Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Child rights

All children and adolescents should have the means and the opportunity to develop to their full potential

Girl queuing for food

Life, survival, maximum development, access to health and access to health services are not just basic needs of children and adolescents, but fundamental human rights.

The primary instrument for protecting and fulfilling these rights is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC reflects the international consensus on standards for ensuring the overall well-being of all children and young people up to the age of 18 years. In addition to presenting a channel for advocacy and practical support for child and adolescent health, the CRC is the normative and legal framework for WHO’s work across the broad spectrum of child and adolescent health and development.

Capacity building in the application of the CRC as a normative and legal framework

To facilitate the integration of a "rights-based perspective" into the planning and implementation of policies, interventions and programmes for child and adolescent health, the Department of Child and Adolescent Health and Development (CAH) has developed a training course. The course aims at strengthening understanding and knowledge of child rights and the CRC framework. Participants from WHO and in countries learn about the relationship between needs, obligations and rights, and about how the CRC can be used for policy development, as well as planning, programming and managing programmes for child and adolescent health.

Through the development of specific human rights checklists the department aims to systematically integrate key human rights norms and standards into its tools and guidelines.

CRC monitoring and use of the CRC reporting process

When a state ratifies the CRC, it enters a continuous cycle of monitoring and reporting on the capacity of its children and adolescents to experience their rights. State Parties prepare situation-analysis reports which are submitted for review to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee). The reporting process of the CRC can act as a valuable monitoring and evaluation mechanism for child and adolescent health. CAH has the responsibility for coordinating WHO input to the work of the Committee. Since 1998, CAH has prepared and presented to the Committee more than 50 health commentaries on State Party reports. As a result, the Committee has actively encouraged a number of countries to seek support from WHO and to adopt or strengthen activities in favour of child rights in their country.

To increase health monitoring through the CRC reporting process, the Department is developing key indicators on child and adolescent health in the context of the CRC.

Moreover, recommendations on child and adolescent health issued by the Committee to states, following review of their CRC implementation efforts, can provide a useful platform for action in countries. CAH facilitates national follow-up to health-related recommendations issued by the Committee through, inter alia, the conduct of workshops on follow-up, and dissemination of the recommendations to WHO Regional and Country Offices.

In the area of newborn and child health, CAH increasingly uses the CRC as a normative and legal framework for addressing infant and young child feeding, and child survival. A rights-based assessment tool for child health laws, policies and programmes is being developed, in collaboration with the Harvard School of Public Health, and will provide a valuable contribution to country situation analyses in the context of child survival.

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