The Child's Right to Life, Survival and Development: Evolution and Progress



Sutherland EE (2015) The Child's Right to Life, Survival and Development: Evolution and Progress. Stellenbosch Law Review, 26 (2), pp. 272-294.

Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees to all of the world’s children the right to life, survival and development. The right to life has long featured in international, regional and domestic human rights instruments. By including reference to survival and development, article 6 enriches the basic right to life and addresses a long-standing division in international human rights: that between civil and political rights, on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights, on the other. When the content of the obligations under article 6 is examined in the context of human rights more generally, the immense breadth of its compass becomes apparent. The danger is that, by trying to address “everything”, efforts may become so fragmented that it comes to mean nothing, particularly in countries with very limited resources. That threat can be addressed by prioritising some rights over others, but such an approach is controversial in human rights discourse. Indeed, the Vienna Declaration of 1993 describes human rights as “universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated.” Does this universality mean that all human rights are equally important, precluding any hierarchy of rights? In seeking an answer to that core question, this article sets the scene for the other articles that follow in this issue by examining what the drafters sought to achieve in article 6 and drilling down into its precise content by exploring it in the wider human rights context and identifying some of the issues highlighted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in its Concluding Observations on states parties’ periodic reports.

Stellenbosch Law Review: Volume 26, Issue 2

Publication date31/12/2015
PublisherJuta Law

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Professor Elaine Sutherland

Professor Elaine Sutherland

Emeritus Professor, Law