of UNICEF's work.
Read the full text of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or read about it's continued relevance in the State of the World's Children report.
Every child has rights
Children are born with fundamental freedoms which are the inherent rights of all human beings. UNCROC declares that children have a right to life, good health, education, a safe home, participation in decision-making and protection from abuse and exploitation.
UNCROC has 54 articles (statements). It is guided by four fundamental principles:
- Equality regardless of race, gender, language, religion, disability etc.
- The best interests of the child.
- Survival, development and protection.
- Participation in decisions which affect children.
UNCROC in New Zealand
New Zealand adopted UNCROC in 1989 and ratified it in 1993. UNICEF NZ recently celebrated the 21st anniversary of UNCROC in New Zealand.
The New Zealand government entered three formal reservations to the Convention, meaning that they would not upgrade their laws to comply with certain articles. The reservations were:
- Children whose parents do not have a legal right to be in New Zealand are not entitled to education, health and welfare benefits.
- There is no minimum age or agreed conditions of employing children.
- Children in custody can be held with adult prisoners in some circumstances.
We asked Robert Ludbrook to share his analysis of UNCROC with us. Read his article about the development of UNCROC and children's rights in New Zealand here.