The 42 rights of a child
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified convention in history.
What is included
The Convention sets out the rights of children, aged zero to 18 years, and the responsibilities of governments to ensure those rights.
Child rights are based on what a child needs to survive, grow, participate and meet their potential. They apply equally to every child, regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion.
The Convention includes the responsibilities of parents, governments and children themselves to ensure the rights of children are met.
Every child has rights
A human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.
A child is recognised as a person under the age of 18, unless national laws recognise an earlier age of majority.
All rights apply to all children without exception. It is the State’s obligation to protect children from any form of discrimination and to take positive action to promote their rights.
Parents, organisations and state parties should always have the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.
Implementation of these rights
The State must do all it can to implement the rights contained in the Convention.
The State must respect the rights and responsibilities
of parents and the extended family to provide guidance for the child that is appropriate to her or his evolving capacities.
Every child has the inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.
A name and nationality
The child has the right to a name at birth. The child also has the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, to know his or her parents and be cared for by them.
The State has an obligation to protect and, if necessary, re-establish basic aspects of
the child’s identity. This includes name, nationality and family ties.
Live with their parents
The child has a right to live with his or her parents unless this is deemed incompatible with the child’s best interests. The child also has the right to maintain contact with both parents if separated from one or both.
Children and their parents have the right to leave any country and to enter their own for purposes of reunion or the maintenance of the child-parent relationship.
Freedom from kidnapping
The State has an obligation to prevent and remedy the kidnapping or retention abroad of children by a parent or third party.
Freedom of opinion
The child has the right to express his or her opinion freely and to have that opinion taken into account in any matter or procedure affecting the child.
Freedom of expression
The child has the right to express his or her views, obtain information and make ideas or information known, regardless of frontiers.
Freedom of thought
The State shall respect the child’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, subject to appropriate parental guidance.
Freedom of association
Children have a right to meet with others, and to join or form associations.
Protection of privacy
Children have the right to protection from interference with their privacy, family, home and correspondence, and to protection from libel or slander.
The State shall ensure the accessibility to children of information and material from a diversity of sources, and it shall encourage the mass media to disseminate information that is of social and cultural benefit to the child, and take steps to protect him or her from harmful materials.
Be raised by their parents
Parents have joint primary responsibility for raising the child, and the State shall support them in this. The State shall provide parents with appropriate child-rearing assistance.
Freedom from abuse
The State shall protect the child from all forms of maltreatment by parents or others responsible for the child’s care and shall establish appropriate social programmes for the prevention of abuse and the treatment of victims.
The State is obliged to provide special protection for a child deprived of the family environment and to ensure that appropriate alternative family care or institutional placement is available in such cases. Efforts to meet this obligation shall pay due regard to the child’s cultural background.
In countries where adoption in recognised and/or allowed, it shall be carried out only in the best interests of the child, and then only with the authorisation of competent authorities and safeguards for the child.
Special protection shall be granted to a refugee child or to a child seeking refugee status. It is the State’s obligation to cooperate with competent organisations that provide such protection and assistance.
Special disability care
A disabled child has the right to special care, education and training to help him or her enjoy a full and decent life in dignity and achieve the greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration possible.
The child has a right to the highest standard of health and medical care attainable. States shall place special emphasis on the reduction of infant and child mortality and on the provision of primary and preventive healthcare and of public health education.
Review of placement
A child who is placed by the State for reasons of care, protection or treatment is entitled to have that placement evaluated regularly.
The child has the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance.
A standard of living
Every child has the right to a standard of living adequate for his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
The child has a right to education, and the State’s duty is to ensure that primary education is free and compulsory.
Education shall aim at developing the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent.
Their own culture
Children of minority communities and indigenous populations have the right to enjoy their own culture and to practise their own religion and language.
Leisure and play
The child has the right to leisure, play and participation in cultural and artistic activities.
Freedom from child labour
The child has the right to be protected from work that threatens his or her health, education or development. The State shall set minimum ages for employment and shall regulate working conditions.
Protection from drug abuse
Children have the right to protection from the use of narcotic and psychotropic drugs, and from being involved in their production or distribution.
Freedom from sexual exploitation
The State shall protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, including prostitution and involvement in pornography.
Freedom from human trafficking
It is the State’s obligation to make every effort to prevent the sale, trafficking and abduction of children.
Freedom from exploitation
The child has the right to protection from all forms of exploitation prejudicial to any aspects of the child’s welfare not covered in articles 32–35.
Freedom from torture
No child shall be subjected to torture, cruel treatment or punishment, unlawful arrest or deprivation of liberty. Both capital punishment and life imprisonment without the possibility for release are prohibited for offences committed by persons below age 18.
Protection from conflict
States shall take all feasible measures to ensure that children under 15 years of age have no direct part in hostilities. No child below 15 shall be recruited into the armed forces.
The State has an obligation to ensure that child victims of armed conflicts, torture, maltreatment or exploitation receive appropriate treatment for their recovery and social reintegration.
A child in conflict with the law has the right to treatment that promotes the child’s sense of dignity and worth, takes the child’s age into account and aims at his or her defence
Relevant higher national standards
If a country has laws and standards that go further than the present Convention, then the country must keep these laws.
Knowledge of these rights
Governments must actively work to make sure children and adults know about the Convention.
Input from adults and governments
Articles 43 - 54 are about how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.
The four fundamental principles
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is guided by four fundamental principles
All actions concerning the child shall take full account of his or her best interests. The State shall provide the child with adequate care when parents, or others charged with parental responsibility, fail to do so.
2. The best interests of the child
Laws and actions affecting children should put their interests first and benefit them in the best possible way.
3. Survival, development, and protection
Authorities in each country have the responsibility to protect children and help ensure their full development—physically, spiritually, culturally, and socially.
Children have a right to have their say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.
Click the download button above for the full text of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or read New
Zealand's bilingual summary of the Convention here.
New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the 13th March 1993. This means the NZ Government has agreed the best interests of the child must come first where decisions, laws or services involve children. New Zealand submitted its Fifth Periodic Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on 5th May 2015.