Implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7072.1565 (Published 21 December 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1565
  1. Gerison Lansdown,
  2. Tony Waterston,
  3. David Baum
  1. Director Children's Rights Office, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EL
  2. Convener, British Assocation for Community Child Health Newcastle City Health NHS Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 8NZ
  3. Professor Department of Child Health, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Bristol BS2 8BJ

    Governments are failing, but the buck also stops with us

    In December 1991 the British government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, has now been ratified by an unprecedented 187 countries. It contains rights relating to every aspect of children's lives: rights to survival, development, protection, and participation. Once a country has ratified the convention, it is obliged under international law to comply with its principles and standards. To date, the British government has not adequately fulfilled this obligation.

    The government undertook to implement the principles of the convention and report progress after two years and subsequently every five years to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the elected international body responsible for monitoring compliance with the convention. (The committee also encourages non-governmental organisations to produce alternative reports as a means of obtaining a fuller picture of the state of children's rights than that commonly presented by governments.)

    The British government's first report setting out measures to achieve implementation was published in February 1994.1 It lacked any critical appraisal of the state of children's rights in Britain, failing to identify aspects of children's lives in which there were difficulties or a need …

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