UN Committee
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This article is written by Gitika Jain, from Amity University, Kolkata. This article deals with the rights of the child under the UN Committee.


We all must be aware of the fact that the United Nations Organisation(UNO) is a body that aims to maintain peace and security, promote healthy relations among nations and protect human rights. Everyone also knows that in order to achieve these objectives the member countries of the United Nations have signed various international treaties but very few know about the fact that there was also a treaty exclusively signed for the children which are known as (UNCRC) United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Emergence of the concept of child rights and UNCRC 1989

Everyone has Human Rights, children, of course, are human too and they enjoy many of the rights that adults do as per the international human rights treaties. But what many people don’t know is about the treaty that is dedicated just to children, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). It’s important to understand that the idea that children should have rights, dates much further back. There has been a long-standing focus on protecting vulnerable children as a charitable response to suffering. However, at the start of the 20th century, some activists started promoting the idea that children too should have rights. In the aftermath of the first world war, Eglantyne Jebb, the British social reformer, and others campaigned for the first international declaration of the rights of the child in 1924. An expanded version of this was adopted by the United Nations in 1959. Poland proposed that there should be a convention for children over the next decade during the international year of the child in 1979. Countries around the world debated and negotiated the next of what would become the most widely supported human rights treaty, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This was officially adopted on 20th November, 1989, and came into force on 2nd September, 1990. India adopted UNCRC on 11th December, 1992. 

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Right holders and duty bearers

One of the ways through which the United Nations Organisation maintains peace and security is through international human rights agreement based on three core principles of human rights- dignity, equality and respect. The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child is based on these and sets a global human rights agenda for every person under the age of 18. It was recognised by the state members under the UN in 1989. Countries that ratified these treaties are called state parties. These state parties when bound by an agreement are called the duty bearers, which means they have a duty to uphold the articles of the convention in practice. This means that everyone who works for the government such as police, lawyers and teachers are known as rights bearers, those who benefit from human rights treaties. 

What constitutes of UNCRC

The convention describes all the obligations that state parties have towards all the children living within its borders. The convention is wide-reaching and covers many aspects of children’s rights. Rights are described by articles. There are four important articles in the convention. These general principles are non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, the right to survival and development and that the maximum weightage is given to child rights. There are five other rights including civil rights and freedom, family environment and alternative care, health and welfare, education, leisure and culture and special protection measures that cover children in emergency situations, injustice systems and children belonging to minority groups. These rights are indivisible and interdependent, which means that the failure to provide one can affect the enjoyment of the others.


Creation of the committee

A team of independent experts called the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was introduced in order to monitor the work of the convention that was enforced. A progress report is to be submitted to the committee by the state parties every five years and their assessment is supplemented with information from other organisations such as UNICEF & NGOs. The UN committee takes suggestions and assistance from the special organisations and recommends improvements to the state parties. In another place it is seen whether the state parties have followed the recommendations. Children can also attend the committee and give recommendations in person. The outcome of this process is that a report is prepared which is called the Concluding Observations it summarises the committee’s views on the state of children’s rights and also provides recommendations for improvements to the state parties. All these recommendations are required to be put into local laws such as constitutions and legislations. After this is done, the principles can be enforced in the local authorities. It is also suggested by the committee that meaningful protection of the rights is afforded to every child. A budgetary plan must also be ready to decide how much amount has to be spent on every child. 

What is the committee and how it works

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body that is responsible for ensuring that children can enjoy their human rights and live with dignity, respect and equality. The committee was established under Articles 43, 44 and 45 of UNCRC and it monitors the implementation of the convention on the rights of the child and its optional protocols that are children in armed conflict, the sale of children, pornography and establishing an international law procedure for complaints where the child rights have been violated. It is a body of independent experts. There are various other committees that have been set up in order to monitor the implementation of some other conventions like in order to monitor the implementation of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, a committee has been set up known as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). 

Functioning of the committee

The composition and functioning of the committee are included in Article 43 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The committee is an international body that supervises the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the state parties. It consists of 18 independent experts on child rights with high etiquettes and moral standards. There are different areas on which the committee works. It examines the situations in different countries related to child rights. The meeting of the committee is generally held in Geneva, and normally it is done 3 times a year for a period of three weeks in January, May, June and September. The report sent by the state parties is examined, and after some generous amount of discussions, a concluding observation is issued on each state. The States which have ratified the convention need to submit a regular report to the committee about the implementation of child rights in their country. Initially, the state parties are required to submit a report two years after they become the state party and after that the term changes to every five years. Few workshops are occasionally organised in order to check up on the implementation of the bodies by the office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The States who have ratified the optional protocol need to submit the report to the committee and the committee exam in those reports. Various NGOs can also submit an alternative report in order to give a different recommendation for the ground reality. It is the Child Rights Connect that gives advice to the NGOs for submission of alternative reports. A meeting of a group of committee that is involved in the workings is conducted prior to each committee session for an examination of the reports received from the state parties and some discussion with the representative of the states is done in that meeting. NGOs and human rights institutions who submitted information also have a meeting with the UN agencies and bodies. After the meeting, some issues are laid down for the government that is considered to be the priority for discussions further. The committee can even request for more information in writing from the government before conducting any session. This gives an opportunity to the government to prepare in a  better manner for the meetings with the committee that takes place between three and four months. 

  • Complaints mechanism- All the complaints that are submitted to the optional protocol are looked into by the committee and worked upon accordingly. There have been guidelines produced in the compliant mechanism about the advocates for children rights and how to make the best use of the mechanism as well as other related issues. 
  • General comments- The provisions of the convention are often interpreted by the committee in the form of general comments, which is important because that way we get to know the latest thinking of the committee on a particular right. 
  • General discussion days- This particular section is held in September by the committee in order to provide a detailed recommendation to the government regarding the provisions of the convention on the rights of the child. Every year a particular day is mandated to invite NGOs, children and experts to submit a document regarding recommendations and issues related to the child’s right. All the documents which are submitted on that day are posted on the CRIN library. 
  • Submission of the report to the UN General Assembly- Every year, a report is to be submitted to the third committee of the UN general assembly which hears the statement and adopts measures for the rights of the child.

Members and elections

There are 18 independent members with high competence and moral standards in the committee on the rights of the child covered under the UNCRC. The nomination for these members on the committee are done by the state parties to the convention with relation to Article 43 of the convention. According to Article 43, the persons who are the members of the committee have to be elected by the state parties and they will serve as an independent expert to the committee. The elections of the members of the committee are conducted every two years in order to make sure that a balance is maintained. 


Thus the workings of all the Committee in the conventions of the rights of the child tells us a story about children, childhood, human rights and child development which is very familiar and convincing. A child is someone who is considered to be a person we should enjoy maximum resources until he or she has attained the age of 18 years. The child development has been supported in one way or the other by such conventions or committees and in addition to that protection of their rights and development have also been emphasized. CRC is a platform of departure for all the child rights programs. The four guiding principles of CRC are nothing less than the pillars of child rights. The setting up of these conventions and committees have in no doubt changed the way children are treated and viewed. According to Ennew “the greatest violation of the child’s right is that we do not know enough about them or care enough to find out more”. This gap has been made by the conventions established for the children’s rights and it is helpful in deciding not only what should be studied about the children, but also how it should be researched and carried out. This will no doubt reduce the danger of violation of children’s rights and their exploitation. Child rights are no more considered to be a kind act, but instead, they are considered to be a mandatory act. 


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