Children’s Rights and Principles

Children are the hope and future of society, but millions of them are trapped in a cycle of poverty, disease, hunger, violence and neglect. They are disproportionately affected by conflict, natural disasters and climate change. Every child has a right to survive and thrive, learn and grow, be protected from abuse and have their voices heard.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) sets out a broad definition of children’s rights and principles that all governments must respect. Every child has the right to food, clothing and a safe place to live; access to education, primary health care and information; and protection from physical, emotional and sexual violence and exploitation. Governments must make this possible by changing laws, policies and investing in the lives of their children.

Governments should help families who cannot afford to provide for their children, and should ensure that all children can get the best quality of education, in particular secondary and higher education. They should also promote non-violent means of dealing with conflict and encourage children to learn about the values, beliefs and traditions of their own and other cultures and to appreciate and value diversity in human societies.

Everyone should protect children from the abuse of all kinds, including physical and emotional abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation, trafficking in people and war. Children should be free to work and study, to communicate with others, to choose their own religion or beliefs and to meet with other children and adults – but only where this does not cause harm to other people. Parents should be allowed to guide their children so that they grow up to enjoy this freedom and use it wisely.

Children should be free to participate in cultural activities and to create their own art without discrimination or censorship. Governments should make sure that they can do this, and that their homes, family, personal communications and reputations are protected by the law.

When children are victims of rape, murder or other severe forms of abuse they should be able to receive help immediately, and have their case dealt with swiftly and fairly by the criminal justice system. They should be able to complain to a third party if they are abused and should be encouraged to do so. Abusers should be punished to the full extent of the law.

Parents and guardians should be responsible for looking after their children, but in cases where this is not possible they have the right to be looked after by someone else who will take into account their needs, interests, culture and language. Governments should help families and those who look after them to do this.

Children should be able to get information from the internet, radio, television, newspapers and books in ways that are appropriate for their age. They should be able to talk freely with other people, and to share their thoughts and opinions – even if they are controversial or unpopular. Adults should listen and take this seriously, but should not interfere.