The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a treaty which comprehensively provides for the rights of children. It sets out the standards on the provisions of healthcare, education, legal and social services for children. Singapore acceded to UNCRC in October 1995.
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.
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 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 Initial Report 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 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).
Second and Third 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.
Singapore presented its Second and Third Periodic Report 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 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;
Fourth and Fifth Periodic Report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child
Singapore submitted its Fourth and Fifth Periodic Report [Annex A and B, Annex C] to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on 3 November 2017. The Report covers Singapore's progress between 2009 and 2016.
The Report affirms Singapore’s commitment to protect and promote the wellbeing of our children in line with the principles of the UNCRC. The Report also outlines Singapore's progress in enhancing the rights of children through improving the protection, care and holistic development of children. The Report emphasises the collective effort of the community and the Government in safeguarding and promoting children's rights in Singapore. It also addresses the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on Singapore’s Second and Third Periodic Report.
Feedback Gathered through an Inclusive Consultation Process
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) invited relevant stakeholders to participate in roundtable discussions in March 2017 on pertinent child-related issues. MSF also invited members of the public to provide feedback on the draft Report through REACH.
MSF received valuable feedback from Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs), tertiary students and other members of the public during these consultations. Members of the public acknowledged that children in Singapore today have benefitted from the greater support given to parents to care for their children from an early age, such as through the KidSTART pilot. The comments also highlighted that the enhanced support given to children involved in police investigations has improved and made the processes more child-centric.
MSF also received positive comments for its efforts to support victims of child abuse and their families through customised services and diversified out-of-home care options, such as the Safe and Strong Family pilot and Small Group Homes respectively.
VWOs recognized the stronger public education efforts against child abuse and bullying which suggested that these efforts be expanded further. Hence, besides making reference to the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act, the Report also includes information on measures that Singapore is taking to spread awareness against bullying.
There were also suggestions on areas where the Government could further improve our policies on rehabilitation, address challenges in the digital era and protect children from falling prey to sexual abuse and grooming through the Internet.
Continued Partnership with Stakeholders to Protect and Promote Children's Rights in Singapore
We will continue to work with stakeholders as part of our ongoing efforts to protect and promote the rights of children in Singapore. We will build on the good progress made, and invest even more in the early childhood sector. We will also put in more support for children from low income and vulnerable families, so that they have better access to basic health, learning, and developmental opportunities in the critical early years.
For more information on the UNCRC and children's rights, please visit www.unicef.org and http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC.