How can we ensure that children’s civil and political rights are not forgotten when we talk about incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law; what is the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (the Declaration) and how can we take a child rights perspective to related policy and law at national level; what are the experiences and lessons of incorporation of the UNCRC and how can this be integrated with efforts on protecting and empowering children human rights defenders (CHRDs) in law and practice?

These were just some of the questions raised during the Rights of the Child UK (ROCK) conference 2019, held in Belfast on Tuesday 3rd December. Our Programme Manager Ilaria Paolazzi and Laura Lundy, Professor at Queens University Belfast, presented on these themes and encouraged a discussion between civil society organisations, children’s commissioners, government officials and students.

Laura Lundy highlighted the findings of the global consultation with children as part of the 2018 Day of General Discussion (DGD 2018) on “Protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders”, including what CHRDs raised as being most important to them (such as accessible information, being treated without discrimination and being safe and protected including their privacy).

The role of domestic law to enable rather than to prohibit the protection and empowerment of CHRDs was raised alongside the realisation of the abuse that CHRDs are facing due to their actions. On the limits to autonomy, the following question was asked: When and how should law place limits on the exercise of children’s civil and political rights in their own interests and safety?

Ilaria Paolazzi presented the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as a key tool to address this legal dilemma; however, she noted that twenty-one years since its adoption, the Declaration has extremely limited implementation for children at national level. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders has acknowledged that most of the existing laws and draft laws on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders lack a child rights-based approach, and has endorsed the CRC Committee’s DGD recommendation that States should include children into their comprehensive national laws and policies on human rights defenders. How this should happen in practice is still an open question to which Child Rights Connect’s CHRDs Toolkit will provide some answers to.

In 2020, Child Rights Connect will develop an implementation Guide to the Declaration on human rights defenders which will foster the implementation on the ground of the UNCRC through increased understanding and use of the Declaration. The implementation Guide, and its child-friendly version, will form part of the CHRDs Toolkit, together with reference materials and educational tools.

Among the presentations and discussion, the main takeaway points were:

  • Incorporation of the CRC is an opportunity to domesticate the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and could help to strengthen the legal framework of children’s civil and political rights;
  • Lessons from incorporation of the CRC and other related processes can help us to learn and inform efforts to ensure a child rights perspective to comprehensive national laws on Human Rights Defenders;
  • Collaborating across different stakeholders at different levels is crucial to coordinate advocacy and positive impact on incorporation of the CRC and the Declaration for children into domestic law.

Access the presentation slides here. Want to know more? Get in touch! ?