United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) was adopted by the UN in 1989 and defines universal principles and standards for the status and treatment of children worldwide. It is overseen by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

UNCROC is made up of 54 articles that set out a range of human rights standards for the treatment of children and young people. Four articles capture the general principles underpinning the Convention. These are:

  • all children have the right to protection from discrimination on any groundsAmpd girls3 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • the best interests of the child should be the primary consideration in all matters affecting the child
  • children have the rights to life, survival and development
  • all children have the right to an opinion and for that opinion to be heard in all contexts.

Click here to read the full text of the UNCROC

New Zealand ratified the UNCROC in 1993, along with all United Nations member states except for the United States and Somalia. The NZ government entered three reservations to UNCROC which were:

  • Children whose parents do not have a legal right to be in New Zealand are not entitled to education, health and welfare benefits. ‘Nothing in this Convention shall affect the right of the Government of New Zealand to continue to distinguish as it considers appropriate in its law and practice between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand including but not limited to their entitlement to benefits and other protections described in the Convention, and the Government of New Zealand reserves the right to interpret and apply the Convention accordingly.’
  • There is no minimum age or agreed conditions of employing children. ‘The Government of New Zealand considers that the rights of the child provided for in article 32 (1) are adequately protected by its existing law. It therefore reserves the right not to legislate further or to take additional measures as may be envisaged in article 32 (2).’
  • Children in custody can be held with adult prisoners in some circumstances.’ The Government of New Zealand reserves the right not to apply article 37 (c) in circumstances where the shortage of suitable facilities makes the mixing of juveniles and adults unavoidable; and further reserves the right not to apply article 37 (c) where the interests of other juveniles in an establishment require the removal of a particular juvenile offender or where mixing is considered to be of benefit to the persons concerned.’

State parties are obligated to report on UNCROC every five years. New Zealand last appeared before the Committee in January 2011. The Committee’s concluding observations included:

  • withdraw reservations
  • establish a permanent mechanism to ensure high-level and effective coordination of the implementation of the Convention
  • take urgent measures to address disparities in access to services of Maori children and their families and take affirmative action for the benefit of children in vulnerable situations
  • raise the age of criminal responsibility
  • intensify efforts to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities

Click here to read the full report and concluding observations.

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