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Play Wales welcomes UN commitment to children's right to play


United Nations adopts in-depth interpretation of ‘forgotten’ child’s right

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has adopted a General Comment that clarifies for governments worldwide the meaning and importance of Article 31 of the Convention on the Right of the Child.

A General Comment is an official statement that elaborates on the meaning of an aspect of the UNCRC that requires further interpretation or emphasis. The General Comment will define all elements of Article 31 and explain their importance in the growth and development of children and their impact on children’s overall wellbeing. 

Article 31 ensures that ‘State Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities … and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.’

The General Comment will provide guidance to the governments of the 192 countries (States Parties) that are signatories.

The objectives of the General Comment are:

a) To enhance understanding of the importance of Article 31 for children’s well-being and development, and for the realisation of other rights in the Convention.
b) To provide interpretation to States parties with regard to the provisions, and consequent obligations, associated with Article 31.
c) To provide guidance on the legislative, judicial, administrative, social and
educational measures necessary to ensure its implementation for all children
without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity.

Minister for Health and Social Services Lesley Griffiths said:

‘Wales is already leading the way on promoting children’s rights and the articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right for children to experience the freedom and enjoyment of play and recreational activities is of paramount importance to us. Recently we commenced the duty on our local authorities to assess the sufficiency of play opportunities in their local area. This is the first step in ensuring that we have places that are safe and freely available, for children to play, now and in years to come.’

Mike Greenaway, Director of Play Wales said:

‘We welcome the news that the United Nations has adopted the General Comment on Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On the world stage Article 31 is often referred to as the most neglected or forgotten right. However, Wales is already taking a lead by legislating for children’s rights through the Rights of Children and Young Person’s (Wales) Measure 2011 which places a duty on Welsh Ministers to consider the rights of children when making policy and legislation decisions. The General Comment will further strengthen the understanding of the importance of play in children’s lives.’

The International Play Association (IPA) has taken a lead role in the development of the General Comment. The full document (and a summary produced by IPA) will be available in the next few weeks.

More information from the International Play Association (IPA)

Joint statement from the UK Children's Commissioners