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Caring for, nurturing and empowering children is one of the oldest and strongest values of Emirati society. Community traditions have always aimed at protecting children, providing them with all forms of care, and enabling them to form independent personalities and determine their own choices. 

With the founding of the UAE in 1971, the existing societal values regarding children became a cornerstone in the State’s strategic planning, and its development model.  


The UAE Constitution embodies the social values upon which the state was founded. Article 15 distinguishes family as “the foundation of society”, emphasizing that the law should “guarantee its existence and safeguard it”. Article 16 further strengthens social responsibility and cohesion, stating that society “shall be responsible for protecting childhood and motherhood and shall protect minors and others unable to look after themselves.” Article 17 emphasizes the obligation of education as a primary mean of social development. 

Children rights were reinforced further in 1997, by UAE’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the promulgation of an effective set of legislation designed to support children as they grow to develop their capabilities. 

The model for childhood protection in the UAE is based on an integrated system that takes care of children in all aspects of their lives, starting with healthcare to education which are carried out through comprehensive initiatives, such as the National Family Policy adopted in 2018 which enhance children’s right to live in a stable, healthy environment that allows them to achieve happiness through family cohesion. 

Legislation and Children’s Rights in the UAE

The UAE upholds the rights of children through a number of laws that empower and protect them. The country has continued to develop its laws through constant legal reforms and by implementing relevant laws at the federal, regional and international levels such as.

National Legislation

  • Federal Law No. (9) of 1976 on Delinquent and Vagrant Juveniles
  • Federal Law No. (1) of 2012 on the Custody of Children of Unknown Parentage 
  • Federal Law No. (51) of 2006 as amended by Federal law No.1 of 2015 on Combatting Human Trafficking Crime 
  • Federal Law No. (3) of 2016 on Child Rights (Wadeema's Law)  
  • Cabinet Resolution No. (52) of 2018 Governing the Executive Regulations of Federal Law No. (3) of 2016 on Child Rights Law  
  • Federal Law No. (10) of (2019) on Protection Against Family Violence  
  • Federal Decree-Law No. (31) of 2021 on Promulgating the Crimes and Penalties Law  
  • Federal Decree-Law No. (34) of 2021 on Countering Rumors and Cybercrimes   
  • Federal Law No. (6) of 2022 concerning Juvenile Delinquent and Juvenile at Risk of Delinquency

   International Legislation 

    Wadeema’s Law

    The year 2012 was pivotal in the history of legislation related to childhood. That year, the UAE witnessed an incident that shook society, where a girl called Wadeema was abused and killed by her father. The leadership launched a legal workshop that led to the introduction of Wadeema's Law in 2016.

    The law, in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child stresses that all children must be provided with appropriate living standards, access to health services, education, equal opportunities and access to essential services and facilities, without any kind of discrimination. The law protects children against all forms of negligence, exploitation, physical and psychological abuses, and covers all aspects of children’s rights in the UAE, with the necessary instruments to ensure its effective implementation.

    The law also calls for the need of a clear mechanism for the protection of children, including the establishment of child protection units that involve specialists who have the capacity of a judicial officer, and can intervene within the regulations and laws, in cases that threaten the health and safety of the child. The law also stresses the need to inform child protection specialists in the case of any threat , abuse or harm against the child, and has made reporting such threats obligatory  for everyone, with a special mention for teachers, doctors , social workers and those entrusted with the protection of children. It also stipulates that every adult must assist any child that is requesting assistance and inform the authorities about their situation or the situation of another child.  Wadeema’s Law also regulates the custody of children and sets strict penalties for any exploitation of children for sexual purposes. 

    The law represented a leap forward in the Arab region’s approach to children's rights and empowerment. When the Cabinet approved the law, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, emphasized that all children have the right to a safe life, a stable environment, permanent care, and protection from any risks or violations. 

    Emirati Children’s Day

    Marking the historical occasion of issuing Wadeema’s Law, and emphasising the central role of the child in the State’s future vision, the UAE observes Emirati Children’s Day annually on March 15. The annual occasion renews the country’s obligations towards all children, and highlights the role that children play in the national agenda.

    Relevant National Authorities For Children’s Rights in the UAE

    Given the importance of children in UAE legislation, many governmental, semi-governmental and private agencies, in addition to local associations and NGOs are active in the care and protection of children’s rights. Some of the most important agencies are:

    The Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood

    The Council was established in 2003 by Her Highness  Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation. The Council represents a national approach to organising all matters related to motherhood and childhood, as it aims to raise the level of care for mothers and children, and provide the necessary support for them in all fields. 

    Since its establishment, the Council has launched integrated plans and initiatives for childcare, the first of which was the National Strategy for Motherhood and Childhood for 2017-2021. The strategy formed the main framework with which many institutions and initiatives for the protection and empowerment of children were launched. This includes: 

    Healthcare – Promoting the right of children and mothers to obtain comprehensive health insurance coverage and medical services; launching initiatives to encourage children to follow a nutritious diet; and developing national programmes to prevent diseases.

    Providing protection –Coordinating  with and supporting child protection units nationwide. who provide specialised protection services with international standards, develop effective protection programmes to improve family environment for at-risk children, and consolidate the concept of child protection in society. 

    Education – Quality education is a basic right of the child to develop their personality, and mental and physical abilities. To that end, the UAE upgraded the educational process in line with learning and innovation and took additional interest in developing the capabilities of academic and administrative faculties, and staff in schools. Education is compulsory for children from the ages of 6 – 18 or until they have completed grade 12.

    Community participation – The UAE promotes the child’s awareness of their societal role and involvement in all activities that concern them, in a way that contributes to building their personalities and capabilities. 

    Emirati Children’s Parliament

    The Emirati Children’s Parliament was established in February 2020, in line with the commitment of the UAE government to promote the effective participation of all children, including children of determination. The parliament is based on the guiding principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that focuses on “the right of the child to express themselves and their views on all matters relating to the child, and taking them into consideration”.

    All Emirati children have the right to nominate themselves for parliament to exercise their most important right, which is the “right to participate”. This is a significant step in creating a platform through which children can freely express their ideas and aspirations. 

    Children’s Advisory Council 

    The Council was established in 2018 as a platform for children to express their needs, challenges and visions for the future. The Council aims to prepare a generation that is capable of exercising its community role positively and efficiently through understanding and respecting the opinions of others thereby contributing to their personal development and prosperity. 

    Sharjah Children Shura Council 

    The main aim of the Shura Council is to raise children's awareness practicing a sense of responsibility, enabling them to express their views on issues that concern them, and to engage in discussions with concerned officials. Children can raise concerns on their education, health, and well-being. 

    Ministry of Community Development 

    The Ministry supports and empowers children at various stages of life through its programmes and initiatives. In February 2019, the Ministry launched its most innovative initiative yet, the Child’s Digital Government platform, which is an interactive digital environment targeting children and adolescents. The platform is based on games and virtual reality technologies, to give children a familiar environment to participate in the community and learn about government agencies in the UAE. 

    The Child’s Digital Government aims to engage children in awareness-raising challenges and adventures, through which they are introduced to government institutions and the services provided to the community. Its ultimate goal is to encourage the raising of a generation that understands its rights, knows its duties and government, and contributes to achieving happiness in the community.

    The Ministry believes in the importance of early childhood intervention for very young children who have been victims of, or who are at high risk for child abuse and/or neglect as well as children who have developmental delays or disabilities.

    The "No Accept" programme, which targets children aged 3 to 10 years, focuses on teaching children how not to accept abuse and the appropriate means that children can resort to if they are exposed to any kind of abuse using innovative methods of communication depending on using the appropriate methods that attract children at this age.The programme uses an electronic system in which a variety of questions are asked to benefit from the children’s feedbacks and information and at the same time correct misconceptions among children.

    Ministry of Community Development has two initiatives: Tawasul and Nemo for childcare. The Tawasul initiative aims at creating a means of communications with the children with autism and children who have problems communicating. Nemo, which is an upgraded version of Smart Growth for Early Childhood, aims at early detection of undernourished children under the age of five years. 

    Ministry of Interior 

    Child Protection Centre  

    United Arab Emirates Ministry of Interior is a global leader in advocacy, capacity-building, operations and policy-making relevant for improving the protection of children worldwide. On the domestic level, the Ministry of Interior Child Protection Centre is the leading body, which oversees four key areas for child protection: the prevention, awareness and guidance; digital protection; investigation, follow-up and coordination; social support and coordination. The Centre has established partnerships with leading global platforms such as the INTERPOL ICSE Database and the NCMEC CyberTipline and offers a variety of best-in-class reporting channels, such as 24/7 hotline, official email, online forms as well as Hemayati mobile app.  

    The Ministry of Interior launched the National Strategy for Child Protection on the Internet in 2020 and recently launched the Child Protection Strategy 2023-2026 with 6 strategic objectives and 4 themes. 

    On an international level, Ministry of Interior leverages its best practices and operational expertise to advance child protection in a number of formats worldwide. Since 2010, the Ministry of Interior has been an active member of the Virtual Global Task Force – an international multi-stakeholder initiative to protect children from online and offline sexual exploitation – and, over the period of 2015-2018, UAE served as the Chair of the Virtual Global Task Force. Upon recognition of its leadership in child protection, the Ministry has been invited to join the WePROTECT Global Alliance as a permanent Board Member, alongside the United Kingdom, the European Union, the U.S. and the WPGA Founder. It hosted the 2nd WePROTECT Summit in Abu Dhabi, with representation from 58 countries, where the Model National Response and Statement of Actions for combatting online child sexual exploitation has been adopted. In 2020, the Ministry of Interior, in partnership with the UNICRI Centre for AI and Robotics, launched AI for Safer Children initiative, aimed at tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse online through the use of artificial intelligence. To date, the AI4SC Global Hub has welcomed 75 countries, whose law enforcement officers can access 63 cutting-edge AI tools, majority of which are free-of-charge. 

    Lending a Helping Hand Globally  

    The UAE supports, protects and empowers children locally and works towards extending similar support across borders. The country has invested in offering assistance and healthcare for children in other countries by building hospitals, sending medication and granting access to education. The UAE’s most prominent achievements in this field are: 

    • The UAE has financed development and economic projects in more than 170 countries around the world, especially those concerning children’s rights, with contributions amounting to around $8 billion in 2019 alone. 
    • Several entities in the UAE cooperate with United Nations organisations to support children globally. In 2021, Dubai Cares provided support financially to projects in 26 African countries to ensure that students continue their academic education and remain in school. 
    • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and the Arab Child Parliament, signed an agreement to host the permanent headquarters of the Arab Child Parliament in the Emirate of Sharjah. The Parliament aims to consolidate the values of democracy, equality, participation and decision-making for Arab children through dialogue and the expression of opinion.  
    • The UAE is one of the main contributors to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide polio vaccines in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in addition to the state’s contributions to the campaign to immunise children in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. The UAE provided more than 583 million polio vaccines over eight years in Pakistan, benefiting more than 102 million children.  
    • The UAE pledged US$100 million to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) to support the strategic plan for educational programs in developing countries, over the coming five years (2021-2025). 

    International Reports on Children’s Rights 

    Due to the UAE’s comprehensive efforts, the country ranks highly across international indices relating to the health and education of children. These efforts are directly connected to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UAE’s robust rankings across international indices are a testament to the effectiveness of its models for supporting the development and rights of children: 

    The UAE excelled in the indicators of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the percentage of infants who received vaccines recommended by the World Health Organisation; the coverage of antenatal care; the rate of children who received hepatitis vaccines; and the immunisation against measles (according to the World Economic Forum, the Bertelsmann Sustainable Development Goals Index, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and the Legatum Institute Prosperity Index Report). 

    The UAE ranked first in three indicators related to the fourth goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (Quality Education): Enrolment in primary education, secondary education and tertiary education in 2022 as well as literacy rate in 2021(according to the World Economic Forum).