On the occasion of the celebration by the Committee on the Rights of the Child of 30 years since adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Child Rights Connect spoke of its work to enhance child participation and its views concerning the role of new technologies in enhancing child participation.

The celebration event, held in Geneva on 16 September 2019, included a panel discussion on 30 Years of the Convention, held in the form of a ‘talk show’ run by two child reporters. Questions of the child reporters to Child Rights Connect’s Executive Director, Alex Conte, and his responses to those questions follow:

Question from Sophia: How has Child Rights Connect enhanced child participation in the implementation of the Convention?

Thank you for the question Sophia. Promoting and leading on meaningful, safe and effective child participation is an essential aspect of what we do. It underpins all of our work as part of a child-rights based approach.

As a global network of children’s organizations, we are lucky that this puts us in a really good position to enhance child participation and to record its impact; what works well, what the challenges are and how we might improve on that. Our approach and our experience emphasize two things:

  1. The implementation of the Convention IS child participation. It is the process of empowering children to participate across all levels and contexts that leads to the implementation of children’s rights across all articles of the Convention. We have seen this, for example, through children taking part in reporting to the Committee. It is your views, your lived experiences and your ideas that must form the basis for implementation of the Convention.
  2. When children participate, things happen differently and for the better. Last year, we supported the Committee in developing working methods for child participation in the Committee’s Days of General Discussion. The Discussion last year focussed on children as human rights defenders. It involved the engagement of more that 3,000 children from around the world. Half of the speakers and moderators were children; accessible and user-friendly information was made available; and speakers’ interventions were more dynamic and inspiring. Children’s innovative suggestions in designing the UN meeting made it more inspiring, inclusive and accessible.

Question from Karen: Child Rights Connect works to enhance participation by children all over the world. How do new technologies and social media help in this process?

Thanks Karen, that’s a really important question in today’s digital world. I would mention three things:

  1. New technologies and social media can connect children from all over the world – across borders, languages, cultures and time zones. For example, during the dialogues at last year’s Day of General Discussion: (a) Theland, 15, from Canada, highlighted that new technologies and social media allow indigenous children to communicate with each other and discuss relevant topics. For him, social media can provide an important voice for the indigenous community.(b) Magdalena, 12, from Moldova, recognized that all children have the right to associate, and through the creation of online groups, children can come together.
  2. Online tools can increase awareness and promote more effective participation by civil society. Today, we launched a website dedicated to the 3rd Optional Protocol on communications to the Committee. We hope this will enhance awareness and use of the Optional Protocol as an important tool for protection of children’s rights. But we need to remember that access to online participation and other technologies remains a challenge, including for children living in rural areas where access to the internet remains extremely challenging; and for children living in poverty.
  3. We also need to remember that new technologies and social media present risks, such as bullying online, and there is a need for safeguards. We therefore welcome the Committee’s attention to this and other related issues in its development right now of a new document (a General Comment) concerning children’s rights in relation to the digital environment.