IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Urges Strengthening of National Systems for Protection of Children and Adolescents

November 28, 2016

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on States to strengthen their national systems for the comprehensive protection of the rights of children and adolescents in the region.

In the context of the anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the IACHR urges States in the region to redouble their efforts to strengthen the functioning of their national child-protection systems. The IACHR especially urges States to strengthen the institutions responsible for promoting, protecting, and defending the rights of children at the local level; establish systems for periodically assessing and monitoring the progress being made on children’s rights; and allocate the financial and human resources needed to guarantee that child-protection systems can function properly throughout the country. The Commission also stresses the need for the voices and opinions of children and adolescents themselves to play a bigger role, so that they are empowered to understand their rights, identify situations in which their rights are at risk or are being violated, and increase their involvement in seeking solutions and in designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating public policies that affect them.

The IACHR has pointed out that national systems for the comprehensive protection of the rights of children provide a fundamental framework and the operational structure needed to ensure the effective observance, protection, and defense of the rights of children and adolescents, and that without these systems, laws recognizing children’s rights run the risk of being ineffective and inapplicable in practice. States in the region have adopted different models of systems, depending on their own context and other circumstances surrounding how their countries are structured, although many systems have similar organizational features, operational approaches, and principles. These systems are also dynamic and changing, allowing modifications to their structure and operation to be introduced over time, to better adapt to the needs of child protection.

However, while recognizing the significant efforts in this area made by States in the region, the Commission notes that the way these protection systems function must be strengthened. Among other aspects, these systems should be truly comprehensive in the protection of all rights for all children, and not focused specifically or exclusively on certain groups of children whose particular circumstances make them vulnerable, even though the IACHR recognizes that these groups do require particular and enhanced State attention.

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of the Chile, said: “Even though the law recognizes rights for all children, services and programs usually operate in a way that focuses primarily or exclusively on addressing the needs of children and adolescents whose rights have already been violated or who are at risk, with a significantly smaller investment of effort in aspects related to disseminating and promoting rights and actively and purposefully creating conditions for the exercise and enjoyment of these rights, and for primary prevention.”

The Rapporteur also emphasized the vital importance of local services: “Local actors are the ones who are in contact with the children and can develop actions that are tailored to the context and have direct impacts on their lives. However, I am concerned about the fact that being born in certain areas means that children cannot enjoy the same level of attention and support for their well-being and comprehensive and harmonious development, nor will they have the same opportunities as other children to exercise the rights recognized under the law and have them guaranteed. That is why I recommend that the States, purposefully and without delay, allocate the necessary human and financial resources to reverse these situations, which I have observed in all countries in the region.”

The States as a whole, and at every level, must promote, guarantee, and respect the rights of children and adolescents. To this end, they should build on the foundation of a comprehensive national plan or policy, one that is based on a serious and thorough assessment of the situation, with content grounded in the rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in the international human rights instruments. These plans should be developed with the participation of all sectors involved in children’s issues and civil society, and should properly take into consideration the ideas and proposals of children and adolescents themselves, as they are the ones who best understand their circumstances and the challenges they face. These plans should include concrete and attainable objectives related to the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all children and adolescents and should include indicators that make it possible to track compliance, as well as strategies and deadlines for reaching the objectives. The Rapporteur also stressed "the importance of these plans being linked to national development plans and other structural policies to ensure that children are not left out, in addition to taking into account the recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its general comment number 19 on public budgeting for the realization of children's rights.

“After nearly three decades since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child went into effect, there is no doubt that there have been significant achievements that have transformed the circumstances of millions of children, but it is essential to keep investing in efforts to strengthen structures and operational mechanisms, as well as policies, plans, and services, so that the recognition of children’s rights goes beyond the laws and is reflected in reality,” the Rapporteur said.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 176/16