Delays in UN membership contributions by Member States are putting human rights, including children’s rights, at risk, according to the global network Child Rights Connect.
The network has warned that the funding shortfall is undermining the UN system and multilateralism. A direct result of this shortfall will be the cancellation of the third sessions of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies. Cancelling these sessions, which include the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September, would be unprecedented.

Child Rights Connect and its members are deeply concerned that the work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and of the Human Rights system as a whole may be put in jeopardy, and that the accountability mechanisms which are already significantly underfunded, are weakened further.

Child Rights Connect and its members call on governments to stand up for the values upon which the United Nations system, in particular the Human Rights mechanisms were built, and act in accordance with the vision put forward by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We owe it to our children.

Read the press release here.

CHRD News Feed

This was the provocative question that Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, asked the child advisors during a private meeting with them at the DGD. The children’s answer was as straightforward as the question: “we all have the responsibility to follow-up to the DGD as well as to put in place a mechanism to monitor and assess what will happen after the DGD. The DGD is just a start.
This page responds to the child advisors’ call for a platform to monitor the follow-up. It showcases direct follow-up activities to the 2018 DGD as well as examples of the different ways in which the global movement for children human rights defenders is growing at different levels and in many different forms.

Inclusive education, mental health and child participation are just a few of the topics that were discussed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child during its 80th session in January. Child Rights Connect has made available an info pack of the session which includes the report of each country’s review, highlights of the Committee’s relevant activities around the session and an analysis of children’s participation, amongst other relevant information.

Children human rights defenders (CHRDs) were also a topic of discussion during the session: an important follow-up motion to the 2018 DGD by the Committee. Not only were CHRDs referred to in both Guinea’s and Bahrain’s COBs, but Committee member Mikiko Otani also raised the topic during Guinea’s review, by asking about the status of a bill on human rights defenders. In the lead up to the session, we coordinated with the child rights coalition in Guinea in order to include references to the CRC and the protection of children human rights defenders in Guinea’s draft law on human rights defenders.

Moreover, during the informal meeting with States, chairperson Renate Winter and Committee member Luis Pedernera both noted the impact of the 2018 DGD. The DGD was also highlighted by Michelle Bachelet in her opening statement, in which she referred to and quoted DGD child advisors Nayeli, Konstantinos and Kurt.

Further significant updates from the 80th session include the adoption of interim measures under OPIC, the initiation of a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment and the adoption of three decisions on three individual cases under OPIC as outlined in our info pack.

14 April 2019 marks 5 years since the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OPIC).

The Protocol empowered children allowing them to complain directly, and for the first time ever, to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child about alleged violations of their rights. Children can also request an inquiry in case of a systematic or grave violation of their rights.

Since 2014, 43 States have ratified the OPIC, a number that remains meagre in comparison to the 196 States that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Child Rights Connect is happy that UN experts took up its proposition to issue a press release urging for a wider ratification of the instrument and joins the experts view that while “States have the ultimate responsibility to ensure that any violation of children’s rights is properly resolved at the national level. Where this is not the case, the voice of children must be heard at the international level.” In the year marking the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Child Rights Connects hopes for States commitments to the right of the child to translate in a wider ratification of the Protocol.

Since the 1980’s when the CRC Convention entered into force, Child Rights Connect (then called the NGO Ad Hoc Group on the CRC) already advocated for the inclusion of an individual petition system but it was only in in 1999, when the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) decided to consider discussing such a new mechanism. Child Rights Connect has led the international coalition for the advocacy, drafting and negotiation of the Protocol. Since its adoption, Child Rights Connect engages in capacity-building and dissemination of the Protocol. It is now also working on a ratification campaign of the instrument and exploring possibilities of setting us a strategic litigation clinic.

Until now, child participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has been limited and ad hoc and children have been largely absent. But this is changing, with the joint commitment by UPR info and Child Rights Connect to advance globally the systematic and sustained empowerment of children in each step of the UPR process, as equal stakeholders. 

There have been some positive examples in the past of children’s participation in the UPR, for example in India, Senegal, Colombia, Nigeria and Rwanda. Last week, the April UPR pre-sessions took place during which two children, Erka and Leo (supported by Save the Children Albania), came to participate in the pre-session of Albania and presented a gold standard for children’s engagement in the UPR.  

Erka and Leo were part of the development of a children’s report which involved around 1500 children through a child-led process. At national level, consultations with children reached 8 different parts of Albania and included children in vulnerable situations, including children with disabilities, children living in rural areas, children on the move and children in street situations.  

After participating in the UPR info one-day training (and giving us feedback on how to make it more child-friendly in the future), advocacy activities to present key themes in the children’s report included successful meetings with Permanent Missions in Geneva (which they will now follow-up on with embassies in Albania), presenting at the EU roundtable for civil society and the UPR, participating in the panel of the Albania pre-session and delivering a speech at a lunch reception hosted by UPR info and Child Rights Connect.  

During the lunch reception, 16-year-old Leo passionately highlighted the key issues and recommendations based on children’s views. He made a strong call for children to be listened to and their views taken into account, and quoted Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Remarks from the Ambassador for the Permanent Mission of Ireland, Professor Philip Jaffe (representing the Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN Committee)) and both UPR info and Child Rights Connect led to a strong and collective call for child participation not only in the UPR but across the broader UN human rights system. You can watch the speeches here.  

During the lunch reception, Child Rights Connect and UPR info also announced the forthcoming child-friendly guide on the UPR that will be launched later this year, following the review and inputs from children through a broad consultation process.  

Erka and Leo will now continue their activities in Albania and are eager to support and offer tips to future children participating the UPR pre-sessions.

girls-_in_blue_unifroms

Children have so far been almost invisible in the Human Rights Council’s narrative about human rights defenders. The resolutions adopted by the Council and the reports presented by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to the Member States have been historically centred on adult defenders. The 40th session of the Council has been a turning point in the history of the recognition of children as human rights defenders as well as an indicator of the positive impact of the 2018 Day of General Discussion of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

During the negotiations around the 2019 resolution “Recognizing the contribution of environmental human rights defenders to the enjoyment of human rights, environmental protection, and sustainable development” at the UN Human Rights Council, Child Rights Connect successfully advocated for the inclusion of children human rights defenders and the recognition of the special protection they require. We called for the acknowledgement of children human rights defenders in the resolution, on an equal footing with other groups and in particular, we influenced the paragraph: “To provide a safe and empowering context for initiatives organized by youth and children to defend human rights relating to the environment”.

Through an oral statement co-signed by 17 civil society organisations we drew the attention of the Member States to the 2018 DGD and called on them and the UN to listen directly to children to ensure their protection and empowerment in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. Fiji and Switzerland championed the topic during the informal negotiations, with the support of Argentina, Uruguay, Georgia, Canada and Norway, the latter being the State leading on the resolution.

In response to the adoption of the resolution, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment issued their first joint press release on children human rights defenders, which shows support for the current child-led initiatives around climate change and children’s contributions to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The press release specifically mentions the 2016 Day of General Discussion on children’s rights and the environment and the 2018 Day of General Discussion on protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders.

Children are leading the way with their Fridays For Future protests,” said Renate Winter, Chair of the Child Rights Committee. “We salute their courage and are deeply grateful for their actions, which are desperately needed in today’s political climate of lassitude and decision paralysis,” David Boyd and Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteurs, added.

The impact of our network’s advocacy is also visible in the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders’ latest report on women human rights defenders. The report notes the impact of the 2018 Day of General Discussion and includes a specific section on girls, as the Special Rapporteur committed to do in his closing remarks of the Day. In this particular section, he expresses concerns for girls defenders being forcibly prevented from taking action, being perceived as too young or immature to participate in human rights activism, and lacking access to resources, knowledge and technologies. The resolution, statement and report can be used to raise awareness and understanding of the topic of CHRDs and strengthen advocacy activities on a national level, including with children.

UN Human Rights Council

The inclusion and participation of children with disabilities in discussions and decisions that will affect them is as much a right as a pre-requisite to their empowerment. Moreover, children’s rights and disability rights have mostly developed in parallel, with limited intersections. But the unique momentum created by the focus on children with disabilities of this year’s Annual Day on the Rights of the Child, at the Human Rights Council, led to the resolution “Empowerment of children with disabilities for the enjoyment of their rights, including through inclusive education”, which brought together principles enshrined in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The combination of these conventions, the cooperation between the CRC and CRPD committees and the collaboration between child rights and disability advocates is essential for the full enjoyment and promotion of the rights of children with disabilities. This year’s Annual Day was particularly instrumental in bringing together the two communities and enabling the exchange of diverging views. Child rights and the rights of persons with disabilities were also brought together through the CRPD Committee’s recent General Comment 7 on the participation of persons with disabilities, which – thanks to Child Rights Connect’s advocacy – integrates the CRC standards of child participation and officially recognises child-led organisations. It is essential to integrate child rights and disability rights and our position paper outlined the need for cross-cutting children’s rights principles to be central to the Annual Day.

Child participation was key to the Annual Day, through the principle’s inclusion in the resolution and the participation on the panel of child rights advocate Dumitrita from Moldova. She is only the second child rights advocate ever to sit on the Annual Day panel and this sets a positive precedent for child participation in future Annual Days. Child Rights Connect played a key role in ensuring her involvement by leading discussions with OHCHR, UNICEF and the resolution’s co-sponsors (GRULAC & EU) and subsequently supporting Lumos in her preparation. We also sought the meaningful participation of children in the Council’s activities through the first ever child-friendly call for input to OHCHR’s report, launched in July 2018.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution by consensus and the efforts from co-sponsors and key States to include points on child participation and elements to strengthen the overall text. We also welcome the inclusion of the need for appropriate and adapted support and resources, as providing the space and means for children with disabilities to effectively participate in all aspects of society is an integral part of their empowerment. However whilst the resolution does include some recognition of the need for empowerment it also strongly centres the protection of children with disabilities, and many States pushed to highlight the protection of the family, which is detrimental to the individual rights of children with disabilities. Child Rights Connect and its members have always focused on the need for empowerment in addition to protection and we raised this in informal discussions with States, in briefing OHCHR for their report and in our oral statement to the Council, co-signed by 19 civil society organisations.

We will seek to maintain the momentum created by the Annual Day by working with members and children to build their capacity and to enable their participation in local, regional and international fora as well as continuing to work with the CRC and the CRPD committees to align their standards. Child Rights Connect and its members are committed to creating connections and synergies among different stakeholders and processes to further the rights of children with disabilities, emphasising their participation and empowerment.

This is the first joint letter Child Rights Connect has prepared for the Treaty Bodies 2020 review process, together with TBNet, Amnesty International and other NGOs.

Child Rights Connect empowers children’s rights defenders to be more effective in holding States accountable by using the UN human rights system for their advocacy, and to influence and use the UN human rights system for sustainable change at national level, in close cooperation with our members.

We have a strategic position to ensure that the Treaty Bodies standards are the highest possible quality by facilitating inputs from children’s rights defenders, in order to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the UN Treaty Bodies system.

Today we are calling on UN Member States for an inclusive review process on treaty body strengthening.

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