2 The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
Not only is it likely that better research will result, involving children and young people in research affecting their lives is actually mandated by an even more fundamental factor: their international rights. These rights were articulated in 1989, in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which states that children and young people have the right to be consulted, to be heard and to participate meaningfully in matters affecting their lives. They also have the right to have their best interests as a primary consideration.
Box 1: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (the UNCRC).
The UNCRC is the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced and is the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history – it’s even been accepted by non-state entities, such as the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), a rebel movement in South Sudan. All UN member states except for the United States have ratified the Convention. The Convention came into force in the UK in 1992; in the UK, it is accepted that every child has rights, whatever their ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities or any other status.
The Convention must be seen as a whole: all the rights are linked and no one right is more important than another. The right to relax and play (Article 31), for example, and the right to freedom of expression (Article 13) have equal importance as the right to be safe from violence (Article 19) and the right to education (Article 28).
You can read the full Convention, and a summary, if you click
If you are thinking about planning a research project with and by children or young people, three of the articles stand out as particularly relevant in this context:
- Article 3 In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
- Article 12 Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views, the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
- Article 13 The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice
What is the key element, in your opinion, that stands out, in terms of children and young people expressing their views, in these three Articles?
Click on the option that you think is the key element, and see how other learners voted.
You may have noted:
- best interests
- due weight
- freedom of expression
- child’s choice
- ideas of all kinds