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.

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Article 1
Be recognised

A child is recognised as a person under the age of 18, unless national laws recognise an earlier age of majority.

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Article 2

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.

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Article 3
Adequate care

Parents, organisations and state parties should always have the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

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Article 4
Implementation of these rights

The State must do all it can to implement the rights contained in the Convention.

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Article 5
Parental guidance

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.

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Article 6

Every child has the inherent right to life, and the State has an obligation to ensure the child’s survival and development.

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Article 7
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.

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Article 8
Identity protection

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.

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Article 9
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.

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Article 10
Family reunification

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.

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Article 11
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.

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Article 12
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.

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Article 13
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.

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Article 14
Freedom of thought

The State shall respect the child’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, subject to appropriate parental guidance.

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Article 15
Freedom of association

Children have a right to meet with others, and to join or form associations.

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Article 16
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.

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Article 17
Access information

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.

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Article 18
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.

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Article 19
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.

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Article 20
Alternative care

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.

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Article 21
Safe adoption

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.

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Article 22
Refugee protection

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.

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Article 23
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.

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Article 24
Health services

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.

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Article 25
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.

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Article 26
Social security

The child has the right to benefit from social security, including social insurance.

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Article 27
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.

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Article 28
An education

The child has a right to education, and the State’s duty is to ensure that primary education is free and compulsory.

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Article 29
Personal development

Education shall aim at developing the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent.

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Article 30
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.

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Article 31
Leisure and play

The child has the right to leisure, play and participation in cultural and artistic activities.

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Article 32
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.

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Article 33
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.

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Article 34
Freedom from sexual exploitation

The State shall protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, including prostitution and involvement in pornography.

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Article 35
Freedom from human trafficking

It is the State’s obligation to make every effort to prevent the sale, trafficking and abduction of children.

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Article 36
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.

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Article 37
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.

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Article 38
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.

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Article 39
Rehabilitative care

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.

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Article 40
Juvenile justice

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

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Article 41
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.

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Article 42
Knowledge of these rights

Governments must actively work to make sure children and adults know about the Convention.

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Article 43 - 54
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

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1. Non-discrimination

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.

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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.

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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.

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4. Participation

Children have a right to have their say in decisions that affect them and to have their opinions taken into account.

New Zealand government

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.

New Zealand Government Agreement