Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN treaty

CRC is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1989. The UK ratified (agreed to follow) CRC in 1991. By ratifying CRC, the UK agrees that public bodies should consider the best interests of the child when doing anything that affects children. CRC protects the rights of children in all areas of their life, including their rights to:

  • Life, survival and development
  • Freedom from violence, abuse and neglect
  • Express their views in matters affecting them, including in legal proceedings
  • Education
  • An adequate standard of living

How the treaty is monitored

The implementation of CRC is monitored by the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Rights of the Child. Around every five years, the Committee reviews how well each state is putting into practice the rights in CRC. Find out more about the previous review cycles. There are six stages to the treaty cycle – see CRC treaty cycle below for further information about each stage.

Engagement and participation

Civil society organisations and other stakeholders can engage throughout the treaty monitoring cycle. The UN has provided information on how to participate for civil society and for children. Guides are also available online for children to report to the UN and for NGOs accompanying children in CRC reporting. We aim to support civil society organisations to understand and engage with the monitoring process. For instance, we may host webinars or roundtable discussions, commission organisations to produce reports on behalf of wider civil society, or provide financial assistance to increase participation in UN oral evidence sessions. We will commission up to a maximum of one civil society project per cycle. We most recently provided funding to the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and Children in Wales as part of the previous reporting cycle to produce civil society reports for England and Wales.

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) treaty cycle

The CRC review cycle is currently at stage 6: Government implements recommendations. Reporting to the Committee on the Rights of the Child takes place under the simplified reporting procedure. The timings given below are estimates and may change, particularly as a result of delays and backlogs at the UN. Timings may also change due to UN plans to move to a predictable eight-year review cycle for all treaty bodies. Deadlines for submission of evidence may be confirmed by the UN at short notice, so stakeholders wishing to submit are advised to prepare in advance.

Optional protocols

CRC has three Optional Protocols, which are additional treaties that provide further rights or processes. The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography has been ratified by the UK. The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict has been ratified by the UK. The third Optional Protocol allows people to complain directly to the Committee on the Rights of the Child if they believe their rights have been violated. It can only be used once all domestic channels have been exhausted. The UK has not signed up to this.

General comments

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a number of General Comments on CRC. These provide further detail on how it should be interpreted, covering issues such as the best interests of the child, participation rights and children’s rights to play and leisure.

Last updated on 17/10/2023