The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has achieved near universal ratification, making children’s rights among the most widely applicable human rights norms. Placing the best interests of the child as a primary consideration in all actions concerning children, the treaty along with a companion set of universal and regional norms and standards, protects the gamut of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of this particularly vulnerable population. Additional core principles grounding the rights of children include the right of non-discrimination; the right to life, survival and development, with development interpreted holistically; and the right to express their views and have them seriously considered, including in legal proceedings in which they have a stake.

As UNICEF’s only legal adviser on children’s rights from 1985 to 1992, a period which encompassed the drafting of Convention and the subsequent exceptionally successful ratification campaign, CHRGJ Faculty Director and Co-Chair Philip Alston played a key role in shaping the development and dissemination of human rights norms protecting children. Alston also served as Member of the Technical Advisory Group that led to the publication of the UN Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children in 1997. He has written extensively on the topic, including two seminal texts in the field, The Best Interests of the Child: Reconciling Culture and Human Rights (Oxford University Press, 1994) and, with John Tobin, Laying the Foundations for Children’s Rights (UNICEF, 2005).

Our Expert
Philip Alston
CHRGJ Faculty Director
John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law

For a complete record of CHRGJ faculty and staff work relating to children, visit our searchable Document Center and News and Events archives.


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