The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a human rights treaty, introduced by the United Nations (UN) in 1989. It sets out a list of rights that belong to every child and young person under 18 years of age.
The UNCRC’s aim is to recognise the rights of children and young people and ensure that they grow up “in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.”
All UN member states (except for the United States) have ratified the Convention, making it the most widely supported human rights treaty in history.
Guiding principles of the UNCRC
The first 42 articles of the UNCRC describe the rights of children and young people. Four of these articles have a special status as the convention’s guiding principles. They are the best starting point to understand children’s rights:
Article 2: Non-discrimination
The Convention applies to every child without discrimination, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status, whatever they think or say, whatever their family background.
Article 3: The best interests of the child
The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions affecting the child.
Article 6: The right to life, survival and development
Every child has the right to life. Governments must do all they can to ensure that children survive and develop to their full potential.
Article 12: The right to be heard
Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.
The UNCRC in Jersey
In June 2014, Jersey became a State Party to the UNCRC, when we asked for the UK's ratification to be extended to the Island. This followed the submission of the Government of Jersey’s Preliminary Report in 2013, which described the ways in which Jersey was already compliant with the UNCRC.
As a Crown Dependency, Jersey is unable to independently sign or ratify international treaties, so must do this through the UK.
Implementing and monitoring the UNCRC
Each State Party is responsible for implementing children’s rights in their country or territory.
The summary version of Article 4 of the UNCRC states that, “Governments must do all they can to make sure every child can enjoy their rights by creating systems and passing laws that promote and protect children’s rights.”
There are many ways a government can implement children’s rights including, appointing Commissioners and Ministers for Children, updating laws and policies and improving services and facilities provided for children and their families.
UNCRC reporting cycle
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is responsible for monitoring the progress made by State Parties in realising children’s rights. This is managed though a reporting cycle which takes place once every six to eight years.
As a State Party to the UNCRC, the UK will now be monitored under the UN’s simplified reporting procedures. Jersey’s progress in implementing children’s rights will be evaluated as part of the UK’s reporting cycle which covers:
- The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- The governments of the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
- The governments of the overseas territories and the Crown dependencies.
Each reporting cycle follows a standard process:
- The UN Committee sends a list of issues prior to reporting (LOIPR) to the State Party. The LOIPR contains up to 30 questions and may have been informed by submissions made by stakeholders
- The State Party has a year to respond to the LOIPR in a written report
- The UN Committee holds a ‘constructive dialogue’ in Geneva with representatives from the State Party
- The UN Committee issues its concluding observations and recommendations
- The State Party responds to the concluding observations and recommendations.
Current reporting cycle
The UK is next due to be reviewed by UN Committee during its 91st session in September 2022, with the publication of the Committee’s concluding observations expected in October 2022.
Ahead of the current reporting cycle, the Children’s Commissioner for Jersey submitted a report to the UN Committee highlighting key issues for children in Jersey on 1 November 2020. This report was intended to support the Committee’s preparation of the LOIPR:
The UN Committee is due to issue the UK’s LOIPR in February 2021, with the UK’s periodic report due for submission a year later, in February 2022.