One year after the adoption of the UN Resolution on the Rights of the Child that focused—for the first time ever—on children without parental care, awareness and recognition of the situation of this group of children have increased. It is now time to act and make those commitments a reality by putting policies and finances in place to realize them for all children. We need to come together in a multi-stakeholder partnership to achieve these goals.
The UN General Assembly resolution (A/RES/74/133) was adopted on November 12, 2019. It was a landmark step in recognizing the situations of children without parental care. Never before had member states made such an explicit commitment to end unnecessary child family separation and address its root causes effectively.
Proper implementation at national and regional levels, however, is yet to follow.
In fact, since the adoption of the resolution, a lot has changed. More children are in vulnerable situations, families are still struggling economically and there is a risk of regressing on child protection measures.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed already existing inequalities in accessing basic rights such as education. The pandemic has also been used to justify a neglect of children’s well-being and rights, ignoring the negative long-term consequences of doing so.
Poverty is a major root cause of preventable child family separation. According to findings of UNICEF, 117 million more children could be pushed into monetarily poor households by the end of this year alone.
These most recent developments demonstrate the importance of the resolution’s commitments, as well as the fact that governments need to act swiftly. In fact, the resolution’s two main areas—strengthening the economic, social and parenting capacity of families to prevent family breakdown and providing quality alternative care solutions that meet the needs of the individual child—are key to tackling and reversing these negative trends.
Not implementing the resolution will lead to the perception that international policymaking remains at a higher distant level, too far from the realities needing to be changed. Bringing international policy to the local level for real impact will show the importance of multilateralism at a time when it is highly needed.
Measures with a lasting positive impact
The resolution shows that when we take measures to protect children and prevent family breakdown, we are supporting the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). At a time when governments, pressured by the immediate and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises, are searching for ways to build while achieving sustainable development, implementing this resolution is a practical, detailed and impactful tool to achieve both.
The ramifications of proper social protection floors (paragraph 34 g), listening to the voices of children (paragraph 34k) and improving gate-keeping systems (paragraph 34l) have a far-reaching impact and are an indicator for sustainable policies.
With a wealth of direct experience in providing care to children and effectively preventing child family separation, organizations such as SOS Children’s Villages offer support to governments around the world by building bridges between the policymaking level, adapting solutions on the ground and monitoring implementation and good practices effectively.
Making everyone aware of governments’ commitments
An important first step toward effective implementation is reaching all those who work with and for children so that they are aware of the commitments and solutions laid out in the resolution. Policy agreements and frameworks can often seem distant and complex to those who directly work with children and young people, however they are crucial in their roles as care experts to implement measures.
The new user friendly version of the UN Rights of the Child Resolution focusing on children without parental care explains the original text in an easy-to-follow way. This version targets policymakers, care professionals, social workers and others working with and for children, including judges, lawyers, health professionals, teachers and government officers.
Building on the potential of partnerships including children and young people
The direct experience of caregivers on the ground coupled with expert knowledge on care solutions, social protection measures and support for families is key for effective implementation of child rights frameworks.
It takes a multi-stakeholder partnership to adequately assess different realities, find solutions to challenges and maintain ongoing dialogue with governments to make the commitments of the resolution a reality for children.
Children who live in difficult family situations or who need to be separated from their parents are experts on knowing the consequences and coming up with solutions. However, they are often not heard in the very courthouses, police stations, hospitals, social service centers and schools that decide their destiny, let alone in the policy-making arena.
It is their right to be heard. This should happen by treating them as equal partners in order to find solutions in debates and decisions that affect their lives. Directly partnering with children and young people can significantly contribute to implementing commitments made in the resolution and other child rights frameworks effectively. They can guide us on how to turn words into action and make sure that policies lead to positive impacts for all.
On the occasion of commemorating the anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the official date when children were recognized as particular rights holders 31 years ago, the international community should seize the opportunity of using shared expertise to confront current challenges and crises for the benefit of the individual child and societies as a whole.
Learn more about how SOS Children's Villages advocates for the rights of children.