Human rights are inherent entitlements which come to every person as a
consequence of being human. A fundamental element of protection of these rights
is the recognition that States have the primary responsibility of protecting the
human rights of all persons within their territories. Children also share
protected universal human rights with all other persons but, in addition,
because of their dependence, vulnerability and developmental needs, they also
have certain additional rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
provides a comprehensive code of rights which offers the highest standards of
protection and assistance for children as the near universal acceptance of the
Convention establishes it as a set of international norms that are the basic
minimum rights that children are entitled to.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) can be applied to everyone up to
18 years of age, unless it is demonstrated that they are an adult under
applicable national law, in which case they can claim the benefits of adulthood,
while still being able to claim the protection of the CRC. The Committee on the
Rights of the Child ensure that legislations made by states are fully compatible
with the CRC by incorporating it into domestic law and further ensures that its
principles take precedence in cases of conflict with national legislations.
In many countries, local governments are increasingly assuming responsibility
for protecting child rights thus making municipal authorities and local branches
of national agencies the primary actors in providing basic services for
children. Also, where assistance from higher levels of government is lacking,
local authorities maintain the legal responsibility to respond as best they can
to the situation of children under their jurisdiction.
The CRC goes by four main principles: non-discrimination, the best interests of
the child, the right to life, survival and development, and the right to
The theme of non-discrimination under Article 2(1) of CRC is of special
importance for protection of refugee and displaced children. It relates to the
recognition that every child within a Member State's jurisdiction should be
given the opportunity to enjoy the rights recognized by the Convention without
regard to citizenship, immigration status, or any other status.
The principle of best interests under Article 3 (1) of CRC is not a new concept,
it is particularly important in the context of the CRC, because, for the first
time, it clearly links the child's best interests to respect for and fulfilment
of his/her rights in the case of separated and detained children.
Right to life, survival and development under Article 6 of CRC talks about the
states must adopt appropriate measures to safeguard life and must refrain from
any actions that intentionally take life away along with ensuring the right to
an adequate standard of living, housing, nutrition and the highest attainable
standards of health while also looking after the harmonious development of the
child, including at the spiritual, moral and social levels, where education
plays a key role.
Participation under Article 12 (1) of CRC ensures that the child has the right
to influence decisions affecting his or her life and children should be assured
the right to express their views freely, but also that they should be heard and
that their views be given due weight.
The rights established in the CRC can be usefully divided into four different
categories. These categories can assist in highlighting the relevance of the CRC
to various aspects of humanitarian activity.
- Survival Rights
Covering the right to life and the needs most basic to existence, it ensures:
- Availability of clean water and sanitation,
- Availability and adequate standard of shelter, with humane living
- Adequate food ration for the child survival and physical and mental
- Appropriate health care is available to all.
- Protection Rights
Safeguarding children against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation
- Education, which will assist monitoring, will avoid children from being
idle and will provide them with alternatives and restore a daily structure
to their lives,
- Being aware of and reporting incidents of abuse and exploitation,
combined with strong advocacy towards statutory authorities, as well as
- Training field staff and refugee leaders and setting up secure camps
- Development Rights
These are the rights required for children to reach their fullest potential in
the areas of education, cultural activities, access to information and freedom
of thought, conscience and religion. These rights can be implemented by:
- Ensuring that all children have access to education,
- Ensuring that children/adolescents have access to non-formal education
- Ensuring play and leisure by organising dance, drawing, painting and for
adolescents, sports, discussions and theatre among others,
- Providing a stable/safe environment to encourage healthy child
development while actively pursuing durable solutions.
- Participation Rights
Giving the freedom to express opinions and to have a say in matters affecting
their own lives provides the children with a sense of connectedness. The child's
participation rights can further be ensured by:
- Ensuring that the views of the child are taken into account in decisions
- Making children heard in the refugee status determination process,
- Participation in discussions including through youth clubs and
There are two Optional Protocols:
The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of
Children in Armed Conflict and The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children,
Child Prostitution and Child Pornography which were adopted by the General
Assembly in May 2000, and entered into force in 2002. The two Optional Protocols
relate to the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and the Sale of
Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict provides
that States shall take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their
armed forces under the age of 18 years shall not take part in hostilities
(Article 1), and ensure that persons under the age of 18 years are not
compulsorily recruited into their armed forces (Article 2) and it prohibits the
recruitment or use under any circumstances of children who are less than 18
years old by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State
The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child
Pornography calls on each State to proscribe fully, under criminal or penal law,
all acts and activities involving offering, delivering or accepting, by any
means, a child for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The Protocol also
prohibits the transfer of a child's organs for profit and the engagement of
children in forced labour.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human
rights treaty in history. It has inspired governments to change laws and
policies and make investments so that more children finally get the health care
and nutrition they need to survive and develop, and there are stronger
safeguards in place to protect children from violence and exploitation. It has
also enabled more children to have their voices heard and participate in their
societies, hence committing to make sure every child, has every right.