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What are Child Rights?

On 20th November 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a landmark human rights treaty which recognised and pledged to protect the rights of children globally for the first time. The treaty was developed by governments worldwide and took more than a decade to complete. It was called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (often abbreviated to the UNCRC or CRC) and became the fastest and most widely ratified treaty in international human rights history*.
The UNCRC consists of 54 articles split into two sections. The first dictates the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that every child, everywhere is unconditionally entitled to. The second section prescribes how societies and governments must work together to ensure all children are afforded their rights. The UNCRC should be seen as a whole, all children are entitled to all of the rights it contains, and each right is linked to the others and equal in value and importance.
The UNCRC is a legally binding agreement under international law. Only three countries in the world have not ratified the agreement (Somalia, South Sudan and the United States of America) and the first country in the world to ratify the treaty was Ghana.
As the first country in the world to formally pledge its commitment to child rights, Ghana subsequently developed a collection of national policies and legislative frameworks to support their implementation of the UNCRC. As a developing country with limited resources, however, conflicts between the requirements of the legislation and its practical delivery have proved challenging, with barriers including changes in traditional values and practices, the quality of personnel training, resources for service delivery, stakeholder collaboration, and community knowledge of the legislation.
The UNCRC is the only international human rights treaty which assigns NGOs (non-governmental organisations) a direct role and responsibility in overseeing its implementation, under Article 45a. AfriKids is a key player in the protection and promotion of child rights in northern Ghana, working with stakeholders at all levels from families to communities to the Government of Ghana to address barriers and challenges to the UNCRC pledge with locally-led, sustainable solutions.
The UNCRC was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, though the document didn't become available for signature until 26th January 1990. When a State Party signs a treaty, it indicates approval "in principle," but there is no commitment to incorporate the provisions into its own national laws. That is achieved by ratification or an equivalent procedure. Within one year of the UNCRC becoming available for signature it had been ratified by 67 member states, and 105 within two years.

Below is a summary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Click here to view the full text.

Article 1

Everyone under the age of 18, all over the world, has all of the rights defined in the CRC


Article 2

The CRC applies to everyone: whatever their race, religion or abilities, whatever they think or say, whatever type of family they come from.


Article 3

The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all things 
that affect children.


Article 4

Governments must do all they can to make sure every child can 
enjoy their rights. 



Article 5

Governments must respect the rights and responsibilities of 
parents and carers to direct and guide their children as they 
grow up, so that they can enjoy their rights properly.


Article 6

Every child has the right to life. Governments must do all they 
can to make sure that children survive and develop to their full 


Article 7

Every child has the right to a legal name and nationality, as well 
as the right to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for by 
their parents.


Article 8

Governments must respect every child’s right to a name, a 
nationality and family ties. 


Article 9 

Children must not be separated from their parents unless it is 
in their best interests (for example, if a parent is hurting a child). 
Children whose parents have separated have the right to stay in 
contact with both parents, unless this might hurt the child.


Article 10 

Governments must act quickly and sympathetically if a child 
or their parents want to live together in the same country. If a 
child’s parents live apart in different countries, the child has the 
right to visit both of them.


Article 11

Governments must do everything they can to stop children 
being taken out of their own country illegally or being prevented 
from returning.


Article 12

Every child has the right to have a say in all matters affecting 
them, and to have their views taken seriously.


Article 13 

Every child must be free to say what they think and to seek and 
receive all kinds of information, as long as it is within the law.


Article 14

Every child has the right to think and believe what they want 
and to practise their religion, as long as they are not stopping 
other people from enjoying their rights. Governments must 
respect the rights of parents to give their children information 
about this right.


Article 15

Every child has the right to meet with other children and to join 
groups and organisations, as long as this does not stop other 
people from enjoying their rights.


Article 16 

Every child has the right to privacy. The law should protect the 
child’s private, family and home life.


Article 17

Every child has the right to reliable information from the media. 
This should be information that children can understand. 
Governments must help protect children from materials that 
could harm them.


Article 18

Both parents share responsibility for bringing up their child and 
should always consider what is best for the child. Governments 
must support parents by giving them the help they need, 
especially if the child’s parents work.


Article 19

Governments must do all they can to ensure that children are 
protected from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and bad 
treatment by their parents or anyone else who looks after them.


Article 20 

If a child cannot be looked after by their family, governments 
must make sure that they are looked after properly by people 
who respect the child’s religion, culture and language.


Article 21

If a child is adopted, the first concern must be what is best for 
the child. All children must be protected and kept safe, whether 
they are adopted in the country where they were born or in 
another country.


Article 22

If a child is a refugee or is seeking refuge, governments must 
make sure that they have the same rights as any other child. 
Governments must help in trying to reunite child refugees with 
their parents. 


Article 23 

A child with a disability has the right to live a full and decent 
life with dignity and independence, and to play an active part in 
the community. Governments must do all they can to provide 
support to disabled children. 


Article 24 

Every child has the right to the best possible health. 
Governments must work to provide good quality health care, 
clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that 
children can stay healthy. Richer countries must help poorer 
countries achieve this.


Article 25 

If a child lives away from home (in care, hospital or in prison, 
for example), they have the right to a regular check of their 
treatment and the way they are cared for.



Article 26 

Governments must provide extra money for the children of 
families in need.


Article 27

Every child has the right to a standard of living that is good 
enough to meet their physical, social and mental needs. 
Governments must help families who cannot afford to provide 


Article 28

Every child has the right to an education. Primary education 
must be free. Secondary education must be available for every 
child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity. 
Richer countries must help poorer countries achieve this.


Article 29

Education must develop every child’s personality, talents and 
abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for 
human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and 
other cultures, and the environment.


Article 30

Every child has the right to learn and use the language, customs 
and religion of their family, regardless of whether these are 
shared by the majority of the people in the country where they 


Article 31

Every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide 
range of cultural and artistic activities.


Article 32

Governments must protect children from work that is 
dangerous or might harm their health or education.


Article 33 

Governments must protect children from the use of illegal 


Article 34 

Governments must protect children from sexual abuse and 


Article 35 

Governments must ensure that children are not abducted or 


Article 36

Governments must protect children from all other forms of bad 


Article 37

No child shall be tortured or suffer other cruel treatment or 
punishment. A child should be arrested or put in prison only as 
a last resort and then for the shortest possible time. Children 
must not be in a prison with adults. Children who are locked up 
must be able to keep in contact with their family


Article 38

Governments must do everything they can to protect and 
care for children affected by war. Governments must not allow 
children under the age of 15 to take part in war or join the 
armed forces.


Article 39 

Children neglected, abused, exploited, tortured or who are 
victims of war must receive special help to help them recover 
their health, dignity and self-respect.


Article 40

A child accused or guilty of breaking the law must be treated 
with dignity and respect. They have the right to help from a 
lawyer and a fair trial that takes account of their age or situation. 
The child’s privacy must be respected at all times.


Article 41

If the laws of a particular country protect children better than 
the articles of the Convention, then those laws must stay in 


Article 42

Governments should make the Convention known to children 
and adults. 

The Convention has 54 articles in total. Articles 43–54 are about 
how adults and governments work together to make sure that 
all children get all their rights.  To see the full text click here