The Children’s Convention is the most widely accepted international human rights treaty in history. It has been ratified
Children live, learn and grow, not in isolation but as part of families, whānau, hapū, iwi and communities. Children have the same basic human rights as adults, but they also have additional rights in recognition of their special need for protection. Children – particularly younger children – are dependent on adults, like parents and teachers, to support them to develop and thrive.
The Children’s Convention includes civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children up to the age of 18 unless national laws recognise an earlier age of majority. While all the major international human rights conventions apply to children, the Children’s Convention outlines what all countries have promised to do to ensure children have the opportunity to live safe, healthy and happy childhoods. The Children’s Convention provides a framework for thinking about all the interrelated issues affecting children - like health, education, play, family, language, culture, identity, privacy and having a say - in a way that enhances their wellbeing.
When the New Zealand Government ratified the Children’s Convention, it agreed to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the rights of all children. The Government made a promise to New Zealand children to put the rights guaranteed in the Children’s Convention in our laws, policies and practices. The Government also agreed to share publicly what they are doing to ensure children are safe, healthy and thriving and to report their progress to the United Nations every five years.
The rights in The Convention apply to everyone under 18 years of age no matter who you are, what you look like, what your sex, sexual orientation, culture or religion is, if you are rich or poor, speak a different language or have a disability.
Below is a summary of the articles, specifically written for children and young people. You can also read the full version of the Children’s Convention.
The New Zealand Government has also signed up to two Optional Protocols that expand on the commitments we have made under the Children’s Convention.
The rights in the Children's Convention apply to everyone under 18 years of age no matter who you are, what you look like, what your sex, sexual orientation, culture or religion is, if you are rich or poor, speak a different language or have a disability. Below is a summary of the articles, specifically written for children and young people. You can also read the full version of the Convention.
The New Zealand Government has also signed up to two Optional Protocols that expand on the commitments we have made under the Convention. More information about these can be found here.
The 54 articles
The Convention is divided into 54 ‘articles’ with each explaining a different right and you can read these below.
Everyone has rights – no discrimination! (Articles 1 and 2)
Everyone under 18 years has rights in this Convention. You have rights no matter who you are, what you look like, what your sex, sexual orientation, culture or religion is, if you are rich or poor, speak a different language or have a disability.
What’s best for you (Article 3)
Adults should always work towards what is best for you and put your wellbeing first.
Making your rights a reality (Articles 4, 5 and 6)
The Government must:
- do everything it can to make these rights a reality for you
- respect the role of your parents, guardian or family/whanau in providing you with appropriate guidance
- make sure that children and young people can survive and develop in a healthy way.
The right to an identity (Articles 7 and 8)
You have the right to protect and preserve your identity, including your name, nationality and family ties. The Government should do what it can to help you re-establish your identity if it is ever taken away from you.
Living with your family (Articles 9 and 10)
You have the right to live with, or stay in contact with your family/whanau unless this is harmful to you. If you are separated from your family, you also have the right to see them or be re-united with them.
Your right to be protected from abduction (Article 11)
You have the right to expect that the Government will do all it can to make sure you are not removed from your family or taken out of the country illegally.
Having your say – participate and be heard (Article 12)
You have the right to have your views heard, considered and taken seriously in a way that is appropriate given your age and ability, especially when decisions are being made that affect you.
Freedom of expression, thought and religion (Articles 13 and 14)
You have the right to express yourself and think for yourself as long as you don’t hurt anyone. You have the right to your own religion and beliefs. The Government should respect your parents or guardian’s role in guiding you with this.
Friends, groups and clubs (Article 15)
You have the right to choose your own friends and be involved in groups or clubs as long as it’s legal and won’t hurt you or anyone else.
Your right to privacy (Article 16)
You have the right to legal protection from unlawful or unreasonable interference with your privacy (including personal information held about you), your family and your communications.
You also have the right to legal protection from any unlawful attacks on your reputation.
Your right to information (Article 17)
You have the right to be informed. This means having access to information that you can understand, trust and that’s important for you to know. The media has an important role to play in this and should not promote information that could harm you.
Your rights at home (Articles 18, 19 and 20)
You have the right to live with and be raised by your parents or family/whanau unless you are being harmed. You have the right to be protected from violence, abuse and neglect by your parents or caregivers. If your parents or family/whanau can’t look after you properly, the Government must make sure that you live somewhere that is safe, where people respect you, your religion, culture and language.
Your rights if you are adopted (Article 21)
If you are adopted, your adoption must be legal. You also have the right to the best care and to have your wellbeing put first.
Your rights as a refugee (Article 22)
You have the right to special protection and help if you’re a refugee (if you are forced to leave your home and live in a different country). You also have the same rights as other children and young people born in New Zealand.
Your rights if you have a disability (Article 23)
If you have a physical, mental or intellectual disability, you have the right to reach your full potential. You have the right to extra help with your education care and support if you need it.
Your rights to health and health services (Article 24)
You have the right to the best health care available, including dental, sexual and mental health services. You also have the right to clean water, nutritious food, and a safe environment to help you stay healthy.
Your rights in foster care (Article 25)
If you are placed in foster care then you have the right to have your living arrangements regularly checked to make sure that they are working out well for you.
You have the right to a good standard of living (Articles 26 and 27)
You have the right to financial support from the Government, especially when your family/whanau cannot provide this for you. This includes your right to food, clothing, a safe place to live, and other basics.
Your rights to education (Articles 28 and 29)
You have the right to a good quality education that helps you develop your personality, talents and abilities to the full. You should be treated with respect and be encouraged to respect each other’s rights and values. Discipline in schools should respect your dignity.
Your cultural rights (Article 30)
You have the right to learn about and practice your own culture language and religion. If you are from a minority or indigenous culture you have the right to special protection from things that might stop you from being you.
Your right to play, cultural, sporting and recreational activities (Article 31)
You have the right to rest, play and are involved in things like sports, music, arts, drama and cultural activities. The Government should promote and encourage this.
Your rights at work (Article 32)
You have the right to safe working conditions and to be paid for your work. You also have the right to be protected from work that is harmful to you and your education.
Your right to be protected from harm and exploitation (Articles 33 to 39)
You have the right to be safe from all forms of abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, war, drugs and the drug trade, kidnapping, torture, cruel and harmful punishment.
You should not be placed in prison or detained except as a last resort. You should not be placed in prison or detained with adults unless it’s in your best interests. The Government must do everything it can to help children and young people who have suffered from any of these things.
Your rights if you are in trouble with the law (Article 40)
If you are in trouble with the law, you have the right to be treated fairly by the justice system in a way that respects your rights. You have the right to a fair hearing, legal help and representation.
You should not be placed in prison or detained except as a last resort. You should not be placed into prison or detained with adults, unless it’s in your best interests (see Article 37).
Articles 41 to 54
These articles are about how adults and governments should work together to make sure that all children and young people’s rights are respected.
The Committee on the Rights of the Child also produces General Comments to explain the rights in the Convention and provide guidance on particular issues. The General Comments are available here.