UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Ireland 



In 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The UNCRC outlines how children all over the world should be treated and the rights that every child and young person under the age of 18 has.

Ireland signed up to the UNCRC in 1992. In doing so, Ireland made a commitment under international law to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights as they are set out in the Convention.

Defining a child as a “human being below the age of 18 years”, the UNCRC recognises children as rights-holders who are entitled to special care, assistance and protection due to their age and stage of development.

The introduction (‘preamble’) to the Convention explains that making children’s rights real is about:

  • respecting children and young people’s inherent dignity and worth
  • promoting improved living conditions and a better quality of life for children
  • protecting and helping the family as the “fundamental group of society” and the “natural environment for the growth and well-being of children”
  • recognising that children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding”
  • supporting children to respect principles of “peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity”
  • recognising that there are children around the world who need special protection because they live in extremely difficult circumstances.

The UNCRC obliges countries that have signed up to it – including Ireland – to take all necessary steps to realise the rights of children that are set out in the Convention. Among the obligations that countries like Ireland have is to respect parents’ rights and support parents to fulfil their roles and responsibilities to their children.

An international group of experts called the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is responsible for examining the progress being made by countries, including Ireland, to fulfill their obligations to children under the Convention. Having signed up to the UNCRC in 1992, Ireland was examined by the UN Committee in 1998 and again in 2006. Ireland appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for a third time in January 2016. After this meeting, the UN Committee published its views on Ireland’s progress and its recommendations on steps Ireland should take in the coming years to further respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights. Ireland is due to make its next report to the Committee in 2021.

The 28th of September 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of Ireland ratifying the UNCRC. To celebrate this anniversary and to reflect on progress made and what is still left to do, the OCO are organising a year-long programme. Watch the UNCRC25 video here.

More information about the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and its work is available here