Interpreting the UNCRC


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.

These include:

  • 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.

Day of General Discussion 2021

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is currently preparing for 2021’s Day of General Discussion on Children’s Rights and Alternative Care.

Our DGD Submission

General Comments

A:

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.

A full list of General Comments from the Committee is below:

General Comments

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

General Comment 25

Children’s rights in relation to the digital environment

Read a young people’s version of General Comment 25 from the 5Rights Foundation.

Concluding observations

The Committee has released four sets of concluding observations on the UK so far, and these are collected below:

Concluding observations

2016

Concluding observations on the UK’s Fifth Periodic Report to the Committee.

2008

Concluding observation on the UK’s Third and Fourth Periodic Report to the Committee.

2002

Concluding observations on the UK’s Second Periodic Report to the Committee.

1995

Concluding observations on the UK’s First Periodic Report to the Committee.

Decisions under the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure

A:

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:

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.

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:

Days of General Discussion

1992: Children in armed conflict

1993: Economic exploitation

1994: Role of the family

1995a: The girl child

1995b: Juvenile justice

1996: The child and the media

1997: Children with disabilities

1998: HIV/AIDS

1999: 10th Anniversary Discussion- General Measures of Implementation

2000: State violence against children

2001: Violence against children within the family and school

2002: The private sector as a service provider

2003: The rights of indigenous children

2004: Implementing child rights in early childhood

2005: Children without parental care

2006: The right of the child to be heard

2007: Resources for the rights of the child— responsibility of States

2008: The right of the child to education in emergency situations

2011: Children of incarcerated parents

2012: The rights of all children in the context of international migration

2014: Digital media and children’s rights

2016: Children’s rights and the environment

2018: Protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders

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