United Nations convention on the rights of the child

Scotland has signed up and is working actively to embed the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This sets out that for all children health and education is a right and provides guiding principles that fundamentally shape the way in which we view children.

This compilation and clarification of children’s human rights sets out the necessary environment and means to enable every human being to develop to their full potential. The articles of the Convention, in addition to laying the foundational principles from which all rights must be achieved, call for the provision of specific resources, skills and contributions necessary to ensure the survival and development of children to their maximum capability. The articles also require the creation of means to protect children from neglect, exploitation and abuse.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was the first instrument to incorporate the complete range of international human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as well as aspects of humanitarian law. 

The articles of the Convention may be grouped into four categories of rights and guiding principles:

Guiding principles

The guiding principles of the Convention include non-discrimination; adherence to the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and the right to participate. They represent the underlying requirements for any and all rights to be realised.

Survival and development rights

These are rights to the resources, skills and contributions necessary for the survival and full development of the child. They include rights to adequate food, shelter, clean water, formal education, primary health care, leisure and recreation, cultural activities, and information about their rights. These rights require not only the existence of the means to fulfil the rights but also access to them. Specific articles address the needs of child refugees, children with disabilities and children of minority or indigenous groups.

Protection rights

These rights include protection from all forms of child abuse, neglect, exploitation and cruelty, including the right to special protection in times of war and protection from abuse in the criminal justice system.

Participation rights

Children are entitled to the freedom to express opinions and to have a say in matters affecting their social, economic, religious, cultural and political life. Participation rights include the right to express opinions and be heard, the right to information and freedom of association. Engaging these rights as they mature helps children bring about the realisation of all their rights and prepares them for an active role in society.

The equality and interconnection of rights are stressed in the Convention. In addition to Governments’ obligations, children and parents are responsible for respecting the rights of others – particularly each other. Children’s understanding of rights will vary depending on age, and parents in particular should tailor the issues they discuss, the way in which they answer questions and the discipline methods they use taking into account the age and maturity of the child.

A Report on Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Scotland

This document reports on actions within Scotland to fulfil the promises outlined in the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report covers fairness and equality, children's rights and freedoms, family life and care, health, education and culture, and safety and protection.

Click here for support in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Professional support materials

  • External Resource

    'Better health better lives' poster

    This poster was developed at the World Health Organisation conference 'Better Health Better Lives'. It shows the ten promises from governments across Europe about the rights of children and young people with intellectual disabilities.

    • When was this published? 16/12/2010