This blog was written by Tara Collins, Associate Professor at the School of Child & Youth Care at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Tara has a Ph.D from the University of London and has worked on international children’s rights since 1996, including working at the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, a sister organisation of Together. Tara will present at the ‘UNCRC in Scotland’ series seminar four on Thursday 1st June. This fourth and final seminar — ‘the UNCRC Going Forwards’ — will bring together the learning, experience and proposals of the previous three seminars to develop a shared model of UNCRC implementation for Scotland. The seminar series has consisted of four seminars held in partnership between Together, the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) at the University of Edinburgh and the Centre for Child Wellbeing and Protection (CCWP) at the University of Stirling. The seminar series — funded by SUII — seeks to improve and address gaps in the implementation and monitoring of the UNCRC in Scotland.
How should Scotland continue to advance children’s rights and who should be involved? It is recommended that the UNCRC’s general measures of implementation provide the focus to Scotland for going forward. These measures consider the range of relevant entitles and actors for UNCRC implementation in a jurisdiction and they determine the status of children’s rights within a jurisdiction. In order to highlight some reasons for the essential role of the general measures and their potential for Scotland, the following five measures are discussed briefly below: education, awareness and training; monitoring; plans of action; budgeting; and coordination.
Education, awareness and training
Children’s rights cannot progress if there is only a restricted number of people who know about them and support implementation. In accordance with UNCRC article 42, it is imperative that children’s rights be “widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike”. These efforts must be meaningful to both children and adults as well as comprehensive across sectors and professions in society. For example, the Rights, Respect and Responsibility initiative in Hampshire, England, modelled on a program from Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, Canada, is a significant example to illustrate the impact of children’s rights education upon a school district and its various participants. The Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights has developed five useful online modules. In sum, education should take place in schools and civil societal organizations involving children and young people, in universities and colleges, and for ongoing training of decision-makers and members of professional associations including judges, lawyers, child welfare/protection officials and others. The general public should not be forgotten either. One response is the Every Child campaign in the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is important to note however, that efforts tend to be isolated and sustainability remains an ongoing challenge. Nonetheless, greater numbers of individuals, groups and organizations must have opportunities to appreciate the critical role of children’s rights in society and why progress must be made.
Monitoring involves the collection and analysis of data about children’s rights and reporting the results. This activity is commonly understood as the state’s obligation to report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. It is neither the designated government official(s) nor Together’s task alone to generate the state and alternative reports to the Committee but a collaborative effort that draws from the capacity and expertise of numerous stakeholders. Monitoring should be better appreciated and carried out in a participatory manner at local, regional and national levels within and across the range of government departments, civil societal organizations, entities and individuals in relation to laws, policies, programs and activities. Children’s engagement is required as is the identification of how children (with attention to their diversities) are experiencing their rights. While there have been consultations with children in various countries around the world as part of reporting, children and young people themselves have researched and analysed child rights in their reports from Scotland, Cambodia, and Yemen. Through expansion of this general measure in understanding and practice, monitoring can better inform understanding of the changing realities of children’s rights in the jurisdiction, identifying not only areas to redress but also improvements that have made contributions to children’s rights.
Plans of action
The commitment to the UNCRC within a jurisdiction and its extraterritorial efforts should not reflect a piecemeal approach. A plan of action should provide clear direction to improve UNCRC implementation over time. It necessitates clear objectives, identification of resources, roles and responsibilities, as well as timelines in order to realize that plan. It is noted that changes in government or jurisdictional challenges may be perceived as complications to the development and implementation of an action plan. For example, Canada as a federal state has had difficulties although lessons have been learned in response to specific issues or initiatives. The UNCRC General Measures of Implementation provide much guidance about what should be included in action plans and the obligation to children’s rights should inform and inspire the advancement of this general measure.
Budgeting is a typical activity of governments to allocate funds to implement policies, programs and respond to issues in society. But how often is the connection made between these allocations and children and their human rights? Further, are these allocations monitored to ascertain their impact? Consequently, budgeting has been elaborated as a general measure in order to inform greater understanding of the UNCRC responsibility. Other actors within society can also support better budgeting in accordance with children’s rights. As examples, the Children’s Budget project of the Institute for a Democratic South Africa was an important international leader in this area before closing in 2013, and India’s Centre for Child Rights (HAQ) and Budget Analysis Rajasthan Centre (BARC) have also done some valuable work in that country. Attention to financial resources will go a long way to ensure children’s rights progress in a jurisdiction.
Coordination is necessary in order to maximize efforts related to children’s rights and avoid duplication. Government departments must pay attention to coordination of their myriad efforts related to children and consistently improve their efforts to do so. The appointment of a minister responsible for inter alia children in Canada in 2015 and the public dissemination of his mandate letter from the Prime Minister for instance are helpful but improvements are still needed in national-level coordination mechanisms. While well recognized in relation to UNCRC implementation and monitoring, networks and coalitions of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and independent human rights institutions should also enhance coordination as much as possible. Coordination should also expand to regularly invite and broadly engage with greater number of actors from across society who are not yet involved in supporting UNCRC progress including media, business, faith communities and especially children and young people.
In conclusion, these general measures of implementation (and others addressed in the seminar series) highlight the importance of processes, mechanisms and the various actors and entities necessary for impact in countries around the world. Taken together, greater action on these general measures would be mutually reinforcing and beneficial. Consequently, these general measures must inform next steps in a participatory manner order to advance the imperative of the UNCRC going forward in Scotland.
Find out more about ‘the UNCRC in Scotland’ seminar series and access resources here.
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