Questions and answers about incorporating UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Swedish law

Why does the Government want to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) into Swedish law?

The Government considers that despite strategic measures and the fact that the rights of the child are regularly transformed into applicable law and have been reflected in new legislation, these rights have not had a sufficient impact on decision-making processes concerning children. Nor has the fact that the CRC involves obligations for central and local government had a sufficient impact on activities.

The Government considers that it needs to be made clearer that Sweden's commitments under the CRC must be ensured at all levels in public sector activities and that a child rights-based approach should permeate all activities concerning children and young people.
Incorporation of the CRC gives it the status of Swedish law, entailing a clearer obligation on courts and legal practitioners to consider the rights that follow from the CRC in deliberations and assessments that are part of decision-making processes in cases and matters concerning children.
Giving the CRC the status of Swedish law, and with support and knowledge-enhancing measures, it is considered that a child rights-based approach will have an impact in practice.


In what way do the rights of the child have insufficient impact?

The Inquiry on the rights of the child found in its surveys that the impact of children's rights and of a child rights-based approach has been insufficient in many ways, including when it comes to the principle of the best interests of the child and the child's right to express their views.
The Government considers that despite strategic measures and the fact that the rights of the child are regularly transformed into applicable law and have been reflected in new legislation, these rights have not had a sufficient impact on decision-making processes concerning children. Nor has the fact that the CRC involves obligations for central and local government had a sufficient impact on activities.

How can the rights of the child be expected to have a greater impact on the application of the law in Sweden if the CRC is incorporated into Swedish law?

Incorporation of the CRC gives it the status of Swedish law, entailing a clearer obligation on courts and legal practitioners to consider the rights that follow from the CRC in deliberations and assessments that are part of decision-making processes in cases and matters concerning children.
Incorporation means that the child's role as a legal entity with specific rights of their own is made clearer and can therefore be expected to contribute to greater focus on the child in situations concerning the child.
In the Government's view, incorporation of the CRC will help give visibility to the rights of the child and is a way of creating a foundation for a more child rights-based approach in all public sector activities, in which these rights are seen from a holistic perspective.

All of the measures presented by the Government in this bill in the form of an act on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the guidance document, the knowledge boost and continued systematic transformation work should be seen as a single package to ensure that the Convention gains traction.

What will the difference be between the CRC as a legal act and as a ratified convention?

Incorporation will make the provisions of the CRC applicable as law and may – with the reservation that all the provisions are not directly applicable in each individual case – form the basis of decisions by public authorities in cases and matters in which the CRC's provisions are not explicitly stated in other legislation.

Incorporation of the CRC makes clear that other legislation concerning children, such as the provisions of the Children and Parents Code, the Aliens Act, the Education Act, the Act concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments and the Social Services Act, must be interpreted on the basis of the CRC in its entirety and not only on the basis of the provisions transformed into each act.
Incorporation will make the Convention as a whole more visible and it will be clear that the rights contained in the Convention are interlinked and should be interpreted in relation to each other, and that they are brought together in one and the same act. The Convention will be a cohesive regulatory framework to relate to.

Are other measures needed to strengthen implementation of the rights of the child?

All of the measures presented by the Government in this bill in the form of an act on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the guidance document, the knowledge boost and continued systematic transformation work should be seen as a single package to ensure that the Convention has an impact.

For the CRC to have an impact, continued transformation of the CRC's provisions into national law is necessary, alongside incorporation. Moreover, a combination of various measures is necessary, such as guidance, education and coordination between different actors at different levels in society.

In its bill, the Government therefore states that a guidance document should be produced to support the methodical interpretation and application of the CRC. The Government also lists the measures under way to increase knowledge about the CRC among children and young people, and in municipalities, county councils and government agencies through a knowledge boost. Further, the Government describes the need for continued and systematic transformation work to enable the CRC to continue having an impact on legislation and to be made visible in the preparatory work for legislation, where the Convention may be relevant.

The Government has also decided to task an Inquiry Chair with conducting a survey to shed light on how compatible Swedish legislation and practice are with the CRC. The aim of the survey is to provide support in future work on the transformation of the CRC's provisions in various areas of law. The Government also describes measures to better coordinate the dialogue with civil society organisations on issues concerning children's rights.

How will children in Sweden notice that the CRC is part of Swedish law?

Incorporation of the CRC entails a clearer obligation on legal practitioners to consider the rights that follow from the CRC in deliberations and assessments that are part of decision-making processes in cases and matters concerning children.

In addition, incorporation means that the child's role as a legal entity with specific rights of their own is made clearer and can therefore be expected to contribute to greater focus on the child in situations concerning the child.

How do other acts relate to the CRC?

In principle, the proposed incorporation does not entail any new tasks for¬ practitioners, since legislation is already to be interpreted in accordance with the CRC (consistent interpretation). However, incorporation entails a clearer obligation on ¬legal practitioners to consider the rights that follow from the CRC in deliberations and assessments that are part of decision-making processes in cases and matters concerning children, and interpret Swedish provisions in relation to the CRC based on customary principles of interpretation.

Incorporation of the CRC makes clear that other legislation concerning children, such as the provisions of the Children and Parents Code, the Aliens Act, the Education Act, the Act concerning Support and Service for Persons with Certain Functional Impairments and the Social Services Act, must be interpreted on the basis of the CRC in its entirety and not only on the basis of the provisions transformed into each act.

Incorporation will make the provisions of the CRC applicable as law and may – with the reservation that all the provisions are not directly applicable in each individual case – form the basis of decisions by public authorities in cases and matters in which the CRC's provisions are not explicitly stated in other legislation. Incorporation of the CRC does not mean that it takes precedence over other legislation. How any incompatibility between the incorporated CRC and other legislation is to be settled must be determined by means of general legal principles of interpretation.

Why will entry into force of the act be delayed until 2020?

It is proposed that the act enter into force on 1 January 2020. The Government considers that more time than the Inquiry thought necessary is needed before the act enters into force. This is so law enforcement authorities have time to prepare.
The Government is aware that there may be a lack of experience and knowledge of interpreting and implementing international conventions, and therefore considers that, prior to incorporation of the CRC, additional knowledge-enhancing measures are needed alongside the work already under way and the measures being taken, including by the Ombudsman for Children and within the framework of the Government's strategic human rights efforts. Entry into force at a later date provides greater scope for transformation ahead of incorporation.