30th Anniversary of Convention on the Rights of the Child


Edmund Rice International had the opportunity to attend a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in Geneva.

The celebration focused on addressing the question “Thirty years of children’s rights: where are we and where do we want to be?” and hosted several panels of experts, officials and young child activists from all over the globe to tackle the question. 

The afternoon was split into two debates. The first celebrated key moments and achievements whilst the latter focussed on the participation of children regarding the rights of the child in the digital environment, justice for children and the climate crisis. Mr Luis Ernest Pedernera Reyna, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child opened the afternoon celebrating that the Convention was the most ratified of all of the UN Treaty Bodies, however, he emphasised that despite progress there is still a long way to go for full implementation. 

Serena from the United Kingdom made an important statement regarding the participation of children, claiming that whilst it has been productive for children to be given a voice through the UN, it is time to ‘hand the mic’ and begin listening to children directly and respecting their opinions. As such, young child rights activists Maria and Zyceral presented their child-friendly version of the convention. Distinguished by bold colours and simple images, it is designed to be accessible to children of all ages so that they may understand their rights. As Maria said powerfully, ‘you cannot defend a right you do not understand’. 

The conversation moved to ask serious questions surrounding sports, juvenile justice and climate change. It was highlighted by Mr Paulo David, former Secretary of the Committee and Head of the Section of Indigenous Peoples and Minorities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, that whilst sport is beneficial to 75% children, many suffer psychological trauma, sexual abuse and violence at the hands of their coaches, parents and teammates. Sport is often prioritised over education and the pressure is too great. As a result, the sporting world must refocus on participation over success. This was a key theme of the afternoon.

Children’s participation in defending their human rights is essential and the event ensured that children would be given their platform. It was children who asked all of the questions on the panel and the youth filled audience were ready to participate, asking questions, answering questions and fully injecting themselves into the dialogue.

The achievements of child activists are not to be undermined. As a result of child projects and strikes regarding climate change, the Scottish government has put the issue at the ‘centrepiece’ of their agenda. Meanwhile, the Geneva Children Reporters in Geneva made their own documentary investigating juvenile justice showing the adults that they were ready to take matters into their own hands, which will be available on the child rights hub

Ciara Church

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