Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the United Nation's Children's Fund (UK) (UNICEF)

  On 20 November 2009, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) turns 20. A whole generation of children and young people has grown up under the provisions of the CRC. In many countries, rich as well as poor, the Convention has strengthened or even set in motion process of social change. All but two countries (USA and Somalia) have ratified the CRC, thus laying the foundation for a world where all children can enjoy their rights to survival, development, protection and participation. During the part 20 years, the push for children's rights has grown into a real child rights movement, leading in significant improvements in the lives of millions of children. Not all progress ca be directly attributed to the CRC, but the Convention's guiding principles such as the principle of no-discrimination have led to a fundamental shift: It's no longer at the discretion of States to decide which children should be included in social programmes. It has become their obligation to reach out to all children. Child rights are for all children. The Convention sets out these rights in 54 articles and two Optional Protocols (Sale of Children & Children in Armed Conflict).

Article 45 of the Convention gives a special role to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in implementation of the provisions of the Convention. The most important element of UNICEF's approach to the implementation of the Convention is the integration of the principles of the Convention into country programmes of cooperation around the world.

  Implementing the CRC is first and foremost a government's obligation. So how does the UK government fare?

  The UK Government periodic report on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was discussed in a public meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva on 22 September 2008. After the discussion with the UK Government delegation, the Committee agreed, in a closed meeting held on 3 October, on written Concluding Observations which include suggestions and recommendations.

  Also, on 23 September 2008 there was a meeting of the UN Committee and a discussion with the UK delegation about implementation of the Optional Protocol on Children in Armed Conflict.

  The Concluding Observations contain the following aspects: introduction; positive aspects (including progress achieved); factors and difficulties impeding the implementation; principal subjects for concern; suggestions and recommendations addressed to the State party.

  The UK delegation made an impressive performance on 22 and 23 September. More importantly, the Committee welcomed progress achieved and the serious commitment the UK Government attach to the UNCRC. On the other hand, the Concluding Observations identify a number of factors and difficulties in the implementation of the CRC and put forward 124 recommendations.

  UNICEF UK would like to see that the pace in implementation of the Convention is accelerated and calls on the Joint Committee on Human Rights to play its role in making sure that the momentum is kept.

  UNICEF UK perceives the Concluding Observations as an excellent platform for changes in legislation, policy and practice at UK and devolved nations level and will be working together with the UK Government to implement changes.


  1.  Incorporation of the CRC into UK law: Measures to bring UK legislation in line with the UNCRC and incorporation of the principles and provisions of the CRC into domestic legislation (paragraphs 10 and 11).

2.  Dissemination: increased Government support to UNICEF'S Rights Respecting Schools Award' and inclusion of the CRC in the national curriculum (paragraphs 20 and 21).

  3.  Training on the CRC of all professional groups working for and with children, including civil servants (paragraph 21).

  4.  Respect for the views of the child in legislation as well as in practice, including children's meaningful participation in the public policy making process (paragraphs 32 and 33).

  5.  Asylum-seeking children and trafficking: non-discrimination, best interests of the child, appointment of guardians, child-friendly asylum procedure, safe return, compliance with international child protection standards (paragraphs 24, 26, 70, 71, and 75).

  6.  Breastfeeding: full implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and further promotion of baby-friendly hospitals (paragraphs 58 and 59).

  7.  Sexual Health: The Committee recommended that the UK Government intensify its efforts to provide young people with appropriate sexual health services and sex and relationship education in school.


  1.  That a national plan of action for implementation of the Concluding Observations is adopted this year. The UK is taking a so-called "four nations" approach in realisation of the CRC, but it is important that there is national co-ordination.

2.  That a plan of action for implementation of the Optional Protocol to the CRC on Children in Armed Conflict is adopted this year.

  3.  That the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Pornography and Child Prostitution is ratified this year.

February 2009

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Prepared 20 November 2009