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UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

An Overview

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international treaty that sets out universally accepted rights for children. It is a benchmark against which a nation’s treatment of its children can be measured. It brings together in one comprehensive code the benefits and protection for children hitherto scattered in a variety of other agreements, including the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted in 1959. The UN Convention also affirms that human rights contained in other treaties apply equally to children.

The Convention was officially approved by the United Nations in 1989 and has been ratified by every country in the world but two (currently 194). Ratification of the Convention is a commitment by these nations to comply with the articles of the treaty and thereby to protect and enhance the basic rights of children through their policies, programs and services.

This remarkably comprehensive treaty not only incorporates current thinking with regard to children’s rights but also demands that the world think more deeply about children’s position as citizens and more broadly about their development than has commonly been the case. It asks that we look holistically at children’s lives and hear their own perspectives on issues affecting them.

As a result it is leading many nations to address elements of children’s lives that have hitherto been ignored but that represent our fundamental humanity. One of these – at the heart of children’s lives everywhere – is the right to play.

Article 31

“That every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

That member governments shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.”

Full text of the Convention (click)



Indivisibility of Convention Articles

The rights of the Convention are indivisible and interdependent. The articles of the Convention represent all aspects of the life of a developing child. While a focus on a particular issue is sometimes necessary and desirable, it is important to begin work on any one article from a knowledge of the whole Convention. They are interrelated and mutually supportive.

Of particular importance are the General Principles:

  • Article 2: Ensuring all children’s rights without discrimination.
  • Article 3: Ensuring that best interests of children is a prime consideration.
  • Article 6: Ensuring the survival and development of the child.
  • Article 12: Ensuring that children (as individuals and as a group) have the right to express their views on matters of concern to them.



Value of Article 31 Across the Convention

It is important to position article 31 centrally within the fuller context of the Convention’s overall children’s rights perspective. Article 31 is about all children everywhere and in all situations and is therefore central to the realization of many other rights.

In addition to the above-noted General Principles, article 31 is closely related to:

  • Article 13: respect for freedom of expression
  • Article 15: respect for the right of freedom of association
  • Article 17: entitlement to information and materials of social and cultural benefit
  • Article 27: right to a standard of living adequate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
  • Article 29: education being directed to the child’s personality, talents, and mental and physical to their fullest potential.
  • Article 30: children’s right to enjoy their own culture
  • Article 32: right to protection from work which is potentially harmful to their development

Article 31 is an important component of children’s mental and physical health and therefore to their well-being. It also has significant therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits.



Implementation of Article 31

Issues that could be raised by article 31 advocates
Article 31 has become known as ‘the forgotten article of the Convention’.

Very few of the national reports to the UN Committee (required by signatories of the Convention) have included article 31 in their reports and those which have done so have largely focused on children’s physical activity and not embraced all components of the article.

Article 31 advocates can do a number of things to raise awareness its importance.

Here are some suggestions:

      • It is important for article 31 to be included in the national UNCRC implementation plans that are mandatory when a nation ratifies the UN Convention.

        IPA Branches, member groups and all relevant groups should promote the inclusion of article 31 in national plans or through their official report or through their NGO coalition.

        Locate your national NGO coalition, or coalitions, which produces a regular report to the UN Committee at about the same time as their national government one (approximately every five years).While the UN Committee encourages such coalitions, not all countries yet have them. Reports from single or groups of NGOs are therefore also received.

        IPA representation on NGO coalitions, or at least a close contact with them, would be an advantage for greater recognition and implementation of article 31.

      • The range of government ministries or departments, which should be included in article 31 implementation, is a particular challenge. It makes sense for article 31 supporters to help identify key players and organize discussion groups about its implementation priorities.

        Given the article 31 components of rest and leisure, play and recreation, culture and the arts, there would be a wide range of government departments involved. Those with a responsibility in this field would include, for example, education, recreation, health, social services, labour, social and physical planning, culture, and sports, as well as those concerned with transport, housing and sanitation.

      • A goal of IPA Branches and groups would be to support the development of a national policy or framework for article 31.

        Identify the nation’s relevant government departments – as above – and other key national non-government organizations, such as IPA, and encourage comprehensive discussions about article 31.

        Implementation of the Convention through policy is essential. It can be developed to interpret or build on legislation, or to set out the direction of government or non-governmental organizations in the absence of legislation.

        Since policy also guides the delivery of programs and services, implementation of the Convention becomes possible through day-to-day practice. (For example: Wales Play Policy, 2002.)

      • Orientation and training on article 31 should be accessible for all professionals working with or for children.

        Is the status of national training, particularly with regard to play, known to IPA Branches, member groups and all relevant groups involved in Article 31?

        What steps could be taken to improve this? Do you have information that would be useful to other countries?

Website Information: Article 31 Promotion

Share information with regard to overcoming challenging situations, monitoring article 31 implementation, access to useful material and so on…  ValerieFronczek_ipa@shaw.ca

    • Examples of promotion activity of ipa national branches and groups… forthcoming



Continue to the General Comment on Article 31

[Click Here]





30 Responses

  1. […] UN Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty declared that play is age-appropriate and should be respected, encouraged, and promoted by […]

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  4. […] Playtime is equally important for children. In fact, it is recognized as a human right by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights. According to a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is essential to […]

  5. […] Simple. The play development officer and her colleagues on the council lean on the law. The UN gave every child the right to play, but the first country in the world to turn that into law was […]

  6. […] Simple. The play development officer and her colleagues on the council lean on the law. The UN gave every child the right to play, but the first country in the world to turn that into law was […]

  7. […] United Nations has stated “that every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational […]

  8. […] to play? Indeed, children even have an official right to engage in play, as stated by the UN in its Convention on the Rights of a Child, but this is all too often disregarded by adults who think they can do a better job of prioritizing […]

  9. […] Play is critically important to human development. It is now considered so crucial to child growth it has been recognised by the UN High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. (9) […]

  10. […] in these early years that they are by instinct curious and excited to explore, we want to support a child’s right to play regardless of social background.” says Datin PH […]

  11. […] Barnett, CEO/Co-Founder Romp n’ Roll IPA: UN Convention of the Rights of Children Edelman Intelligence American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): The Importance of Play in Promoting […]

  12. […] Está escrito na Convenção das Nações Unidas sobre os Direitos da Criança, artigo 31, da qual um trecho […]

  13. […] development and is considered so important that the United Nations has declared play to be a human right. Sensory play is particularly important for children with hearing or visual impairments. Playing […]

  14. Cheryl

    The idea is probably intended to be good but what happens is some people start twisting things around. If children are given the right to play why is there so much sex trafficking of children? Someone could say…”respect for freedom of association”, “physical to their fullest potential”, “equal opportunities”, all these words above and definitions can be twisted in sick ways. However, Article 32 should stop all sex trafficking, why is it not stopped?

  15. […] the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child has deemed that being able to play is a human right to which all children are […]

  16. […] Link to Article 31 UN Convention on the Rights of a Child: http://ipaworld.org/childs-right-to-play/uncrc-article-31/un-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child-1… […]

  17. Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran

    Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran writes — 2019 marks the 30th year of signing of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child!!!

  18. […] UN Convention on the Rights of the Child codifies the right to play as a universal right for children. It is often overlooked, an sometimes referred to as ‘the […]

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  21. […] well being of children, and is so important that it is recognized as a right of every child by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights! Play is a child’s work, and is important for them to grow and learn during this […]

  22. […] The act of play is fundamental to every aspect of childhood development. Play is defined as engaging in activity for enjoyment or recreation rather than for practical purposes. Play is the natural way children interact with the world around them, and central to all aspects of learning and socialisation. As well as being highly enjoyable, play contributes greatly to cognitive, emotional, social, and physical well-being. Play has been recognised by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. […]

  23. […] the COVID19 pandemic. Students will need sufficient space to move and experience their fundamental right to play; space that is inclusive, and space that promotes social […]

  24. […] The letter describes that play by itself is instructional youngsters discover by interacting with friends, so prioritizing perform – specially outdoors – does not stop them from finding out. The group writes that perform is so essential to children’s wellbeing that it is enshrined as a essential appropriate by the United Nations’ Convention on the Legal rights of a Little one, Report 31.  […]

  25. […] The right to play is deemed so fundamental to children’s wellbeing, that it is enshrined by the UN as a universal children’s right. […]

  26. […] Most damning of all, these restrictions have eroded children’s ability to play, which is such a fundamental building block of a good life that we thought fit to incorporate it into the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. […]

  27. […] ‘right to play’ is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The General Comments document on article 31 provides additional details that speak to the […]

  28. […] ‘right to play’ is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The General Comments document on article 31 provides additional details that speak to the […]

  29. PlayGroundology

    […] ‘right to play’ is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The General Comments document on article 31 provides additional details that speak to the […]

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