December marked the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR75). Child Rights Connect worked closely with the UN Office for Human Rights to ensure that child participation was a key aspect in as well as in the high-level closing event in Palais des nations aimed to reinvigorate commitments to implement this global blueprint for human rights.

Child participation throughout UDHR75

In June 2023, Child Rights Connect supported the participation of child human rights defenders at the Vienna high-level symposium and the Youth and Child Human Rights Defender Conference co-organized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Among the 40 young human rights defenders, 9 were child human rights defenders, including our child advisor Gloria (14, Cameroon). We empowered CHRDs to intervene in, and make the most of, this event by organizing a preparatory brief and a debrief. The young and child defenders shared the challenges they face in their activities and the forms of support they need to be able to act as human rights defenders.

That same month, we provided capacity building sessions to our Children’s Advisory Team on the history and content of the UDHR. This gave our child advisors the tools to start working with us and the UN Office for Human Rights  on the child-friendly version of the UDHR. This was however only the start of a long series of UDHR75 related projects in which the Children’s Advisory Team was involved to develop child-friendly materials to promote the Human Rights 75 Initiative and build children’s capacity to engage with the Initiative. Our child advisors for instance also developed a child-friendly information sheet on the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

As part of the UDHR75 initiative, the Children’s Advisory Team supported the UN Office for Human Rights to develop a child-friendly version of their survey to gather views from as many children as possible to shape the vision of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This consultative process reached about 4,000 children and the  child advisors helped analyze this data which was then transformed into the UN Office for Human Rights report “Children’s Vision for Human Rights”. Despite the diverse group of children that provided input for this report and their different backgrounds, there are challenges that remain universal.

The biggest challenges that children described are:

  • Legal recognition of a child.
  • Discrimination and exclusion.
  • Denied safe and meaningful participation.
  • Right to education.
  • Poverty and inadequate standard of living.
  • Protection from violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Right to physical and mental abuse.
  • Right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

The Children’s Advisory Team was given the opportunity to give more personal input and help interpretate these findings through a focus group discussion with the UN Office for Human Rights .

High level December event

In December it was finally time to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the UDHR as well as all the efforts of the year-long initiative. Four of our child advisors – Anna Katharina (17, Venezuela), Anghelina (16, Moldova), Doris (14, Zambia) and Fran (15, Croatia) – were invited to join this two-day event in person in Geneva to represent the Children’s Advisory Team. Anna Katherina presented the contributions of the child advisors throughout the year to the work of Child Rights Connect and the UN Office for Human Rights  on the UDHR75 initiative in the “Voices in defense of human rights 2” segment. Her powerful intervention can be seen here. She emphasized the reflections and main inputs of the children who took part in the Children’s Vision for Human Rights survey. In addition to this, Child Rights Connect organized jointly with World Vision, Safe the Children, Terre des Hommes, SOS Children’s Villages and Plan International a side event, “Revitalizing the universal commitment to child rights”. Doris,  Anghelina and Fran took part in the event which can be watched here.

Our child advisors shared the following statements about being part of the UDHR75 celebrations.

The activities that I’ve been a part of are really a masterpiece of people who organized it and those activities because we children were able to tell our opinions not by heart but from the heart directly and I’m really glad that I had that opportunity!

I felt well prepared and ready for my thing, like I felt from other child advisors. The part I really enjoyed was meeting all these new important people and being so carefully listened to by adults. This is really a one-time life experience for a young child like me.

Next steps

As we look ahead and reflect on how the 75th anniversary of the UDHR will generate new impetus in advancing the realization of children’s rights as well as human rights as a whole, the Summit of the Future comes to mind. The objective of this Summit which will take place in September 2024 is to come up with an action-oriented “Pact for the Future”, signed by States from all around the world to commit to a new vision to address emerging challenges, included those posed by new technologies. All decisions integrated in the Pact for the Future will have a direct or indirect impact on children’s rights and the future generations. You can find more information about it on this webpage.