On 25 May 2023, members and observers of our Network convened for the annual statutory meeting of our General Assembly, which constituted this year a special moment as our organisation celebrates its 40 years of existence! Close to 50 representatives from local, national, regional and international child rights organisations gathered either in person, at our office in Geneva, or online to discuss and approve important documents as required by our Statutes, admit new members, establish a new Working Group, elect members of the Executive Committee, and simply reconnect, exchange on the status of children’s rights worldwide and celebrate our 40th anniversary.

This General Assembly constituted a key moment in the life of the network on several counts. By collectively reviewing our 2022 Annual Report, members reflected on the results delivered by the network in 2022, a year marked again by exceptional challenges mainly attributable to the backlash against child rights and financial challenges, but also significant strides and opportunities to advance the child rights agenda. Participants unanimously approved the report and commended Child Rights Connect’s contributions in such a challenging context.

“Congratulations to the team with all the achievements under challenging circumstances. I feel so inspired by all the work on child right mainstreaming”, said one of our members from Africa.

For the current year, members reviewed and validated the annual work plan and budget, voicing strong support for the priorities pursued, approaches taken, and work undertaken across the globe.

Our Network is now made up of 108 organisations!

We have also strengthened our global reach with the admission to the network of twelve new member organisations from all continents: Avenir Enfance Togo, Environment Africa (Zambia), Centre de Paix Junneuf (Democratic Republic of Congo), the Organisation des Jeunes pour le Monde d’Avenir (Democratic Republic of Congo), SAVE CONGO (Democratic Republic of Congo), and the Uganda National Medical Alliance for Prisoners (6 organisations in Africa); Children’s Rights Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (1 organisation in Asia-Pacific and Oceania); “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center (Cyprus), the International Society for Social Pediatrics and Child Health (Switzerland) and The Right to Education Initiative (UK) (3 organisations in Europe); the Asociación Civil por los Derechos de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes y Jóvenes Doncel (Argentina) (1 organisation in Latin America), and the Arab Network for Child Rights (Manara Network) (Lebanon) (1 organisation in the Middle East and North Africa).

With 75% of new member organisations based in the Global South, together, they bring greater geographical diversity to our Network, an actively pursued strategic priority under our current Strategic Plan. At a time of unprecedent push back against child rights, this testifies, once more, to the relevance of our Network.

A new Working Group on the right to education established!

The Network approved the creation of a new member-led Working Group on children and the right to education, to be convened by Human Rights Watch. In response to the global education crisis disproportionately affecting the most marginalised children and exacerbated by conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, the new Working Group envisions to undertake more coordinated civil society advocacy (with a focus on Geneva and the UN Human Rights Council) to ensure the right to education for all children. It aims to address a critical gap as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other treaties clearly guarantee children the right to free primary education but fail to expressly guarantee children the right to free pre-primary or an immediate right to free secondary education. To support the establishment and work of this new Working Group, a Human Rights Watch education advocate will be seconded to Child Rights Connect Secretariat. Members welcomed the establishment of this new Working Group with great enthusiasm.

A further diversified governance structure

The governance of our network was also further diversified by the first-time election to the Executive Committee of Dreeni Geer, from Save the Children International, and Leo Ratledge (Child Rights International Network, CRIN), who both bring decades of commitment to and experience with child rights advocacy and specific thematic expertise, including in the areas of children’s rights and artificial intelligence. Additionally, Maria Lucia Uribe Torres (Arigatou International) and Maria Belen Paz Aguilar (Learning for Wellbeing Foundation) were re-elected in the Executive Committee.

With these changes, the governance structure of the organisation maintains its balanced regional representativeness (with more than 62% of the members coming from the Global South, including representatives from the Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and MENA regions), also a key priority pursued in implementation of our Strategic Plan.

Gearing up for our 40th anniversary conference

This year, the statutory meeting of our General Assembly was also an occasion to jointly gear up for our 40th anniversary conference, “Changing the Narrative: Promoting positive change with children around 40 years of civil society advocacy in Geneva”, set to be held on 26 May 2023 . The conference will gather around a hundred children, children’s rights defenders (including many of our members and observers), other civil society representatives, academics, UN representatives and State representatives to critically reflect on the most pressing challenges faced by the child rights movement and child human rights defenders against the backdrop of the current backlash against child rights, and act as a catalyst for the subsequent development of a global strategy for the child rights movement, including children, to respond to those challenges.

Preparatory meeting of our Children’s Advisory Team

For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, this year our Children’s Advisory Team gathered on 25 May in person, with some child advisors online, to get to know each other and us better, share their experience, and jointly prepare for our 40th anniversary conference. Along with other children, our child advisors will play a key role in the conference as moderators, speakers and participants, and, most importantly, will rejuvenate the debates and inspire us all with their thought-provoking ideas, groundbreaking approaches and rich experiences.