Until now, child participation in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has been limited and ad hoc and children have been largely absent. But this is changing, with the joint commitment by UPR info and Child Rights Connect to advance globally the systematic and sustained empowerment of children in each step of the UPR process, as equal stakeholders.

There have been some positive examples in the past of children’s participation in the UPR, for example in India, Senegal, Colombia, Nigeria and Rwanda. Last week, the April UPR pre-sessions took place during which two children, Erka and Leo (supported by Save the Children Albania), came to participate in the pre-session of Albania and presented a gold standard for children’s engagement in the UPR.

Erka and Leo were part of the development of a children’s report which involved around 1500 children through a child-led process. At national level, consultations with children reached 8 different parts of Albania and included children in vulnerable situations, including children with disabilities, children living in rural areas, children on the move and children in street situations.

After participating in the UPR info one-day training (and giving us feedback on how to make it more child-friendly in the future), advocacy activities to present key themes in the children’s report included successful meetings with Permanent Missions in Geneva (which they will now follow-up on with embassies in Albania), presenting at the EU roundtable for civil society and the UPR, participating in the panel of the Albania pre-session and delivering a speech at a lunch reception hosted by UPR info and Child Rights Connect.

During the lunch reception, 16-year-old Leo passionately highlighted the key issues and recommendations based on children’s views. He made a strong call for children to be listened to and their views taken into account, and quoted Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Remarks from the Ambassador for the Permanent Mission of Ireland, Professor Philip Jaffe (representing the Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN Committee)) and both UPR info and Child Rights Connect led to a strong and collective call for child participation not only in the UPR but across the broader UN human rights system. You can watch the speeches here.

During the lunch reception, Child Rights Connect and UPR info also announced the forthcoming child-friendly guide on the UPR that will be launched later this year, following the review and inputs from children through a broad consultation process.

Erka and Leo will now continue their activities in Albania and are eager to support and offer tips to future children participating the UPR pre-sessions.