Engaging migrant communities in the promotion of the rights of the child


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By the end of this module you will be able to:

  • Define the notions of child, childhood and children’s rights
  • Describe the character of children’s rights
  • Recall the legal framework on children’s rights

Definitions of ‘child’ and ‘childhood’

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), children are defined as all those below the age of 18 years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

Childhood is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a period “entitled to special care and assistance”.

The commitment shared almost universally by countries is that all children everywhere have the right to survive and develop, to be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation, to have their views respected and to have actions concerning them be taken in their best interests.

Children’s rights


Children’s rights refer to a set of legally binding norms and standards for the care and protection of children – that apply to all children at all times in all situations.

Character of children’s rights

Children’s issues are sometimes viewed by development partners as an area where agreement and common approaches are easily achieved; in practice, however, they may prove to be politically and socially challenging. In some national contexts, negative attitudes and patterns of discrimination against ethnic, religious and cultural minority and indigenous children, or the right of children to have a say in decisions that affect them, can be culturally and politically sensitive. While an understanding of culture and local traditions is critical in development cooperation, children’s rights are:

as they apply to all children, including children without legal status (illegal migrants), children without birth certificates, children with disabilities and children from marginalised ethnic or religious groups,

meaning no right is inferior to another,

as rights cannot be realised in isolation,

which means that the accountability of government to ensure equitable provision of services and protection cannot be suspended during periods of financial difficulty or during conflict or natural disasters.

Legal framework on children’s rights

Children’s rights are protected in international, regional and national level.

International level

        • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1989
        • United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is particularly pertinent to the rights of girls, 1979
        • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, 2000
        • United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), 2007
        • United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984

Regional level

        • Treaty on European Union (Lisbon Treaty), 2007
        • European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, 2000
        • European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950
        • Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, 2005
        • Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, 2007
        • African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 1981
        • African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 1990

Children’s rights are also included in provisions of the national legislation (Unit 4-Child protection systems in national contexts. The cases of Italy, France, Cyprus and Greece).