Sunday, 13 July 2014

Why we must talk about the UN Convention on the Right of the Child more

In 1989 world leaders officially recognised the human rights of all children and young people under 18 by signing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - the most comprehensive and wide ranging articulation of children and young people's rights ever. All UN member states (except the United States and Somalia) approved the Convention. It came into force in the UK in January 1992 (over 22 years ago!)

Today I re-read again the summary of the Convention in preparation for writing an article. Each time I read it I am always struck how brilliant and important it is. And I am also struck that in the youth sector the Convention remains under the radar from policy and discussions. In that context Article 42 - Government must make the Convention known to children and adults - is very important.

Department for Education is the lead department for fulfilling governments obligations within the Convention. DfE is also the sponsoring Department for the Office of the Children's Commissioner.  Maggie Atkinson is the Children's Commissioner for England. The Commissioner has a legal duty to promote the rights of all children in England (find out more at

More than a Convention, after 22 years it is also an institution: but one we don't talk about and integrate into our work nearly enough in England. Scotland seems to be much better at integrating the Rights in many areas of policy including sexual health.

Brook has adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The rights frame our strategy. We have recently reviewed all of our policies and procedures and included  the related Articles from the UN Convention at the heart of them. Article 12 (respect for the views of the child), Article 13 (freedom of expression), Article 24 (health and health services), Article 28 (right to education), Article 34 (sexual exploitation) are some of the key Articles for Brook. It brings to life our commitment to the rights and how they apply and guide our everyday work.

With this process fresh in my mind I have been increasingly aware of the absence of the UN Convention in discussions, committee terms of reference, policy documents etc within health, education and care in England; and it has become ever more obvious that it would be helpful to frame all our work with young people and professionals in terms of the Convention.

I have therefore resolved to get much better at talking about it in all meetings, presentations, articles etc as part of Brook's organisational and my personal responsibility to ensure everybody knows about it - my help to you, Mr Gove, in ensuring Article 42 is realised. This short blog is my first step.

You can read a summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child here - even if you think you know its contents it's worth re reading it every now and then, otherwise it sits at the back of our minds, rather than the front where it really does belong - 

Could you do more to promote this fantastically important declaration of children and young people's rights? Can you imagine if all of us framed everything we did in this context what a difference it would make to the tone and nature of the debate about the culture, environment, education, services and support we create for and with children and young people? It has been around a long time, and now could be just the right time to amplify its message.

@simonablake @brookcharity @besexpositive


  1. Great post Simon and I completely agree about the importance of the UNCRC for framing and informing the development and delivery of health and care services for children and young people. I'm doing research looking at this and recently blogged on this topic, including the 2013 UN Committee General Comment on article 24, which I've found extremely useful in thinking about what the UNCRC means in practice:

  2. Yes! Critical that a rights-based agenda sits at the heart of all debates/policy/services relating to young people. The UNCRC provides a helpful framework, at least for young people under age 18.
    Do check out the work of JustRights, who are developing a young people's manifesto on rights and advice services: