Thanks to new project funding from the Ville de Genève as well as on-going financial support from the Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (Sida), we are about to step up our action in Moldova, in collaboration with our long-time partner and member, the Centrul de Informare şi Documentare privind Drepturile Copilului (CRIC Moldova). The project will run from November 2022 to October 2024 and will allow us to ensure that children have the necessary space and means to make the new law on human rights defenders truly impactful on the rights of children, and something that can be replicated in other countries.

Check out the project factsheet here!

Context: A unique opportunity for lasting change in Moldova

Much as elsewhere in the world, Moldova experiences a growing mobilization of child human rights defenders (CHRDs), claiming human rights around a variety of issues, such as poverty, the environment and discrimination. However, unlike any other country in the world, Moldova stands at a crossroads for addressing the distinct barriers that these CHRDs face in standing up for human rights. It is currently the only country in the world where the soon to-be-developed law on the protection of human rights defenders has a high chance of integrating a child rights perspective thanks to a child participation process.

What are the challenges faced by CHRDs?

The key challenges include a common belief that adults are inherently more valuable than children, the widespread lack of recognition of their role and rights –  as documented in our Guide on the Rights of CHRDs – and the absence of a law on the protection of human rights defenders including children. All this means that action by CHRDs in Moldova are not visible and seldom supported. CHRDs are often unaware that they have the right to act, be empowered and protected, and regularly face risks to their safety, including bullying, threats, and intimidation. Children’s civil and political rights remain largely unknown and neglected, including among civil society and duty-bearers.

What change our project aims to bring

A key expected impact of our project is to achieve the first ever law on human rights defenders inclusive of child rights and built on children’s views, to be promoted as a model for other countries. The project also seeks to create space for initiatives driven by CHRDs and to better channel child participation into other relevant initiatives at the national or local level.

Even beyond the legislative process, through this project, child participation and the rights and perspectives of child human rights defenders will become further embedded in the work of civil society organisations (CSOs), institutions and other key actors in Moldova, including the Children’s Ombudsperson whose mandate is to safeguard and promote child rights and ensure children’s views are taken seriously”, stated Ilaria Paolazzi, Deputy Director at Child Rights Connect.

For and with children

The project primarily targets all children (persons below 18 years) and young people in Moldova, including those that have taken refuge from neighbouring Ukraine, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, and any other characteristics.

This project puts children at the centre. To ensure the safe, empowering and sustained engagement of children, we will partner with a core and diverse group of 10 CHRDs who will guide us on how to implement the project and who will receive continuous guidance as they shape and take forward their human rights activities. Through this, many more children will benefit from peer-to-peer interactions (schools, social media, associations, networks, etc.), and from contributing to inform the development and implementation of the law on human rights defenders and other initiatives.

The project also targets adults in Moldova whose capacity to support and work with CHRDs will be enhanced, particularly adult defenders/CSO representatives (individuals/organisations), the Ombudsperson’s Office (including the Children’s Ombudsperson), and other duty-bearers (State officials and institutions, the media, schools, etc.).

Building on gains from previous initiatives

This project builds on previous joint initiatives by CRCnct and CRIC Moldova in response to increasing action and demands for support by CHRDs advocating for social change. Through having empowered the Children’s Ombudsperson, CSOs and CHRDs in Moldova, prioritized this topic on the national agenda, and built international support for the legislative process (including the broader human rights NGO sector and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders), these initiatives have contributed to creating space and momentum for influencing the legislative process on the development a comprehensive law on human rights defenders, inclusive of children.

“We are very excited to bring our work in support of child human rights defenders in Moldova and partnership with CRCnct to the next level through this project. It will allow to boost the agency of the children and young people that we support in bringing about social change and strengthen the mandate of the Children’s Ombudsperson”, said Rodica Caimac from CRIC Moldova.

What activities will the project undertake

As a cross-cutting activity, with CRIC Moldova we will provide continuous technical guidance to the core group of 10 CHRDs to allow them to contribute to the development of a child participation methodology in the law-making process; mobilize a wider group of children and co-facilitate child consultations as part of that process; and help process, analyse, disseminate and use the information collected from child consultations, particularly amongst other children.

We will provide capacity-building for the core group of CHRDs and the Children’s Ombudsperson on safe, inclusive, empowering and sustained child participation in law-making processes through an in-person workshop. This will empower the core group of CHRDs and their peers to build an advocacy/awareness-raising plan on CHRDs’ rights and participation in the law-making process, and resource Children’s Ombudsperson with greater knowledge and capacity to promote and take forward child participation.

Through a series of dedicated workshops, we will also support the core group of CHRDs and their peers to develop accessible awareness-raising materials on CHRD’s rights for targeted audiences (e.g., children, schools, teachers, journalists, and local and national decision-makers), building on existing tools. These will allow children to learn about their rights as CHRDs and ways to engage, including in the law development, as well as CSOs and duty-bearers to become more aware of CHRDs’ rights and ways to empower them.

We will support the core group of CHRDs to roll out the child participation plan for the law on human rights defenders, by helping them to undertake child consultations to collect the views from as many children from diverse backgrounds as possible, as well as process, analyse and use their findings, including in their own advocacy.

Our partner CRIC will undertake advocacy with national institutions and authorities to further build political support for child participation in the development/implementation of the law and other relevant initiatives, and we will amplify these efforts by engaging in international advocacy, awareness-raising and coalition-building activities at the international level, including in the context of celebrating 25 years of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and our 40th anniversary.