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Press releases archive


Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

16 December 2011

CRC 20th anniversaryIt was 20 years ago today that the UK Government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) – a universally agreed set of human rights standards that the UK government ratified in 1991.

Since then, it has been one of the most powerful tools in promoting and protecting children’s rights across the world, in areas such as children’s rights to survival, health and education, as well as creating an environment to protect children from exploitation, abuse and violence. All children aged 18 and under are protected under the Convention in the UK.

The UK government has to report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on its progress on meeting the expectations of this treaty.

ECPAT UK is proud to have successfully campaigned for the UK Government to remove its Reservation on Article 22 of the Convention with regards to immigration and nationality. This means that the principles within the Convention are applied to all children, irrespective of their immigration status – enshrining ECPAT UK’s belief that all children are equal and deserving of their rights and protection.

The Government itself recognises the importance of the Convention. In its recent response to the Munro review of child protection, it acknowledged that the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) provides the framework within which to build a child-centred system [for the protection of all children at risk in the UK]”.

It also ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2009.

ECPAT UK welcomes this 20th anniversary as a chance to congratulate the UK on its successes in implementing the Convention and developing one of the best child safeguarding frameworks in the world. 

This milestone anniversary is a chance, however, to acknowledge that there is still much progress to be made, particularly in some other countries, but also here in the UK. One glaring omission is the continuing refusal of the Government to provide guardians to child victims of trafficking. This would ensure that these children have one person with whom they can form a bond of trust and help them get all the support they require to recovery from their ordeals. 

The Government’s refusal comes despite an Optional Protocol to the UNCRC demanding that Governments provide legal and other support services to child victims, an obligation that includes considering the best interests of the child in any interactions with the criminal justice system.

Furthermore, in a general comment produced by the United Nations Committee on Human Rights, the main authoritative source when it comes to interpreting the UNCRC, it was stated that, “states should appoint a guardian or adviser as soon as the unaccompanied or separated child is identified...”. 

Article 9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography obliges the UK to take all feasible measures to ensure that child victims are given the necessary assistance to reintegrate into society and make a full physical and psychological recovery.

The ongoing refusal of the Government to introduce a system of guardianship means that it is in breach of its obligations under the UNCRC. ECPAT UK will continue to campaign to ensure that this situation is resolved. 

ECPAT UK, alongside other NGOs, is still fighting for the rights of the millions of children in this country and abroad who are still abused and exploited by adults, for sex, labour, crime, money and other means. These children’s rights are being abused and their voices are not heard.

ECPAT UK will continue to recognise the importance of the Convention, and promote its use both here and abroad in order to make sure children receive the protection that they both need, are entitled to and deserve.

Read the Convention on the Rights of the Child here.

Read the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography here.


Copyright © ECPAT UK 2015.

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Tel: 020 7607 2136. Fax: 020 7700 5435.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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