nl en

Children’s Rights from an International Comparative Perspective


Admission requirements

Master degree


The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is an almost universally ratified human rights treaty that attributes human rights and fundamental freedoms to children. The CRC contains both civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Children, thus, are regarded as bearers of human rights. At the same time, the CRC recognizes the special status of children as human beings in development, who can exercise their rights in accordance with their age and maturity and who may need special measures of protection. This has various implications.
First, there are four provisions that have been recognized as the general provisions of the CRC: art. 2: non-discrimination; art. 3 (1): the best interests of the child; art. 6: right to life and development; art. 12: right to be heard. These general principles have significant implications for the interpretation and implementation of the other provisions of the CRC.
Second, the CRC explicitly recognizes the position of parents, who have the primary responsibility for the upbringing of their child (art. 18 CRC). In this regard, they have to provide their child with appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise of her or his rights, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child (art. 5 CRC). The State has the responsibility to support the parents in their responsibilities, but it also has the responsibility to protect the child, if the best interests of the child so require. This could e.g. imply that a child has to be placed in a form of alternative care.
Third, the CRC (and two Optional Protocols) provides special provisions and/or special measures of protection for specific groups of children, including immigrant or refugee children, children in alternative care, children with disabilities, children who have been subject to exploitation or trafficking, children in armed conflict, children deprived of their liberty and children in conflict with the law.

The following topics will be addressed in this course:

  • Children’s rights as part of international human rights law, including the historical development of children’s rights, the position of the CRC in relation to other UN human rights instruments and the relation between the CRC and regional human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child and the American Convention on Human Rights.

  • Critical reflections on children’s rights, including the foundation of children’s rights, limitations of children’s rights and the issue of universality of international children’s rights.

  • Implications of the CRC framework and implementation of children’s rights at the domestic level (special issues).

  • Monitoring of children’s rights – UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the roles of international organizations (such as UNICEF), regional mechanisms, independent national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations. Special attention will be paid to the 2011 Third Optional Protocol on an individual communications procedure for children (which entered into force in 2014).

  • Strategic litigation and children’s rights – litigation meant to contribute to law reform as a means to foster children’s rights implementation.

The above mentioned topics will be addressed from an international comparative perspective. This means first of all that the implications of the international (UN) human rights standards will be addressed in comparison with regional human rights standards. In addition, case studies will be used through which students learn more about differences between countries and/or regions (e.g. Western Europe or Southern Africa) as far as children’s rights implementation is concerned. Students are also invited to compare children’s rights realities within the jurisdiction they are most familiar with, with to one or two other jurisdictions.

The programme consists of 5-7 weeks with lectures and seminars. As part of the programme students will be invited to work on specific children’s rights assignments, including e.g. presentations, the preparation of a legal opinion or an amicus brief etc.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide in depth and comparative knowledge about the international children’s rights framework, its relation to regional human rights systems (in particular the European and African human rights systems) and its direct and indirect significance for the rights of children at the domestic level. A critical reflection on the potential and limitations of children’s rights will be part of this course.
More specifically:

  • Students will acquire thorough knowledge of children’s rights as part of international human rights law and the legal status of children under international law;

  • Students will acquire thorough knowledge about the CRC and Optional Protocols and other international and regional children’s rights instruments;

  • Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of the different legal tools for implementing and monitoring children’s rights at the domestic level;

  • Students will acquire legal knowledge and understanding of the rights of children in specific areas, such as child protection law and juvenile justice;

  • Students are able to analyse and answer complex legal questions concerning children’s rights using their knowledge of and insight into the different international children’s rights instruments ;

  • Students are able to use the different legal tools for implementing and monitoring children’s rights in individual cases, at the domestic level and/or at the international level.

  • Students will be able to critically reflect on international children’s rights and have an understanding of relevant ethical issues and dilemmas, challenges and caveats when implementing children’s rights in legal daily practice;

  • Students are able to write a high quality paper (legal opinion) on the theoretical aspects of complex children’s rights issues.

Assessment Method
Assessment method(s) and the weighting of each form of assessment towards the final grade

Assigments (50%)
Written exam (50%)

Submission procedures
Students are expected to submit the assignments via e-mail and by hard copy to the coordinator.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.

Contact information Programme Co-ordinator: Ms. Mahshid Alizadeh Leiden University | Leiden Law School | Office for International Education Steenschuur 25 | 2311 ES Leiden | The Netherlands | (t) +31 71 527 3593 |