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.

We are delighted to share our Study on the global status of engagement in the Reporting to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child!

Thirty years after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there have been many achievements with regards to civil society engagement in the CRC reporting, including the increase in quantity and quality of child participation. However, there are still many gaps and challenges at national and international level, both internal and external to Child Rights Connect.

In the report, you will find out:

  • An overview of the key changes in the working methods of the CRC Committee;
  • The status of ratifications and reservations, State Party reporting, civil society reporting and children’s participation in the reporting process;
  • The progress and challenges in relation to process and impact of CRC engagement;
  • Recommendations to Child Rights Connect network to maximize its potential in order to empower children’s rights defenders in a sustainable way and with multiplying and long-term effect;
  • Two annexes: a timeline with landmarks in child rights and a non-exhaustive list of follow-up researches.

Last week Child Rights Connect was invited to participate in a breakfast seminar with States and civil society organized by the Permanente Mission of Ireland. The seminar was an opportunity to examine recent experiences attempting to improve child and youth engagement at the UN Human Rights Council from the perspective of civil society, States and Ireland’s UN Youth Delegates.

Ilaria Paolazzi, Programme Manager at Child Rights Connect, in her intervention, drew everyone’s attention to the specific and practical challenges faced by children to access the Human Rights Council due to the lack of a framework for child participation. She encouraged States to continue to push for different forms of child participation at the Council, even if these could seem tokenistic, instead of not involving children at all. “What children’s feedback show is that even tokenistic participation can be an empowering experience for children, as long as it involves learning and follow-up” emphasised Ilaria Paolazzi during the meeting.

She recommended the establishment of a group of like-minded States who could discuss with children and youth the development of a comprehensive framework for child participation at the Council, building on past experiences. This recommendation was echoed by Plan International and welcomed by those present at the event.

State representatives present at the meeting shared their experiences in bringing youth delegates to the Council and Ireland’s UN Youth Delegates shared encouraging examples of their UN engagement and recommended the empowerment of children from a young age to engage in the UN.

This event took place the same week of the “Stock-tacking Event on Civil Society Space”, requested by the 2018 Council’s resolution on civil society space, with the objective to identify progress made in better supporting civil society participation within the multilateral framework. Child Rights Connect participated in this event to remind States to proactively reach out to underrepresented parts of civil society, including children and young people, with a view to ensuring the diversity of civil society participation. This was one of the key recommendations that the DGD Children’s Advisory Team shared with the core group of States leading on the resolution.

TB-Net Statement on the 31st meeting of Chairpersons of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies 

On the occasion of a private consultation with civil society at the Chairperson meeting held this week in New YorkIMARD delivered a joint statement on behalf of TB-Net. 

Recommendations focus on:

  • 2020 Review of the Human Rights Treaty Body System: TB-Net believes that the treaty bodies should be seen as one system, all on an equal footing with each other while respecting their independence and the specificity, scope and full set of rights of each treaty. TB-Net recommends that treaty bodies: support an open and transparent review process that allows for direct contributions by civil society; propose/support measures in the 2020 review which increase the promotion and protection of human rights at national level through compliance by States with their human rights obligations; support civil society’s vital role in informing the work of TBs; further align working methods through inter-committee exchanges, increase the predictability of State reviews and the accessibility of the system for all users; Adopt joint guidelines on follow-up and assessment procedures 
  • Quality, Independent and Diverse Treaty Body Membership: promote quality, independent and diverse treaty body membership through open and participatory nominations and elections processes. Call on States to organise open, participatory, transparent and structured national nomination processes; encourage States to ensure that the candidates have high moral standing, recognised competence and experience in the human rights field and are independent, and a diversity of backgrounds; assist States in identifying the most appropriate candidate by recalling the key requirements for treaty body membership and encouraging States to take into account the current composition of the concerned treaty body and its outgoing members as well as the current and potential gaps in expertise, geographical representation and gender balance.  
  • Implementation of the Guidelines against Intimidation or Reprisals (the San José Guidelines): TB-Net welcome the creation of a dedicated page on intimidation and reprisals for cooperation with the TBs on the OHCHR website, following the workshop on reprisals held in December 2018 and calls for further implementation of the recommendations contained in the outcome report. 
  • Financial sustainability of the treaty body system: TB-Net remains deeply concerned by the recent UN budget shortfall in fully supporting the work of the treaty bodies and urges States to properly support the work of the treaty bodies, financially and politically and by taking seriously implementation of the treaty bodies’ recommendations and views. 

The statement also reminds that TB-Net, with Amnesty International and ISHR, is hosting in July an NGO consultation process on TB strengthening to reach out to NGOs at national and regional levels, to keep them informed about the 2020 review process and incorporate the perspectives of users of the system, and the experiences of rights holders. A report will be produced in September. 

We are delighted to announce that the CRC Committee has adopted the 2018 DGD outcome report on Protecting and Empowering Children as Human Rights Defenders! 

It includes the detailed findings of the plenary and workshop discussions, and highlights the main recommendations endorsed by the Committee with the goal of providing guidance to States parties as primary duty bearers and to other relevant stakeholders, such as national human rights institutions, the Committee and the UN, civil society, media, the private sector and adults, to strengthen the protection and the empowerment of child human rights defenders. 

The report will form part of the Committee’s 2019 report to the UN General Assembly, and a child-friendly version will be produced together with our Children’s Advisory Team 2019 to facilitate its accessibility and dissemination. 

Read and share the report widely to promote a global movement for children human rights defenders!

Child Rights Connect and its members including Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) presented a joint submission with the Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education of the Dublin City University Institute of Education and  the Centre for Children’s Rights at Queen’s University Belfast on the CRC’s concept note for a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment.

The submission included the findings from the online consultation with more than 2695 children in the context of the 2018 Day of the General Discussion in relation to how Children Human Rights Defenders (CHRDs) use digital technologies and interact in the digital environment.

Taking stock of the opportunities provided by the digital environment, the submission encouraged the Committee on the Rights of the Child to include a strong angle of empowering  CHRD. In particular, and in line with the recommendations made on the DGD on ‘Digital media and children’s rights’ held in 2014, and the 2018 DGD on Children Human Rights Defenders, the submission asked for the General Comment to call for equal and safe access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) and for empowering children to benefit from available resources. While many children use the digital environment to get information, share information and socialise, CHRDs are using it to learn about their human rights, to meet and collaborate with others to promote their human rights and the rights of others and to effect change locally and globally. The digital environment provides them with both additional opportunities and challenges that are distinctive to these children. Hence, the submission indicated that will be important for the General Comment to explicitly address the latter.

You can read the joint submission here.

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.

In his statement, the Representative of the Secretary-General Adam Abdelmoula, Director of the Treaty Mechanisms Division, quoted our DGD Child Advisor from Argentina Kurt, 16-year-old, to remind State parties that after 30 years of Convention on the Rights of the Child, progress still needs to be done: “We, the youth, are not the future; we are the present. What we are looking for is [to be] listened to.” 

Child Rights Connect also had the opportunity to make a statement at the session opening. 

Rewatch the full opening here! 

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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