Early Childhood Education

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (1989)


The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a legally binding, nonnegotiable international document unanimously adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 20, 1989. The CRC was created to ensure every child the right to survival, development, protection, and participation by recognizing and protecting their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. The CRC defines a child as any person below age 18, unless a younger majority age is recognized by national law (Article 1).

The CRC is the most rapidly and universally accepted international human rights treaty in history. It entered into force on September 2, 1990, and has been ratified by 192 countries. Only two countries—the United States and Somalia—have not ratified the CRC, with the latter nation unable to ratify because it currently has no recognized central government authority (UNICEF).

The CRC rests on the following four foundational principles:

1. Nondiscrimination (Article 2).

2. The best interests of the child (Article 3).

3. The child’s right to life, survival, and development (Article 6).

4. Respect for the views of the child (Article 12) (BvLF, 2001).

The CRC was built on the consensus of a special working group formed by the United Nations in 1979. The group, representing countries with various traditions, cultural values, religious beliefs, and varied legal and economic systems, carried out an in-depth, 10-year review including preexisting declarations and covenants (UNICEF).

The Convention requires governments to view the child as an individual with rights and freedoms, including the right to a name and nationality at birth; participation in family, cultural, and social life; access to education, health care and nutrition; freedom of opinion, expression and association; and protection from abuse and exploitation (including children with handicaps, orphans, and refugees). The Convention obliges governments to inform children of their rights.

The CRC contains a preamble, fifty-four provisions, and two optional protocols. The preamble recalls the basic principles of the United Nations and specific human rights treaties and proclamations foundational to the CRC. Articles 1-41 detail the minimum rights of all children, without discrimination, including standards by which all governments must aspire to achieve them. Articles 42-54 outline the implementation of the CRC and its entry into force, including the obligation of states to report to a body of independent elected experts every five years (Article 44) (OHCHR). The Optional Protocols were added to strengthen the provisions of the CRC in specific areas. The first protocol addresses the involvement of children in armed conflict; the protocol entered into force on February 12, 2002, and has been signed by 117 countries and ratified by eighty-eight. The second protocol addresses the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; it entered into force on January 18, 2002. To date, 110 countries have signed and eighty-seven have ratified this protocol.

Equally authentic texts of the CRC are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. See also United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Further Readings: Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) (June 2001). The convention on the rights of the child and young children. Early Childhood Matters 1998, 8-21. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bernardvanleer.org/downloadFile?uid=55e95349fe77730650cb53f5e0797486; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Committee on the Rights of the Child. “The Rights of the Child” Fact Sheet No. 10 (Rev. 1). Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/english/ about/publications/docs/fs10.htm; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Convention on the rights of the child. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/crc/convention.htm; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Full text of the “convention on the rights of the child.” Retrieved fromhttp://www.unicef.org/crc/fulltext.htm.

Hollie Hix-Small