The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

Ireland committed to promote children’s rights when it signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1992.  The Children’s Rights Alliance uses the Convention as a framework to change Ireland’s laws, policies and services so that all children are protected, nurtured and empowered. This brings children’s rights to the top of the agenda of our Government, legislators and key decision-makers.

What Does the Convention on the Rights of the Child Say?

The UNCRC defines the child as a person under 18 years of age. It acknowledges the primary role of parents and the family in the care and protection of children, as well as the obligation of the State to help them carry out these duties. Read the full text of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Cartooon of UN Committee

The UN Convention consists of 41 articles, each of which details a different type of right. These rights are not ranked in order of importance; instead they interact with one another to form one integrated set of rights. A common approach is to group these articles together under the following themes:

  1. Survival rights: include the child’s right to life and the needs that are most basic to existence, such as nutrition, shelter, an adequate living standard, and access to medical services.
  2. Development rights: include the right to education, play, leisure, cultural activities, access to information, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  3. Protection rights: ensure children are safeguarded against all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation, including special care for refugee children; safeguards for children in the criminal justice system; protection for children in employment; protection and rehabilitation for children who have suffered exploitation or abuse of any kind.
  4. Participation rights: encompass children's freedom to express opinions, to have a say in matters affecting their own lives, to join associations and to assemble peacefully. As their capacities develop, children should have increasing opportunity to participate in the activities of society, in preparation for adulthood.

The UN Convention includes four articles that are given special emphasis. These are also known as ‘general principles’. These rights are the bedrock for securing the additional rights in the UN Convention.

  • that all the rights guaranteed by the UNCRC must be available to all children without discrimination of any kind (Article 2);
  • that the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children (Article 3);
  • that every child has the right to life, survival and development (Article 6); and
  • that the child’s view must be considered and taken into account in all matters affecting him or her (Article 12).

Watch Our Animation on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child

When Ireland signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Government agreed to be assessed periodically by the UN on its progress in implementing the rights in the Convention. This means that every few years the State submits a progress report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and agrees to an oral examination by the Committee members. The Children’s Rights Alliance also submits an independent report on behalf of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). This is known as the ‘Parallel Report’ and we have done this three times; in 1998, in 2006 and in 2015. In 2016 we held Ireland's first Child Summit in partnership with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to discuss the UNCRC's Concluding Observations from this Report.   Read more about the reporting process.

Read More About the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Full text UNCRC English
Full text UNCRC Irish
Summary of the UNCRC information Sheet
What is the UNCRC information Sheet
History of the UNCRC Information Sheet
Children's Rights Alliance UNCRC Parallel Report (1997)
Children's Rights Alliance UNCRC Parallel Report (2006)
Children's Rights Alliance Parallel Report 'Are We There Yet' (2015)