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General comments and recommendations

General comment No. 20 (2016) on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence


06 December 2016

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Committee on the Rights of the Child


Adolescence is a life stage characterized by growing opportunities, capacities, aspirations, energy and creativity, but also significant vulnerability. Adolescents are agents of change and a key asset and resource with the potential to contribute positively to their families, communities and countries.

Globally, adolescents engage positively in many spheres, including health and education campaigns, family support, peer education, community development initiatives, participatory budgeting and creative arts, and make contributions towards peace, human rights, environmental sustainability and climate justice. Many adolescents are at the cutting edge of the digital and social media environments, which form an increasingly central role in their education, culture and social networks, and hold potential in terms of political engagement and monitoring accountability.

The Committee observes that the potential of adolescents is widely compromised because States parties do not recognize or invest in the measures needed for them to enjoy their rights.


In the present general comment, the Committee provides guidance to States on the measures necessary to ensure the realization of the rights of children during adolescence, cognizant also of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It highlights the importance of a human rights-based approach that includes recognition and respect for the dignity and agency of adolescents; their empowerment, citizenship and active participation in their own lives; the promotion of optimum health, well-being and development; and a commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of their human rights, without discrimination

The present general comment focuses on the period of childhood from 10 years until the 18th birthday to facilitate consistency in data collection.

The objectives of the present general comment are:

  1. To provide States with guidance on the legislation, policies and services needed to promote comprehensive adolescent development consistent with the realization of their rights;
  2. To raise awareness of the opportunities afforded by and challenges faced during adolescence;
  3. To enhance understanding of and respect for the evolving capacities of adolescents and the implications for the realization of their rights;
  4. To strengthen the case for greater visibility and awareness of adolescents and for investment to enable them to realize their rights throughout the course of their lives.