Children’s Human Rights CPD Day Two: ‘Moving on Children’s Rights?’
Author: Kay Tisdall, Professor of Childhood Policy at the University of Edinburgh, Childhood and Youth Studies
Day 2 – Tuesday 8th March 2022
How to move on children’s human rights, legally and in practice, framed day 2 of the Special Children’s Human Rights course held at the University of Strathclyde.
Professor Ann Skelton starred in the morning, discussing opportunities open to UN bodies to interpret and develop children’s human rights. From her insider perspective as a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, she gave an overview of the options, from the research and evidence of Global Studies, to the authoritative interpretations of General Comments , to engaging children and young people, civic society and others in General Days of Discussion .
General Comments provide the opportunities to provide authoritative interpretation of particular rights within the Convention – like the (excellent) General Comment on Article 12 – or to address issues not substantively addressed in the UNCRC – such as the recent General Comment on the digital environment . Concluding Observations to States Parties cannot be read in the same way, as they are recommendations for particular contexts and issues. However, a study across Concluding Observations can show development of human rights’ thinking. The Committee can provide statements on individual situations – such as when a child is at risk of the dealth penalty – or to address urgent children’s rights issues such as the current crisis in Ukraine..
Inspired by Professor Skelton’s contributions, we discussed how to consider limitations or derogations of children’s human rights, in times of crisis, war or disaster. She shared the view the Committee took during COVID 19 , that all rights were limitable but to the least extent and subject to tight criteria. We discussed the power of the UN human rights framework to encourage change, but the limitations currently to ensure world peace and its restricted (but expanding?) remit in regards to non-state actors (such as business or terrorist organisations). Professor Skelton reflected on the Committee’s deliberations on whether or not to take ‘absolutist’ stances on topics (such as prohibiting all child marriages under the age of 18) and likely issues it will need to grapple with in future (from medical technologies and health decision-making, to addressing potential regression in human rights).
The afternoon focused on justice, and particularly children deprived of liberty and involved in the criminal justice system. Workshops were followed by an informed panel, involving people with a range of views from Jack Bell as a recent Member of the Scottish Young Parliament to Dr. Michelle Donnelly, a lecturer in law at the University of Strathclyde. A clear agenda developed on what needed to change in Scotland to ensure children’s human rights were firmly recognised in justice. This included raising the age of criminal responsibility still further, ensuring all children up to the 18 remain in the children’s hearing system,, and addressing the individual and family problems that all too often underlay children’s later offending.
I see the connections between the morning and afternoon, on how to move forward children’s human rights. The morning addressed levers at the UN level. The afternoon suggested ways to very practically improve policy and practice, locally and nationally. For those of us committed to children’s human rights, both suggested the importance of moving carefully as well as deliberately, to consider unintended consequences as well possibilities for improvement.
The Special Children’s Human Rights CPD course has been organized by the Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures, in partnership with Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, the Observatory of Children’s Human Rights Scotland, and the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law at the University of Strathclyde.
The Observatory is currently supported in part due to the Impact Acceleration Grant from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Grant awarded to the University of Edinburgh (grant reference ES/T50189X/1).
Blog re-posted from The Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures at the University of Strathclyde.
Photo by Rene Bernal on Unsplash