The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a comprehensive charter on the rights of children, setting minimum standards that governments should meet in providing healthcare, education, legal and social services in their countries.
The 54 articles of the convention affirm four basic principles, namely: a child’s right to survival; a child’s right to development; a child’s right to be protected; and a child’s right to participate actively in his/her community.
Singapore acceded to the UNCRC on 5 October 1995.
Best Interests of the Child – Turning Principle into Practice
The UNCRC affirms the need for the best interests of the child to be the primary consideration in decisions and actions affecting the child. Singapore’s commitment to working in the best interests of the child is best exemplified through our Statement on the Best Interests of the Child, which has been embraced by the many organisations working with children in Singapore today.
The statement reiterates that services and programmes should be designed and administered in the best interests of the child, with respect for the fundamental rights of each child.
As part of our work in publicising the UNCRC, MSF also produces the UNCRC booklet to educate children and their caregivers on the concept of children’s rights. Drama, storytelling and postcards are also among some of the child-appropriate strategies that have been used to introduce children to the principles of the UNCRC.
Initial Report and Oral Presentation to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
Singapore submitted its Initial Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in November 2002. The Initial Report lists the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted by Singapore to give effect to the provisions of the UNCRC.
Singapore presented its report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on 26 September 2003, at the 34th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Singapore delegation was led by then Minister of State for the Ministry of Community Development and Sports, Mr Chan Soo Sen, and comprised representatives from the Inter-Ministry Committee on the UNCRC and the Singapore Children’s Society.
The report was well received by the Committee, in particular Singapore’s progress for children in the areas of education health and housing. (See the Committee’s Concluding Observations on Singapore’s Initial Report).
Periodic Report and Oral Presentation to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
Singapore submitted its Second and Third Periodic Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January 2009. The report covers the period 2003 to 2007, and provides detailed information on Singapore’s progress in the areas of child welfare and protection, legislative enhancements and initiatives for children.
MSF organised a Consultation Forum with key stakeholders on 6 January 2011 to gather feedback on Singapore's implementation of the UNCRC. The session was attended by more than 200 participants from government agencies, Voluntary Welfare Organisations, hospitals, schools, and MSF Executive Volunteer Committees and Boards. Participants raised questions pertaining to the 2nd and 3rd Periodic Report to a panel comprising of inter-agency representatives.
Singapore presented the Periodic Report to the Committee in Geneva on 20 January 2011, at the 56th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Singapore delegation was led by then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, and comprised of representatives from the Inter-Ministry Committee on the UNCRC and the Singapore Children's Society. The concluding observations on Singapore's Periodic Report were released in February 2011.
Key points from the Concluding Observations
The Committee welcomed a number of positive developments made by Singapore, such as:
- The amendment of the Penal Code in 2007 to criminalise child sexual exploitation in Singapore and other countries;
- The amendment of Article 122 of the Constitution in 2004 to allow children to acquire Singapore citizenship through their Singaporean mothers;
- The establishment of the Central Youth Guidance Office (CYGO) and the Office of Public Guardian in 2010;
- The establishment of the Community Court and the Children Care Court in 2006 and 2008 respectively;
- The establishment of the National Family Council in 2008; and
- The ratification of the 1973 ILO Convention concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment in 2005.
The Committee also made recommendations for Singapore's follow up, including to:
- Fully incorporate all principles and provisions of the Convention into the domestic legal system;
- Strengthen efforts to provide training to professionals working with and for children to ensure that the principles and provisions of the Convention are widely applied in social welfare settings and in legal and administrative proceedings;
- Adopt and implement a comprehensive strategy to address all forms of discrimination against all groups of children in vulnerable situations and to combat discriminatory societal attitudes;
- Provide inclusive education to children with special needs;
- Strengthen the support and services to parents in order to enhance their capabilities in child-rearing;
- Ensure that all trafficking cases involving children are promptly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted;
The Inter-Ministry Committee on the Convention on the Rights of the Child will continue to look into these possible areas of development.
For more information on the UNCRC and children's rights, please visit www.unicef.org and http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/index.htm.