What are the general principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child? Why are they important?
All rights in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are linked and must be considered as a whole. But there are four 'general principles' - or overarching rights - which are particularly necessary for the fulfilment of all other rights. Addressing these four rights can help explain the reasons behind rights violations and serve as a guide to preventing them.
Relevant articles addressing the general principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC):
- Non-discrimination (article 2): Discrimination against children is one of the main reasons why their rights are violated. Looking at rights from this perspective can help expose the prejudices and beliefs that lead to unfair treatment. For example, children's right to freedom from violence may be violated because of age discrimination: in many countries it is legal to hit a child as a form of discipline but a criminal offence to hit an adult.
- Children's best interests (article 3): A child’s best interests must be a primary concern in all matters affecting them. For example, children should not be removed from their family (article 20) unless it is in their best interests, e.g. they have a violent parent. Children's best interests must always be determined in the spirit of the Convention as a whole and take into account their views and feelings (article 12 on the right to be heard).
- Right to life, survival and development (article 6): Children must be alive for their other rights to have meaning. Development is one of the main goals of many rights in the Convention, for example, one of the aims of education (article 29) is 'the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.'
- Right to be heard (article 12): This guarantees their status as individuals with rights instead of objects of pity. All children have the right to express their views freely. Their views should be taken into account according to their age and maturity (see article 5). After all, how can parents, schools, courts, governments and others know what is best for children - from decisions about what school they want to go to, to what to do if they fall pregnant - if they do not know how and what the children themselves think and feel? Giving information and advice (article 17) on all options, and then trying to steer a child towards what may be in their best interests is one thing - but making decisions for them, without their consent, is another.