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The Optional Protocols to the Convention

Human rights treaties are often followed by ‘optional protocols’ that provide more detail about particular rights and expand obligations beyond those in the original treaty. The United Nations General Assembly adopted two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2000, to increase the protection of children from involvement in armed conflicts and from sexual exploitation. 

Children in armed conflict

The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict establishes 18 as the minimum age for compulsory recruitment in the military, prohibits children from taking a direct part in hostilities, and requires support for and rehabilitation of children who have been recruited into armed conflicts. Canada ratified this Optional Protocol on 7 July 2000.

Guide to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict

Guide for Canada’s young people on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Canadian young people should know their rights if they are thinking of joining the armed forces or related education and training. They have rights in national law, such as the National Defence Act, and rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol. For example:

  • Youth under age 18 must not participate in fighting or be put in danger of it
  • The age for voluntary recruitment into the armed forces should be raised to 18, giving preference to older recruits
  • Any voluntary recruitment of youth under age 18 must include special protections
  • Youth must be fully informed of all their rights and the commitments involved in joining the armed forces in any capacity. 

Sexual exploitation of children

The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography calls for the criminalization of these serious violations of children's rights and emphasizes the importance of fostering increased public awareness, prevention, law enforcement and victim services to combat them. Canada ratified this Optional Protocol on 14 September 2005.

UNICEF Handbook for the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Children’s rights violations

On 17 June 2011, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to bring forward a new optional orotocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The protocol for a complaints mechanism, also referred to as a “communications procedure,” would enable children and their representatives to report violations of children’s rights to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child if they have exhausted domestic remedies. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only core UN treaty without a complaints procedure. The draft complaints mechanism will be referred to the United Nations General Assembly by the end of the year, where a resolution needs to be adopted. Then, the optional protocol would be open for ratification, and enter into force three months after its tenth ratification.

Learn more about the optional orotocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child