In November 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee invited comments on the Revised Draft General Comment No. 37 on Article 21 (Right of Peaceful Assembly) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For Child Rights Connect, what mattered most was that children could provide their comments too!
With an increasing number of children taking part in peaceful protests around the world, most notably in strikes against climate change, Child Rights Connect sought to ensure that children could share with the UN what the right to peaceful assembly means to them and what barriers they face in exercising this right. Through a survey, Child Rights Connect heard from 91 children, aged 10-18 years old, from 15 different countries, across five regions (East Asia and Pacific, Latin America and Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa). Their voices informed our submission to the UN.
Our submission highlights, from the perspective of children:
- The critical importance of the freedom of peaceful assembly for children. Peaceful assemblies are an important way for children’s voices to be heard, enabling them to participate in social and political life, particularly on matters affecting them.
Divina Stella, a 15yo from Cameroon told us “In my opinion the right to peaceful assembly is an international platform offered to children to have freedom of speech on their rights, that is to defend their rights, for their voices to be heard by stakeholders…”
A 14-year-old child rights defender from Australia told us “The right to a peaceful assembly is a fundamental part in democracy. Without it, freedom of speech would be severely impaired, inhibiting millions of people from freely expressing their opinions and beliefs…”
- States obligations to ensure children can fully exercise their right to peaceful assembly. As children face particular obstacles and challenges in exercising this right, States must take special measures to promote a safe and enabling environment for children to fully exercise this right.
A 13-year-old child rights defender from Turkey told us “Peaceful assemblies in Turkey often end up with police violence or physical attacks, the usage of pepper gas, pressurized water and plastic bullets…”
Vítor, a 17yo from Brazil told us “Unfortunately, children and adolescents face several difficulties, especially with regard to participation, because adults insist on discrediting the potentiality of the excluded individuals, characterizing them inferiorly, which in such a way makes them inferior...”
Drawing on the inputs from children, our submission makes a number of recommendations, including that States should adopt special measures to accommodate the special position and unique needs of children exercising their freedom to assemble peacefully; States should create an enabling environment, online and offline, for all children to be able to fully enjoy their assembly rights; and the right to peaceful assembly should be part of the human rights education children receive in school, with teachers receiving training on supporting children who wish to participate in peaceful assemblies.
Child Rights Connect wishes to thank the children whose voices, views and insights made our submission possible.