The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has produced several aids to interpretation of the UNCRC since the Convention’s creation in 1989.
- General Comments, which provide additional clarity around putting the Convention into practice,
- Concluding observations on the UK, where the Committee comments as part of their reporting cycle on what needs to change for the UK Government and devolved governments to keep their promises under the UNCRC,
- Decisions the Committee has made under their optional protocol on a communications procedure (OPIC), which allows children to complain to the UN when a rights issue has not been resolved domestically, and
- Reports from Days of General Discussion, where the Committee invites experts to discuss a significant issue impacting human rights.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child creates general comments to:
- provide interpretation and analysis of specific UNCRC articles so that States have guidance around putting these into practice, and
- deal with how the UNCRC applies to broad issues related to the rights of the child.
An example of the first kind of general comment would be General Comment 17, which provides additional information around the right to play, Article 31 of the UNCRC. An example of the second kind would be General Comment 16 on the impact of business on children’s rights.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
A full list of General Comments from the Committee is below:
General Comment 1
The aims of education
General Comment 2
The role of Independent National Human Rights Institutions in the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of the Child
General Comment 3
HIV/AIDS and children’s rights
General Comment 4
Adolescent health and development in the context of the UNCRC
General Comment 5
General Measures of Implementation of the UNCRC
General Comment 6
Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin
General Comment 7
Implementing child rights in early childhood
General Comment 8
The right to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment
General Comment 9
The rights of children with disabilities
General Comment 10
Children’s rights in juvenile justice
General Comment 11
Indigenous children and their rights in the UNCRC
General Comment 12
The right to be heard
General Comment 13
The right to freedom from all forms of violence
General Comment 14
The right to best interests as a primary consideration
General Comment 15
The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health
General Comment 16
State obligations around the impact of business on children’s rights
General Comment 17
The right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural rights and the arts
General Comment 18
Harmful practices against women and children, primarily girls
General Comment 19
Public budgeting for the realisation of children’s rights
General Comment 20
Implementation of the UNCRC during adolescence
General Comment 21
Children in street situations
General Comment 22
General principles around human rights of children in the context of international migration
General Comment 23
State obligations regarding human rights of children in the context of international migration in countries of origin, transit, destination and return
General Comment 24
Children’s rights in the child justice system
Draft General Comment 25
Children’s rights in relation to the digital environment
The Committee has released four sets of concluding observations on the UK so far, and these are collected below:
Concluding observations on the UK’s Fifth Periodic Report to the Committee.
Concluding observation on the UK’s Third and Fourth Periodic Report to the Committee.
Concluding observations on the UK’s Second Periodic Report to the Committee.
Concluding observations on the UK’s First Periodic Report to the Committee.
Decisions under the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure
Like many other human rights treaties, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is accompanied by Optional Protocols. These are additional treaties that can:
- further address something in the original treaty, or
- address something the original treaty doesn’t mention, such as an issue that didn’t exist when it was first adopted.
Optional Protocols give more detail about the area they discuss, and expand a state’s obligations beyond those given in the original treaty.
Optional Protocols of the UNCRC
The UNCRC has three Optional Protocols:
- an Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography,
- an Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and
- an Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.
A state that signs up to the UNCRC isn’t required to sign up to its Optional Protocols. Currently, the UK is signed up to two Optional Protocols, but not to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
Under the UNCRC’s optional protocol on a communications procedure – which the UK hasn’t signed up to – children can bring complaints about violations of their rights directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, if they’ve not managed to find any solution at the national level.
Days of General Discussion (DGDs)
Below is a full list of Days of General Discussion and links to their associated reports: