Closing Speech: Annual Day on the Rights of the Child at #HRC46

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Monday March 1 marked the 2021 Annual Day on the Rights of the Child within the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Commissioner Bruce Adamson gave a speech at this event and a further speech to mark its closing, and the text of his closing speech is below:

Closing speech for the 2021 Annual Day on the Rights of the Child

Thank you, Madam Vice President. And thank you all for your insightful and powerful contributions and your ongoing commitment to children’s rights and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I was thrilled to see so many statements from children and young people here today, from Fred on the panel this morning, and from Claudia this afternoon, who spoke so eloquently on behalf of children who want to change the world from across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Importantly, we also had children leading delegations from civil society and from state parties. Gerard from Fiji, Ishika from India, Reece from South Africa, and earlier today, Bilal from Slovenia and Tamara from Brazil. These contributions exemplify the leadership that the High Commissioner spoke about as she addressed us this morning. We must heed their call. We must give them a seat at the table and look to them not just for inspiration, but for leadership.

I share the humility and pride that the High Commissioner expressed at seeing the passion and action of child human rights defenders, but also that responsibility that we have to do more to support them. The young people contributing today have shown us the powerful role that children can play at the national and international level, not just at annual days, or just on issues that adults determine as relevant, but on all issues at all levels of decision-making.

This morning Bilal from Slovenia called on us to do things differently. And this afternoon, Claudia set out some of the ways in which we can do that. She called us to involve young people in all decisions, to get to know them, and to address the needs of those left behind, and to empower and work together with children and young people shoulder to shoulder.

As Gerard from Fiji said states must do more to create spaces for children and young people to engage in policy making and engage children and young people in all spaces, and must include children and young people at the greatest risk of being left behind. The distinguished delegate from the European Union asked how we can do more to ensure state accountability. Part of this must be about incorporating human rights standards into domestic laws, and bedding participation into decision-making by using tools such as Impact Assessments and rights-based budgeting.

And we need to do much more to support child human rights defenders who provide leadership outside of formal decision-making structures. Isihka from India spoke about the millions of children whose voices are unheard that she spoke on behalf of. This should never be the case and we must commit to hearing those voices. The difficult, stark, and troubling issues that Claudia spoke about have been brought into clear focus by Ishika focusing on the reality of street-connected children and brought here to the highest human rights body in the world. And she told us that that the goals relating to no poverty, zero hunger and good health, education and well-being simply don’t exist for her and her peers if they can’t access the schemes and services intended for them. And Gerard from Fiji drew our attention to those same issues, children who are not getting access to those supports.

Reece from South Africa rightly emphasised the importance of education to children and young people, both now and in terms of long-term prospects, and asked what we can do more to collaborate. In response to Reece’s question, I think it’s something that all nations – not just developing nations – must work together on. States must live up to their obligations to ensure that all children can access quality early childhood education, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child – in the Convention and General Comment Number 7 focused on implementation of rights in early childhood – recognise just how important that is, and how education is absolutely critical. Reece also highlighted one core part of the solution – don’t just focus on the “now,” on reactive short-term policies, but actually long-term strategies informed by children, young people and their views. The vision in the SDGs and in the Convention match up and, as Gerard from Fiji said so clearly, the 2030 Agenda provides a roadmap for the delivery of rights in every country.

Benyam spoke earlier about the strong links between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the SDGs, but challenged us to look beyond the obvious links because every aspect of the SDGs impacts on children. And I think that we need to do much more to ensure that no child is left behind in any part of the decision-making process as we work towards achieving the 2030 Goals. And as the Special Representative said, there have been some good practices over the Covid period globally and in domestic situations, but we must act better, and we must act faster to address the imbalance. And we must focus on using available resources to the maximum extent possible.

Because as Claudia said, a rights-based approach ensures access to services, improves economic systems, and ensures all of the underlying needs are met. And I’ll close by citing Fred from this morning, the young person from the panel this morning, who said wonderfully, “without the protection of child rights, the world would be like a pencil without its lead.”

Thank you, Madame Vice-President.

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