UN Secretary-General Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming

The Process for Civil Society

If you are a child interested in this process, please click here!

Big news! The Secretary-General Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming is available (August 2023)!

Read our newspiece and check our dissemination package!

Read our newspiece on how civil society and children contributed to shaping the draft SG Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming, through the online survey and regional consultations. A second round of consultation happened in February-March 2023.

Child Rights Connect presented a position paper on child rights mainstreaming to the United Nations (UN) and the Secretary-General (SG) replied and agreed to develop a UN Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming, in the framework of his Call to Action for Human Rights. Most importantly, the SG has stated that the development process is an inter-agency process, including civil society and children. This means that the SG has committed to involving and consulting the civil society throughout the process.

The Guidance Note serves as practical guidance to all levels of the United Nations, across all three pillars, and to Headquarters, regional and field contexts, on the mainstreaming of child rights in all aspects of the organisation’s work.

The development of this Guidance Notes is led by four UN entities: 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), and a concept note has now been circulated to outline the process. 

Child Rights Connect is collaborating with the UN entities to empower and engage civil society and children. We were informed that OHCHR is taking the lead on the organization of the consultations with civil society and children.

Civil society and children will play a key role in the process and Child Rights Connect is committed to facilitating their participation throughout. Accordingly, together with our Children’s Advisory Team, we have developed a child-friendly version of our position paper on child rights mainstreaming in English, French and Spanish.

As explained in the intro to the survey, ‘Child rights mainstreaming’ at the UN refers to the consistent application of a child rights approach by all UN entities, across the three pillars of the UN (development, human rights and peace and security) and at all levels (global, regional and national), both internally (in terms of policies and procedures) and externally (in terms of operations, programmes and standards). A child rights approach, which is integral to applying a human rights-based approach (HRBA), has been defined by the by UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF in the CRC General Comment 21, section IV. A. As the participation of rights-holders is a key principle within this, child participation is a fundamental element of the child rights approach. 

The UN Secretary Generals sometimes issue documents that are meant to provide guidance to the whole UN (meaning all UN entities, bodies, agencies and mechanisms) on certain issues. For example, a guidance note on justice for children was published in 2008, and a guidance note on civic space in 2020. These notes do not have a strict structure and usually outline key principles as well as concrete steps that UN entities can take individually or jointly to strengthen their work on a specific issue, taking into consideration the role, capacities and programming approach of each one. 

In 2021 Child Rights Connect, together with 100 civil society organisations, publicly denounced the lack of the systematic application of a child rights approach by the UN system. In a position paper, we presented our main concerns and example of existing gaps that need to be addressed. In response to the position paper, the former Assistant-Secretary General for Strategic Coordination now current Under-Secretary General on Policy, Volker Turk, openly admitted that “a holistic child rights perspective must be reinforced across the UN system at a global, regional and local level”.  

Child Rights Connect had prepared an online survey (English) to facilitate the collection of inputs.
Please note! The scope of this consultation is limited at identifying any 1) major gaps or 2) inaccuracies in the draft Guidance Note.

It was for all civil society stakeholders (organisations or individual experts) working on child rights at all levels (global, regional, national and local). The consultation process was as participatory as possible – including those who work with the most marginalised children. It was particularly important to have inputs from those who collaborate closely with the UN (i.e., by conducting advocacy, acting as implementing partners, doing research and submitting information, making use of the human rights mechanisms), including documented or anecdotal experiences.

The results were shared with the UN core group (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)) leading the development of this Guidance Note.

This is the first time ever that the UN as a system is making an assessment of how it integrates child rights into its work. Take this unique opportunity to recommend the UN what should be included in the Guidance Note and what else is needed, based on your own experience. Documented or anecdotal examples based on your collaboration/interaction with the UN can help make sure that the Guidance Note will have a real impact, including on your work! If we want things to improve, we, as civil society, must seize the historic opportunity that the UN leadership is giving us. 

Together, we advocate for the UN to put child rights at the core of its actions, across the three pillars (human rights, development, and peace & security), and for child rights mainstreaming to be seen and dealt with as an integral part of the human rights-based approach at all levels, from local to global, and across sectors. We want a UN more inclusive and equipped to interact with children in a safe, empowering and sustained way. The Guidance Note should be only the first step of a longer-term process whereby its implementation should be monitored, and complementary tools should be developed. OHCHR’s role should be strengthened in this regard. This needs wide civil society mobilisation and joint advocacy. We also want to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations to mainstream children’s rights into their own work.   

  1. September 2022: online survey (EnglishFrench and Spanish) and coordination of inputs with other civil society organisations 
  2. October 2022 and early 2023: support and engagement in the regional consultations planned by OHCHR (English, French, Spanish)
  3. Awareness raising and dissemination of the information on the consultation process and the Guidance Note widely, by using our communication package! 
  4. Support to children to engage – Check our tool to prepare children to feed into regional consultations: English
  5. 20 February-6 March 2023: Provide comments to the draft guidance note through the survey (English)
  6. Contact us for support at secretariat@childrightsconnect.org  

The implementation of the Secretary General Our Common Agenda is an important framework to use for child rights mainstreaming because the UN is looking into renewing its social contract with people and making the system more inclusive. The 2024 Summit of the Future and the Human Rights 75 Initiative will be key momentum for that. 

The report that the High Commissioner for Human Rights will have to present to the Human Rights Council in March 2024 as per resolution 49/20 will be another assessment of child rights mainstreaming at the UN, surely informed by and building on the process of development the guidance note.

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It is unique in its global outreach and its diversity, constituting a strong and credible global voice on children’s rights.

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