UN Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming

The Process for Civil Society

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

New! The online survey for civil society to inform the UN guidance note is out: EnglishFrench, Spanish (new deadline: 21 September 2022)

New! A concept note for 7 regional consultations in late September 2022 to inform the drafting of the UN Guidance Note is now out: English, French and Spanish
Check our tool to prepare children to feed into regional consultations: English

More details are coming soon. Please email secretariat@childrightsconnect.org if you have any questions or would like to offer your support.

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.

The survey is the main tool for civil society to inform the Guidance Note on child rights mainstreaming that OHCHR, UNICEF and the Special Representatives on violence against children and children in armed conflicts are drafting on behalf of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.  The survey aims at identifying the good practices but also the gaps in relation to child rights mainstreaming within the UN system.

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”.  

It is for all civil society stakeholders (organisations or individual experts) working on child rights at all levels (global, regional, national and local). The consultation process should be as participatory as possible – including those who work with the most marginalised children. It would be 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. 
A child-friendly version of the survey is being developed to ensure that children have their say! 

Yes, a specific and child-friendly survey for children was developed in close collaboration with our Children’s Advisory Team. It is available on the child-friendly page on our website. For more information you can contact Emma Grindulis at grindulis@childrightsconnect.org  

OHCHR is leading on the consultations with civil society, including children, on behalf of the group of UN entities in charge of the drafting of the guidance note. The child and youth rights unit of OHCHR is administering the survey and will be receiving and processing the inputs that you will provide.  

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. 

The survey largely focuses on the content of the guidance note but it also asks what else is needed, therefore acknowledging that the guidance note is a first step. We encourage you to share example of: 

  • Recognition or lack of recognition of children as a distinct group of rights holders 
  • Narrow approaches to child rights (exclusive focus on protection as opposed to empowerment of children, including on how to claim their rights) 
  • CRC standards being used/or not by other UN entities  
  • Focus on youth overshadowing children’s specific rights    
  • Paternalistic or empowering approaches towards child participation 
  • Safeguarding issues / consequences of lack of safeguarding procedures   
  • Lack of expertise on child rights leading to de-prioritization/neglection of child rights  
  • Gaps related to children’s political rights  

In terms of what else is needed, we encourage you to put forward the idea of a UN-wide child rights strategy, among other things, as called for in our position paper.   

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. Answer the online survey (EnglishFrench and Spanish) by 21 September 2022: coordinate your inputs with other civil society organisations 
  2. Support and engage in the regional consultations that are being planned by OHCHR (in September 2022 and in November 2022) 
  3. Raise awareness and disseminate the information on the consultation process and the Guidance Note widely, by using our communication package! 
  4. Support children to engage  
  5. Get ready to analyze and provide additional comments to the draft guidance note when it will be published (around October 2022) and provide additional comments  
  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 2023 Summit of the Future will be a 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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