The rights of the child

  1. Children's rights are fundamental rights
  2. FRA's work on the rights of the child
  3. Key research findings from the FRA's work
  4. FRA's ongoing work
  5. The FRA's partners
  6. Events
  7. News

Children's rights are fundamental rights


Most recent FRA publications

Children have rights which need to be protected, respected and fulfilled. While children have rights also enjoyed by adults (such as the right to education, to primary health care, to freedom of expression, to choose their own religion, to participate in decisions which affect their life, etc.) they also have specific rights, such as when they are victims of family violence or sexual exploitation, when they migrate on their own, or have a physical or mental disability.

According to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) a child is a person under the age of 18 (unless under applicable law, majority is attained earlier). The Convention enshrines the rights of children, treating them as "independent right holders" in many domains. All the Member States of the European Union (EU) have ratified the UN CRC.

The EU is committed to fully respecting the rights of the child: Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) contains the EU's obligation to promote the protection of the rights of the child, and Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union elaborates on those rights. Other Charter articles devote specific attention to child protection, such as the prohibition of child labour and protection of young people at work in Article 32. In addition, all the other articles of the Charter are also applicable to children as human beings.  Article 24 states that children have the right to such protection and care as is necessary for their well-being and that in all actions relating to children, whether taken by public authorities or private institutions, the child's best interests must be a primary consideration. 

In 2006, the Commission adopted its Communication "Towards an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child"(COM(2006)367). Since then, general principles to ensure that EU action is exemplary in ensuring respect for the provisions of the Charter and of the UN CRC, and a number of concrete actions in areas where the EU can bring real added value, such as child-friendly justice, protecting children in vulnerable situations and fighting violence against children have been identified in the "EU Agenda for the rights of the child" (COM(2011)60).  

Children leaving a souvenir of their visit at the Commission

"The Commission will cooperate with the relevant organisations to produce basic data to guide decision making. The process will take stock of existing work in this area, including the outcome of the study on indicators carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency."  Communication from the European Commission, "An EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child", COM(2011) 60 final, 15.02.2011


Separated, asylum-seeking children in European Union Member States

Separated, asylum-seeking children in European Union Member States
(April/December 2010)

Developing indicators for the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the European Union

Developing indicators for the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the European Union
(March 2009/December 2010)

Experience of Discrimination, Social Marginalisation and Violence among Muslim and non-Muslim Youth

Experience of discrimination, social marginalisation and violence: a comparative study of Muslim and non-Muslim youth in three EU Member States
(October 2010)

Child Trafficking in the EU - Challenges, perspectives and good practices

Child Trafficking in the EU - Challenges, perspectives and good practices
(July 2009)


FRA's work on the rights of the child

Despite international, European and national norms, child rights are still violated across the EU. Many children are victims of abuse or neglect or do not have adequate access to education, health care, justice etc. This is the result of many factors: lack or insufficient implementation of legislation, poor knowledge of or engagement in children's issues, and insufficient involvement of children in the matters which concern their rights, amongst others. In addition, there is still a relative paucity of data on the situation of children.

The FRA reports and delivers advice on child rights issues. In 2007, the European Commission asked FRA to develop indicators to measure the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the EU. On the basis of these indicators the FRA collected data and developed two reports, on child trafficking and on separated and asylum-seeking children.

Playing in the wind

"It is nice having someone on your side"


Key research findings from the FRA’s work

  • In 2009 the FRA published its report on "Developing indicators for the protection, respect and promotion of the rights of the child in the European Union". These indicators provide an initial toolkit to evaluate the impact, highlight the achievements and reveal the gaps of adopted EU law and policy on children's status and experience across various fields (e.g. family environment and alternative care; protection from exploitation and violence; adequate standard of living; education, culture, citizenship and participation in activities related to school and sport). They are intended to guide the Agency's data collection and research, allowing it to develop evidence-based advice to EU institutions and Member States.
  • In 2010 the FRA published its report "Separated, Asylum-seeking Children in European Union Member States". The report examined the living conditions and experiences with legal procedures of these children on the basis of interviews with 336 children as well as 302 adults responsible for their care in 12 EU Member States. Following the publication of the summary report and a parallel complementary report by the European Migration Network, the Commission adopted a Communication on an ‘Action Plan on Unaccompanied Minors (2010-2014)' and on 3 June 2010 the Council of the European Union adopted its ‘Conclusions on Unaccompanied Minors'. At the end of 2010 the FRA published a comparative report, in accordance with the Commission's Action Plan. The research found that separated, asylum-seeking children are often not well informed about their rights and the legal proceedings concerning them; that often appropriate legal representation, advice and counseling is not made available to them; that  the role of  ‘guardian' remains unclear to many of them; that they frequently feel asylum procedures to be long, exacerbating feelings of insecurity and fear; finally, that children often have negative experiences in accessing care (including health, accommodation and food) as well as leisure activities or in practicing their religion.

Boy on a beach



I don’t know what a legal guardian is. Do I have one?”



FRA’s ongoing work

The FRA works together with policy-makers, public authorities, and civil society organizations, informing them about its child rights indicators and encouraging and facilitating their use.  In 2012 the Agency will develop fieldwork research to examine the extent to which justice processes are child-friendly. For more information about this work see the project page on Children and justice. The FRA also co-operates with FRONTEX in the preparation of briefings for border guards participating in FRONTEX operations in regard to the treatment of children.


Playing in the wind

"A social worker explained to me the procedure when I arrived, but I did not understand."



FRA’s partners

The FRA works together with various partners in collecting information and increasing awareness and knowledge about the rights of the child in the EU. This includes European institutions, international organisations, civil society organisations, experts groups and national authorities. The Agency's partners include:



The FRA has organized several events concerning the rights of the child:

Recent events in which the FRA participated:

  • 6th European Forum on the Rights of the Child devoted to ‘Developing Evidence-based Policies for Child-Friendly Justice' held in Brussels on 23 November 2011. The FRA made a presentation on the topic ‘Providing robust data to support evidence based policies for child-friendly justice' and contributed to the subsequent debate. 
  • Conference on the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2012-2015 in Monaco on 20-21 November 2011. The FRA contributed to the panel on ‘Bringing standards closer to children: co-operation and partnerships for sustainable action' together with representatives from UNICEF (Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS), the EU Commission (Head of Unit, Fundamental Rights and Rights of the Child), the Polish Ombudsperson for Children, the Chair of the Save the Children Europe Group, as well as an expert from academia.
  • 'Child Friendliness and the Community', a conference organised by UNICEF Switzerland on 31 October 2011 which engaged regional/local authorities in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. At this event the FRA participated in a discussion on child rights indicators and shared information on how best to actively engage children in establishing ways to address their needs.
  • The conference on the rights of children with intellectual disabilities ‘Chidren's Rights for All!' organised by Inclusion Europe in co-operation with Eurochild in Brussels on 20-21 October 2011 was instrumental in identifying synergies between disability and child rights protection relevant to improving the protection of children with intellectual disabilities, against the background of the references to these children in the CRPD as well as the articles of the UN CRC which enshrine a specific list of rights of these children.


To receive more information on the work of the Rights of the Child Team, please email childrights@fra.europa.eu


paper chain in the dark, (c) 2009  Stephanie Hofschlaeger

FRA organises expert meeting on children with disabilities(26 April 2012)

On 26 - 27 April the FRA consulted experts on its new project on "Children with disabilities: experiences of discrimination, inclusion and hate speech".

Protect children’s rights during economic crisis for the benefit of Europe today and tomorrow(21 November 2011)

Three years on and the economic and financial crisis shows no sign of abating. Vulnerable groups are most at risk. To mark the anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November, the FRA wishes to reaffirm its commitment to securing the fundamental rights of children, many seriously affected by public service cuts in education, health and social services.