A fitting way to celebrate Universal Children’s Day

A fitting way to celebrate Universal Children's Day© Murray Prior

Unicef UK has marked Universal Children’s Day by launching in the House of Lords its new research on how different countries implement children’s rights.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC): a study of legal implementation in 12 countries looks at the implementation of the Convention in countries beyond the UK to compile evidence of the most effective and impactful ways of embedding children’s rights into domestic law and policy.

The 12 countries were chosen to demonstrate the variety of ways in which different countries have chosen to legislate for children’s rights and to implement the different articles of the Convention. It provides an international context against which to compare progress in the UK, in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

At Unicef, children’s rights is our core purpose and seeing them realised is our fundamental aim. Although our research report shows there is no single, prescribed approach to implementation, it does indicate that incorporation of the CRC into domestic law provides a platform from which other child rights measures flow. And although incorporation is not an obligation in international law, our research shows that it can be done and it works.

The Universal Children’s Day launch event was chaired by Baroness Doreen Massey - Labour Peer, staunch supporter of children’s rights and Unicef UK trustee – followed by a formidable list of speakers, beginning with report authors Professors Laura Lundy from Queen’s University Belfast and Ursula Kilkelly from University College Cork who gave an overview of the research findings.

Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director of Unicef UK, recommended that the UK Government set out a roadmap towards full incorporation of the CRC. “We know this is a challenging ask but it’s clear it can be done – even in countries where discussions about rights take place in a sometimes hostile public and political environment.”

Ross Hendry, Director of Policy and Participation at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, made it clear that the OCCE supports incorporation as a visible commitment to children, a means to realise change, and a measure of our success in making rights real for children.

And Baroness Joan Walmsley - Liberal Democrat Peer and sponsor of a Private Member’s Bill on children’s rights a couple of years ago – asserted that governments should take a lead in this. But it’s not solely about legal reform: policy from the top can and should meet day-to-day practice as evidenced by Unicef UK’s Rights Respecting Schools and other programmes.

So all in all, lots of discussion which certainly got the audience – parliamentarians, academics, lawyers and NGO reps – talking about what we can do to try to make it happen here. Read the report and join in the conversation.

Lisa Payne is Unicef UK’s Domestic Policy and Parliamentary Manager

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