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The Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child

© UNICEF/Zaidi

In Pakistan, Najma, 7, raises her hand to answer a question in her second-grade class. Article 28 of the CRC ensures that primary education is free and open to all children.

(Almost) The Entire World Endorses Child Rights

In November 1989, after nearly a decade of negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child—the CRC. For the first time in history, an international treaty recognized that children are not possessions, but people who have human rights. It also recognized the incredible importance of parents and families in providing the best environment for children to grow.

The CRC is the most widely accepted human rights treaty in history. To date, 193 nations have ratified this important treaty. The only three UN member states that have not ratified the CRC are Somalia, South Sudan, and the United States.

Although the CRC includes more than 50 separate articles, the entire document is based on just our foundation principles: children should be free from discrimination; government policies should be based on the best interests of the child; children should survive and develop to their full potential; and children's views and perspectives are important and need to be heard. The Convention constantly notes the rights and responsibilities of parents, and refers to the family as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of its members, particularly children.

How UNICEF Uses the Convention to Help Children

Around the world, UNICEF and many other child-focused organizations use the CRC as an important tool to ensure that government policies and programs protect children:

  • In Niger, which has the highest incidence of child marriage in the world, UNICEF and NGOs have used the CRC to help pass national laws against child marriage, and to convince tribal leaders to speak out against this harmful traditional practice.
  • In Egypt, the CRC was a major tool in the campaign against female genital mutilation, which led to the passage of a ministerial decree and a statement by the country's top Muslim institution against the practice.
  • In Ukraine, UNICEF used CRC principles to help its government transform the state child care system to support foster family care for orphaned children, instead of institutionalizing them.

These are just a few of many examples how the CRC helped governments improve their policies to the benefit of children and families.

Our Position on U.S. Ratification of the CRC

In the United States, agreeing to a treaty requires several steps. First the President or a designated representative needs to sign the treaty; then the President submits the treaty to the U.S. Senate with explanations and interpretations of the treaty’s provisions. The Senate must approve the treaty, or give its "advice and consent," by two-thirds majority. Only after that can the President formally ratify the treaty.

In the case of the CRC, President Clinton signed the treaty in February 1995; but it was never submitted to the Senate for consideration.

Campaign for U.S. Ratification of the CRC

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF is a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for Ratification of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, a grassroots advocacy initiative that brings together children's organizations, faith-based groups, and a broad cross-section of Americans to raise awareness about the CRC and the need for U.S. ratification. For more information, please see the campaign website at

At the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, we know first-hand that Americans care deeply about conditions for children around the world, and want to do whatever it takes to help reach the day when zero children die from preventable causes, zero children face exploitation or abuse, zero children grow up without an education. The U.S. Government reflects that American compassion in its support for child survival, education, and other important programs. Unfortunately, the U.S. Government cannot partner with UNICEF in using the CRC as a tool to support children and families around the world. The fact that the United States is not party to this Convention keeps our Government from exerting the strongest possible leadership internationally to make a difference for the world's children.

How You Can Help

Americans who support UNICEF need to help educate their fellow citizens about the importance of U.S. ratification of the CRC as a tool to help support children, parents, and families.

For example, individuals can organize informational meetings and distribute materials about the CRC; work with local religious institutions, schools and community groups to create grassroots support; and contact local newspapers with letters to the editor and op-eds in support of U.S. ratification of the CRC.

Organizations can help by educating their staff and members about the Convention; discussing the CRC in newsletters and membership magazines; sending informational mailings to members; including the CRC as an issue at annual meetings; getting field offices involved; and officially endorsing U.S. ratification of the Convention.

If you have any questions about the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's position on the CRC and U.S. ratification, please contact the Office of Public Policy and Advocacy at OPPA@unicefusa.org.

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Ask President Obama to submit the Convention on the Rights of the Child for U.S. ratification.

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