The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in the world. It commits all State parties (currently 196 States) to protect and promote the rights of all children. CRC was adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1990. The UK ratified the CRC in December 1991.

Article 1 defines a child as “every human being below the age of eighteen years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”. Article 2 prohibits discrimination, whilst Article 3 places the best interests of the child as the main consideration in all actions concerning children. These provisions underpin all of the Articles contained within the whole Convention.

There are currently 26 General Comments which clarify the scope and content of CRC’s provisions.

State parties are obliged to produce reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child - a body established by the Convention to monitor realisation of children's rights - which outline progress and legislative, judicial and policy measures taken to fulfil their obligations under the Convention. Each State is expected to submit a report initially two years after consenting to the Convention and then every five years thereafter.

UK Review

The UK was reviewed on its implementation of the CRC in May 2023, and the Concluding Observations of the UNCRC Committee were published in June 2023.

The Committee published the United Kingdom’s List of Issues Prior to Reporting in March 2021, and the UK government report (combined sixth and seventh reports) in response to this was published in June 2022.  The Scottish Government also published a position statement on embedding children’s rights in Scotland in November 2022.

Read more information on the reporting status and access to all relevant documentation including State reports, Civil society & NHRI submissions on the Committee’s webpage and the webpage for the most recent session.

NHRI Engagement

As the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland has duties and powers to engage in this process, the Scottish Human Rights Commission takes care to avoid duplication of effort. 

For the most recent review, we elected to welcome and endorse the Report of the Children's Commissioners of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which highlights a detailed range of human rights concerns relevant to the Convention. 

We also submitted brief additional evidence on the implementation of the Convention in Scotland, drawing the Committee's attention to five key areas which fall within the responsibility of the Scottish Government and legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament:

  • The ongoing delay to the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and outstanding remedial action to bring into force the UN CRC (Scotland) Bill.
  • The treatment and exposure to the criminal justice system of young people, including the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
  • Limited availability of adequate and appropriate mental health support for children and young people.
  • The anticipated failure to meet statutory child poverty targets and the impacts of the rising cost of living for children, young people and their families.
  • Children and young people and the right to a healthy environment.

Civil Society Engagement

Civil society has the potential to engage with this treaty in a number of ways:

  1. Submitting written information to the Committee
  2. Submitting an alternative report
  3. Providing information for the list of issues
  4. Attending Sessions and Making Oral Submissions to the Committee

Recent Legislative Developments

To ensure that the rights contained within the convention are respected, protected and fulfilled, it is important that steps are taken to implement the Convention into domestic Law Policy and Practice.

The Scottish Government has taken important steps to fully implement the Convention into Scots Law.

A Bill to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) into the Law in Scotland was unanimously passed in the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2021, which the Scottish Human Rights Commission strongly welcomed.

However, the United Kingdom government challenged specific areas of the Bill, raising concerns that parts of the Bill exceeded the powers of the Scottish Parliament, so the Bill was considered by the UK Supreme Court.

The Scottish Government has said that it will bring the Bill back to the Scottish Parliament to make changes required by the Supreme Court. 

A hearing was held on 28-29 June 2021, and on 6th Oct 2021 the court gave its judgement. The judges decided unanimously that four sections of the Bill go beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

On Tuesday 24 May 2022 the Deputy First Minister made a statement in Parliament in which he set out how the Scottish Government proposes to amend the Bill to address the Supreme Court’s judgement. In February 2023, the Minister for Children and Young People provided an update to Parliament on progress in drafting amendments to the Bill.

Once the UNCRC is incorporated, this means that this law can be used in Scottish courts. Incorporation enhances accountability for human rights obligations, allowing people to hold duty bearers to account.

For more about incorporation, please refer to the Strengthening Human Rights Laws page of our website.

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