National Plans of Action

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What are National Plans of Action (NPAs)?

States were first encouraged to set out National Plans of Action for the implementation of children’s rights following the first World Summit for Children, held in 1990.

The outcome document of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children, in 2002, also commits States “to develop or strengthen as a matter of urgency if possible by the end of 2003 national and, where appropriate, regional action plans with a set of specific time-bound and measurable goals and targets based on this plan of action …”.

These plans were to be based on specific, time-bound and measurable goals. More importantly, they were required to take the best interests of the child into account.

Action plans had to be consistent with national laws and, at the same time, uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child

In 2003, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its General Comment (what is this?) number 5, talked about National Plans of Action in its guidance on implementation of the Convention (this guidance contained a number of different instructions collectively called ‘General Measures of Implementation’). The Committee said: 

“In order to promote and protect the rights of the child at all levels, States parties need to develop a comprehensive national strategy for children based on the CRC. The strategy must set realistic and achievable targets and must include adequate allocation of human, financial and organisational resources… The Committee commends the development of a comprehensive national strategy or national plan of action for children, built on the framework of the Convention.”

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has emphasised that making particular commitments at global meetings does not in any way reduce States Parties’ legal obligations under the CRC. Therefore, preparing specific NPAs in response to the Special Session does not reduce the need for a comprehensive implementation strategy for the CRC.

The States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are expected ‘to take into account the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child when developing and/or reviewing their national strategies.

What should they include? 

Among other measures, the Committee urged States to ensure that National Plans of Action:

  • Include a process of consultation, including with children and young people and those living and working with them, through special child-sensitive materials;

  • Identify and prioritise marginalised and disadvantaged groups of children; the non-discrimination principle in the Convention requires that all the rights guaranteed by the Convention should be recognised for all

  • Include description of a sustainable process for realising the rights of children throughout the State; it must not merely be about good intentions. It must include real and achievable targets

  • Be endorsed at the highest level of government

  • Be linked to national development planning and included in national budgeting; otherwise, the strategy may remain marginalised outside key decision-making processes

  • May include elaboration in limited sectors – e.g. education and health - with specific goals, targeted implementation measures and allocation of financial and human resources;

  • Include a strategy for information dissemination throughout government and to the public, including children, with child-friendly versions and appropriate languages and forms;

  • Although it will inevitably set priorities, it must not neglect or dilute in any way the detailed obligations which States parties have accepted under the Convention

  • Include arrangements for monitoring and continuous review, for regular updating and for periodic reports to parliament and to the public.

Concluding Observations issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child systematically draw attention to National Plans of Action drawn up by States.

While commending those States that have established NPAs, the Committee has also often been critical of their nature and form. It has noted, for example, that NPAs may fail to include all of the rights in the Convention, and are not backed up with financial commitments in budgets. Of course, the Committee has also criticised those countries which have not drawn up NPAs at all.

To see examples, visit our CRC documentation page:

Further information


CRIN’s Reader on national plans of action for children:

Save the Children Canada:

UNICEF: National Plans of Action

Examples of National Plans of Action


    Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.