Portrait of calm boy looking at camera on background of his parents

About the CRC

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world. Since its adoption in 1989 after more than 60 years of advocacy, the UN CRC has been ratified more quickly and by more governments (all except the United States) than any other human rights instrument. In January 2015, Somalia became the most recent country to invest in the wellbeing of its children by ratifying the CRC.

The CRC establishes in international law that States Parties must ensure that all children, without discrimination in any form:

  • Benefit from special protection measures and assistance;
  • Have access to services such as education and health care;
  • Can develop their personalities, abilities and talents to the fullest potential;
  • Grow up in an environment of happiness, love and understanding; and
  • Are informed about and participate in, achieving their rights in an accessible and active manner.

The CRC is unique because it was the first international treaty to incorporate the complete range of international human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as aspects of humanitarian law, that just apply to children.

The CRC clearly identifies governments and parents as duty bearers who have special responsibilities with respect to children.

What’s in the CRC?

The CRC consists of 54 articles and is guided by four fundamental principles:

Non-discrimination: No child should be discriminated against for any reason, no matter their religion, race or abilities; whatever they think or say; what their culture is; whether they are boys or girls or whether they are rich or poor.

The best interests of the child: Any decision made or action taken that may affect children must prioritise the best interests of the child, always and benefit them in the best possible way. This means that when adults make decisions that affect children, they should consider what would be best for the child.

Ensuring the child’s survival and development: Every child has the inherent right to life, and it is the responsibility of decision-makers to ensure they are provided every opportunity to develop and reach their potential physically, spiritually, morally and socially.

Participation: Children are experts in their own lives and experiences, and have the right to have their say in decisions that affect them. Every child has the right to express his or her opinion, and can provide advice and valuable insight into how their rights can best be protected and fulfilled.

What are the Optional Protocols?

Optional protocols complement and add to existing treaties. They are ‘optional’ because the obligations may be more demanding than those in the original convention, so States must independently choose whether or not to be bound by them. Optional protocols are treaties in their own right, and are open to signature, accession, or ratification by States that are party to the main treaty.

The CRC has three Optional Protocols:

  1. The sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
    The First Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography entered into force in January 2002
  2. Children in armed conflict;
    The Second Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement
    of children in armed conflict entered into force in February 2002.
  3. Establishing an international complaints procedure for violations of children’s rights
    The Third Optional Protocol to the CRC on a Communications Procedure sets out an international complaints procedure for child rights violations. It entered into force in April 2014, allowing children from states that have ratified the CRC to bring complaints about violations of their rights directly to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child if they have not found a solution at national level.

Australia and the CRC

Australia ratified the CRC in December 1990, which means that Australia has a duty to ensure that all children in Australia enjoy these rights. Every country that has ratified the Convention must report periodically to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Non-governmental organisations also have a role to play, submitting their own report to the Committee that presents the experiences of child rights experts, service providers, and most importantly, children and young people themselves.

The Australian Rights Taskforce, co-convened by UNICEF Australia and The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC), is the body in Australia that presents the alternative report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Find out more about the UN Reporting Process.

Resources for children and young people

The Child Rights Taskforce has prepared a child-friendly and youth-friendly version of the recommendations made to Australia by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Find out how Australia can improve the lives of children and young people with these publications for Primary School Students and High School Students.

If you want to find out legal information about your rights in your local state or territory, you can search by issue on the Lawstuff website.

For a Child Friendly version of the CRC, download this version from UNICEF Australia.

Resources for educators and parents

If you’re looking for ways to teach your children about their rights and the responsibilities, UNICEF Australia and SNAICC have information, resources and ideas to help engage children and young people with the work of the Australian Child Rights Taskforce and the CRC.

For updates on what’s happening around child rights in countries around the world, CRIN is the global child rights advocacy network, campaigning and advocating for long-term change and legal reform.