The UN Secretary-General (SG) Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming has been published! This is a historic first step in addressing the need for a systematic application of a child rights approach across the UN System! You can read it here:
In 2021, Child Rights Connect, together with 100 civil society organisations, publicly called on the SG to ensure the systematic application of a child rights approach by all UN bodies and agencies. In response to Child Rights Connect’s position paper commenting on the SG’s report “Our Common Agenda”, the SG decided to develop a Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming. This provides practical guidance to all levels of the United Nations, across all three pillars (development, human rights, and peace and security), to Headquarters, regional and field contexts, on how to integrate children’s rights within management, programmes and operations.
The document was drafted by an inter-agency group composed of: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNICEF, the Special Representative of the SG on Violence Against Children (SRSG VAC) and the Special Representative of the SG on Children in Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC). Consultations with civil society and children facilitated by Child Rights Connect and OHCHR played a key role in shaping the Guidance Note. This process has now been finalized with the endorsement of the Guidance Note by the Executive Committee of the Secretary General on 12th July 2023.
The development of the document has triggered long awaited inter-agency discussions on gaps and solutions that make the Guidance Note more than just a document, bearing a huge potential for change, including through defined avenues for follow up. These include: 1) the report on child rights mainstreaming that the High Commissioner for Human Rights will present to the Human Rights Council in March 2024, and 2) the oversight role that the new Task Team co-led by OHCHR and UNICEF under the SG’s Call to Action for Human Rights set out in the Guidance Note itself. The implementation of the Guidance Note will also be reviewed by the UN Executive Committee/Deputies Committee as part of the regular updates on the Call to Action for Human Rights.
It is therefore key that civil society use the Guidance Note in all possible ways to push for change at all levels. Here are some suggestions:
- Ask the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General to develop a child-friendly version of the Guidance Note as soon as possible.
- Widely promote and publicise the publication of the Guidance Note among your networks and encourage the UN entities you are in contact or work with to implement it with concrete actions, such as for example by making a formal assessment of how they integrate child rights into their work.
- Use the Guidance Note to advocate with member States and UN leaders for more resources to be allocated to child rights within the UN system, including to OHCHR’s children’s rights unit.
- The Guidance Note includes new progressive language on child rights and stresses the need for a more holistic implementation of the UN Convention on the Right of the Child. Use it to support your advocacy work and communication with the UN but also at regional and national levels.
- The Guidance Note includes a strong element on child participation: use it to push for the UN to be more inclusive and equipped to interact with children in a safe, empowering and sustained way, and for meaningful child participation to make children’s voices heard at the UN level.
- Start asking who, how and when the UN-wide policy framework on child participation and safeguarding will be developed in the follow-up to the Guidance Note.
- Strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations to mainstream children’s rights into their own work!
- Advocate for child rights mainstreaming with your government.
- Engage and promote other opportunities for child rights mainstreaming at the UN level, such as the Summit of the Future 2024, and the Human Rights 75 Initiative.
These are only a few examples and if you want to learn more on how to use the Guidance Note as Civil Society, you can brainstorm with us by contacting our programme team through Fanny Chappuis firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please help us in sharing and disseminating the UN Guidance Note in your channels and networks, using our dissemination package! We also encourage you to organize sessions to discuss these tools and how they can be useful for your work!
Let’s continue to push for follow-up steps and for the Guidance Note to be implemented. We want Child Rights Mainstreaming to become a longer-term process!