The world faces many intersecting crises. Children, who increasingly act as human rights defenders, are providing answers! Through our new global project, we will follow their lead and help advance their rights, empowerment, and protection. This will allow them to act as changemakers with fewer barriers, more safety, louder voice, and greater support! This is why we are very excited to start implementing this new three-year project (2024-2027), “The Now and the Future: Advancing the Rights, Empowerment and Protection of Child Human Rights Defenders”, worldwide and with discrete action in Brazil, Moldova, Thailand, and Togo. We will particularly focus our attention to advancing the rights of those who face the greatest hurdles in their human rights work including girls, gender diverse children, children from indigenous communities and minorities, refugee children, and children living in poverty, among others.

Because we are stronger together, we will team up with several of our Network members at national and global level – including the Alana Institute in Brazil, the Centrul de Informare şi Documentare privind Drepturile Copilului (CRIC) in Moldova, Plan International in Togo, Amnesty International in Thailand, and globally, and Save the children globally – as well as with some of our key partners.

 

 

This project is funded in part by Global Affairs Canada, to which we are grateful.

 

Check out our project factsheet in English here, and in French here!

Transforming barriers into opportunities for children acting as human rights defenders

Looking around us, the evidence is unequivocal: children act as human rights defenders. They are audacious. They want to grow up in and leave behind a better world, free of pollution, discrimination, violence, hatred, and inequalities, and full of opportunities, for everyone. Children are bold when they speak their minds. They are unapologetic in wanting to transform challenges into solutions through energy, commitment, and action. And they make a difference. We are experiencing this first-hand through working with our Children’s Advisory Team, a team of empowered children (child advisors) who stand up for human rights in their communities and globally.

Yet, the potential of child human rights defenders is relatively untapped. When acting as human rights defenders, children face specific barriers, risks, and reprisals due to their status in society, age-based and gender-based discrimination, paternalistic attitudes towards them, lack of access to child-friendly information, and lack of access to mechanisms that can protect their rights. The core problem is that, globally, there is a lack of recognition that the UN Declaration on human rights defenders also applies to children acting as human rights defenders. This strips them of their legal entitlements as defenders, undermines their ability to act as changemakers, and makes duty-bearers less accountable.

These issues are well documented in our Implementation Guide on the Rights of Child Human Rights Defenders, echoed by the findings of the recent report from the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, ”We are not just the future”: challenges faced by child and youth human rights defenders, to which our child advisors and Network members have contributed.

As adult defenders ourselves, and one of the largest international networks of child rights organisations, we have a responsibility to improve the recognition of child rights human rights defenders and harness their strength and potential in bringing lasting change. That is why we act globally, regionally, and nationally to empower children’s safe and sustainable engagement as human rights defenders, and to create a more enabling environment for them. This entails engaging and supporting States, intergovernmental organisations, civil society, and other non-State actors to meet their duties and responsibilities vis a vis child rights human rights defenders. Through this new project, we will step up these efforts and expand them to new geographical areas!

What the project is about

Goal, vision, and approach

Our project seeks to enhance the empowerment, enjoyment of rights and protection for child human rights defenders worldwide and in the identified countries across four regions, i.e. Brazil, Moldova, Thailand, and Togo.

With their rights, empowerment and protection advanced, child human rights defenders can be strong catalysts for human rights, democratic change and sustainable development, strengthening the voice and action of adult defenders and challenging the status quo.

     

“We know it takes bold, coordinated, and sustained efforts to not only improve the agency of children aspiring to or already acting as human rights defenders but also their operating environment. And for girls and other children who have been disproportionately excluded from spaces of expression and influence, we need to go the extra mile”, stated Agnès Gràcia, our Head of Programmes.

The project thus takes a dual approach: (i) empowering child human rights defenders – particularly girls and other groups of children most deprived of their rights – to engage in safe and sustainable promotion and defence of human rights worldwide and in Brazil, Moldova, Thailand, and Togo; and (ii) engaging with duty-bearers and responsibility-holders to increase their effective recognition of child human rights defenders and their awareness of ways to address the rights of and support the activism of child human rights defenders.

With increased recognition that the UN Declaration on human rights defenders also applies to them, improved legal awareness of the rights of child human rights defenders, strengthened supportive role of adults, a culture of child participation and activism fostered, and greater support, children will develop the necessary confidence, skills, means and connections to boost their potential and capacity to act for addressing the most pressing challenges faced by societies and humanity.

This will take a different meaning in the various national contexts covered by the project.

“In Moldova, this project will expand space for the human rights initiatives driven by our team of child human rights defenders and other children, including in the school context, and boost advocacy for the integration of the rights and views of child human rights defenders in relevant law and policies”, said Rodica Caimac from CRIC, a member of Child Rights Connect, and partner under this project.

“This project will provide additional space to push for the institutionalisation of child participation nationally, and for bringing child environmental activists, including from indigenous communities, to the table of the next COP in Brazil in 2025“, said Letícia Carvalho Silva from the Alana Institute, a member of Child Rights Connect, and partner under this project. 

“In Togo, the project will allow to build partnerships with organisations operating protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, to facilitate the referral of at-risk child human rights defenders and, more broadly, help these mechanisms become more accessible to children , said Juste Nimnora, from Plan International Togo, a member of Child Rights Connect, and partner under this project.

For and with children

The project primarily targets all children (persons below 18 years) who are aspiring to or already acting as human rights defenders globally and in priority countries. Overall, around 1,000 child human rights defenders will be supported at varying levels, half of whom will be girls and other children most deprived of their rights, with many more children benefiting from peer-to-peer interactions.

The project will also engage, as responsibility-holders, adult defenders (individuals/ organisations/coalitions), including members of CRCnct’s Network and boarder human rights NGOs. Other non-State actors, such as National Human Rights Institutions – NHRIs – and Children’s Ombuds, will be mobilised to better advance the rights of child human rights defenders. As to duty-bearers, local authorities (Parliaments/Ministries/other institutions), and UN diplomats, will be key advocacy targets to advance recognition of the rights of child human rights defenders in law, policy, and practice. UN/regional human rights systems will be engaged to push standard-setting and recommend law and policy changes to States.

This project puts children at the centre. As a cross-cutting activity, the project will support the operation and engagement of our global, permanent Children’s Advisory Team. The team will act as the main vehicle through which the safe, empowering, and sustained engagement of children in all phases of the project will be ensured. Representatives from the Children’s Advisory Team will contribute to advising project implementation through participation in the Project Advisory Group.

Key activities planned

Through a mutually-reinforcing ‘global to local’ and ‘local to global’ approach, the project will test and embed global standards, practices and resources in the priority countries and use country findings to inform global work and standards.

Through focused consultations with children and adults, the project will start with gathering and analysing (largely missing) data on key risks, threats, and opportunities for child human rights defenders, with an emphasis on digital protection, emerging threats, disinformation and the pushback against child rights, and specific challenges faced by the girl child human rights defenders and other groups of child human rights defenders most deprived of their rights. This will, in turn, inform the corresponding tools, capacity-building and resources to be developed under the project.

In partnership with Save the Children, a strategy on advancing the rights of child human rights defenders – with an intersectional approach including girls and others – will be developed and will contribute to guiding project implementation.

The agency of child human rights defenders, particularly girls and other groups of children deprived of their rights, to shape and take forward their own human rights activities will be enhanced through the development and publication of tailored, accessible tools, including on online safety; child-orientated training materials; and the delivery of two in-person capacity-building workshops in each priority countries (eight workshops in total).

Similarly, the capacity of adult defenders/organisations/coalitions and other non-State actors to support child human rights defenders in their activism will be strengthened through the development and publication of targeted tools, such as on applying a child rights approach, on how to use our Implementation Guide in empowering child human rights defenders, and on data safety protocols; a well as through their participation in the above-mentioned capacity-building workshops.

Want to know more? Contact the Project Coordinator, Leire, at: ibanez@childrightsconnect.org

Stay tuned for future developments!