Child’s best interest principle

Date: Friday 24. August
Time: 09:00 – 10:00
Place: Bergen Resource Centre for International Development, Jekteviksbakken 31, Bergen

Article 3 of the UNCRC requires that “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” In this session, we will discuss the principle of the best interest from different disciplinary angles and empirical fields. The child’s best interests principle is a main pillar of the UNCRC and is well-established in the legal systems across the world. The intuitive appeal of regulating and defending legal interventions by reference to “best interests” is met with significant criticism of the principle’s failure to provide substantive guidance to what is and is not in a child’s best interests.

The English baby Charlie Gard, fatally ill, made headlines internationally in 2017 when the Supreme Court of England and later the European Court of Human Rights decided that is was in the baby’s best interest to be taken off life support. Recently another baby, Alfie Evans, died at Alder Hey hospital after life support was withdrawn. How can removal of life support be in the best interests of the child? What is the reasoning behind such a decision, and how does it correspond with Human Rights and the Rights of the Child? Judges apply significant discretion when making decisions regarding children. Some have accused the courts of using this vagueness as a means of implementing their own values and beliefs, rather than objectively assessing the child’s welfare, and applying legal principles consistently. Differences in outcomes on similar facts appear to support this view. What does this tell us about best interest considerations in the legal sphere? The session marks the publication of Langford, Skivenes & Søvig (eds) Child rights in Norway: Measuring Compliance.

Moderator: Siri H. Pedersen and Hege S. Helland (both Univeristy of Bergen)


  • Katre Luhamaa (University of Bergen)
  • Kirsten Sandberg (University of Oslo, member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, chair of the Committee 2013-15*)
  • Marit Skivenes (University of Bergen)
  • Asgeir Falch-Eriksen (Velferdsforskningsinstituttet NOVA, OsloMet – storbyuniversitetet)
  • Kenneth Burns (University College Cork)
  • Thomas Meysen (the International Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (SOCLES))