The UN General Assembly has adopted a number of Optional Protocols which strengthen the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and add further unique rights for children. They are optional because governments that ratify the Convention can decide whether or not to sign up to these Optional Protocols.

There are three Optional Protocols to the Convention:

  • The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict was adopted by the General Assembly in 2000. It requires governments to increase the minimum age that children can join the armed forces from 15 years and to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in armed conflict. Read the full text.
  • The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000, provides detailed requirements for governments to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes, such as other forms of forced labour, illegal adoption and organ donation. Read the full text.
  • The Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure – or complaints mechanism - was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2011 and came into force in 2014. This protocol allows children to submit a complaint to the United Nations when their rights have been violated and their own country’s legal system could not offer a solution. Read the full text.
 
Unicef - a former child soldier in Chad © UNICEF/UKLA2013-02157/Matas
The first Optional Protocol to the UNCRC protects children from taking active part in armed combat.© UNICEF/UKLA2013-02157/Matas