The four key principles of children’s rights you need to know!: UNCRC Review Countdown Series. 7 days to go…

As we approach the UK’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on 18-19th May, Together is publishing a series of daily blogs to examine key issues that children, young people and our members want to see raised. Today we’re looking at the four ‘general principles’ of the UNCRC.

What are the general principles?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is made up of 54 articles that cover all aspects of children’s lives. Four articles are seen as special. They are known as the ‘general principles’ and help interpret all other articles of the UNCRC. The general principles should be kept in mind whenever a decision is being made that (directly or indirectly) affects children:

  1. Non-discrimination (Article 2)
  2. Best interests of the child (Article 3)
  3. Right to life survival and development (Article 6)
  4. Right to be heard (Article 12)

What have children and young people said?

In their report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) and the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) focused on two of the general principles – the right to be heard and the right to be free from discrimination.

MCPs and MSYPs felt that Scotland needed to do more to make sure children and young people were listened to and taken seriously in all decisions that affect them. Although positive practices are happening – such as the annual meeting with the Scottish Cabinet – they felt that more needed to be done to make sure all children have opportunities to be heard. MCPs and MSYPs felt that certain groups of children were often missed out – such as younger children, young carers, Black, Brown and minority ethnic children. They have asked the UN Committee to make a recommendation to Scottish Government on steps needed to address these issues, protect youthwork funding that supports children’s participation, and make sure adults give children feedback on how their views have been used and their impact:

“Everyone should be heard and kids also have a creative side so you may get some new ideas.” (MCP)

“Disabled young people, young people of colour, young carers, young parents and other seldom heard groups have all bore the brunt of this pandemic, yet there are few targeted approaches to engage with them.” (MSYP)

MCPs and MSYPs felt more needed to be done to tackle wider inequalities too. They said that children were being treated differently because of who they are, with gender inequality in schools and racism being two key challenges. MCPs and MSYPs called on the UN Committee to ask Scottish Government what it was doing to end gender stereotyping in schools and make sure they are inclusive environments for non-binary, trans and gender non-conforming young people. They also wanted to see the Scottish Government asked about what it is doing to improve support for children who have experienced racism and to involve children and young people in designing an action plan to prevent and address this:

“It’s about creating a safer and more inclusive community in which students as well as their parents and relatives understand the impact racism has on minorities and how to be active bystanders if they see racism happening.” (MSYP)

“Girls can do what boys can do, and boys can do what girls can do.” (MCP)

What have our members said?

Together’s 2023 State of Children’s Rights Report highlighted key concerns raised by our members, including negative media and public attitudes towards children; discrimination against groups of children whose rights are already most at risk including Care Experienced, disabled and migrant children; significant gaps between what laws and policies say on “best interests” and what actually happens in practice; and disproportionate mortality rates for children living in deprived areas, those with Care Experience or an intellectual/learning disability, including deaths due to preventable accidents at home and in the community.

As we approach the UK’s examination next week, some of our members have been sharing their thoughts and hopes for the review. Ffyona Taylor, Children and Young People’s Policy Worker at Scottish Women’s Aid, said:

Gender inequality is the catalyst for and consequence of violence against women and girls. The Scottish Government must disrupt the systemic poverty experienced by women and children and understand the long-lasting impacts domestic abuse has on their lives. It is vital that the Scottish Government understands the intrinsic link between women’s and children’s lives, and incorporates CEDAW alongside the UNCRC.

“Access to justice and support for child victims of domestic abuse must be improved and their views must be heard, particularly in family law proceedings. There is an urgent need to implement a system of advocacy that was intended to be enacted in the Children (Scotland) Act 2020. Without this, children’s Article 12 right to participation and their Article 39 right to recovery will not be protected.”

We hope to see the UN Committee pick up on these issues next week, particularly those issues raised by children and young people such as gender equality and anti-racism. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with the review.

Stay tuned for our next article on civil rights and freedoms coming out at 08:00am tomorrow!

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