The inclusion and participation of children with disabilities in discussions and decisions that will affect them is as much a right as a pre-requisite to their empowerment. Moreover, children’s rights and disability rights have mostly developed in parallel, with limited intersections. But the unique momentum created by the focus on children with disabilities of this year’s Annual Day on the Rights of the Child, at the Human Rights Council, led to the resolution “Empowerment of children with disabilities for the enjoyment of their rights, including through inclusive education”, which brought together principles enshrined in both the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

The combination of these conventions, the cooperation between the CRC and CRPD committees and the collaboration between child rights and disability advocates is essential for the full enjoyment and promotion of the rights of children with disabilities. This year’s Annual Day was particularly instrumental in bringing together the two communities and enabling the exchange of diverging views. Child rights and the rights of persons with disabilities were also brought together through the CRPD Committee’s recent General Comment 7 on the participation of persons with disabilities, which – thanks to Child Rights Connect’s advocacy – integrates the CRC standards of child participation and officially recognises child-led organisations. It is essential to integrate child rights and disability rights and our position paper outlined the need for cross-cutting children’s rights principles to be central to the Annual Day.

Child participation was key to the Annual Day, through the principle’s inclusion in the resolution and the participation on the panel of child rights advocate Dumitrita from Moldova. She is only the second child rights advocate ever to sit on the Annual Day panel and this sets a positive precedent for child participation in future Annual Days. Child Rights Connect played a key role in ensuring her involvement by leading discussions with OHCHR, UNICEF and the resolution’s co-sponsors (GRULAC & EU) and subsequently supporting Lumos in her preparation. We also sought the meaningful participation of children in the Council’s activities through the first ever child-friendly call for input to OHCHR’s report, launched in July 2018.

We welcome the adoption of the resolution by consensus and the efforts from co-sponsors and key States to include points on child participation and elements to strengthen the overall text. We also welcome the inclusion of the need for appropriate and adapted support and resources, as providing the space and means for children with disabilities to effectively participate in all aspects of society is an integral part of their empowerment. However whilst the resolution does include some recognition of the need for empowerment it also strongly centres the protection of children with disabilities, and many States pushed to highlight the protection of the family, which is detrimental to the individual rights of children with disabilities. Child Rights Connect and its members have always focused on the need for empowerment in addition to protection and we raised this in informal discussions with States, in briefing OHCHR for their report and in our oral statement to the Council, co-signed by 19 civil society organisations.

We will seek to maintain the momentum created by the Annual Day by working with members and children to build their capacity and to enable their participation in local, regional and international fora as well as continuing to work with the CRC and the CRPD committees to align their standards. Child Rights Connect and its members are committed to creating connections and synergies among different stakeholders and processes to further the rights of children with disabilities, emphasising their participation and empowerment.