Press Release

IACHR Presents Report on National Child Protection Systems

February 27, 2018

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María Isabel Rivero
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Bogotá, Colombia - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today is publishing its report “Towards the Effective Fulfillment of Children’s Rights: National Protection Systems.” The Commission takes this opportunity to reaffirm the importance for States to create the institutional framework necessary for the effective implementation of the rights of children. Even though codes for children or special child protection laws exist to protect children and adolescents, it is clear that there is a glaring gap between the rights recognized in laws and the reality experienced by millions of boys and girls in the hemisphere. The mere legal recognition of children’s rights is not enough to ensure the effective enjoyment of such rights or to transform children’s reality. The protection of children and children’s rights requires a whole set of elements besides laws; namely, it is necessary to ensure that an institutional framework is in place and functioning, along with an operational model that ensures enforcement of the law and the full enjoyment, protection, and defense of all rights. These organizational models and operational frameworks are what are known as National Systems for the Protection of Children’s Rights.

“The Commission has witnessed authorities’ prominent interest in expanding and improving the operation and effectiveness of their National Systems for the Protection of Children’s Rights, mindful that having such systems in place is key to protecting children,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño. Addressing that concern, the report seeks to contribute to this process and identifies the States’ obligations, as well as the principles and standards in international human rights law that apply to the way these systems operate, with a view to providing substantive support to the processes underway in the region to design and strengthen these systems.

Noting that States have an obligation to organize the governmental apparatus to protect the rights of children, the report analyzes the institutional framework that is needed for these rights to be fulfilled. This implies that entities or agencies must be created to plan, adopt, implement, monitor, and evaluate public policies, programs, and services geared toward children and adolescents in the different parts of the country. The report also underscores that States have a duty to adopt a National Policy for Children, one that takes a comprehensive, multifaceted, multisectoral, and participatory approach; considers the indivisibility and interdependence of rights; is based on a realistic assessment of the state of children’s rights in the country; and establishes objectives, goals, and concrete results to be achieved during the time the policy is in effect, as well as monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for accountability to society on the achievements reached. A comprehensive, holistic approach requires creating institutional mechanisms for coordination between different sectors and ministries involved in the rights of children and creating conditions for both horizontal coordination (between sectors) and vertical coordination (between levels of government). There must also be an entity responsible for coordinating the entire system and ensuring compliance with the National Policy for Children.

In this regard, the Rapporteur stated, “It is not sufficient simply to intervene to protect boys and girls from violations of their rights once these have occurred, nor to create welfare-type programs that fail to address the causes of these violations of rights or help to prevent them. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the American Convention and Declaration demand that all their rights be effectively and actively protected. This approach inevitably imposes a model strongly based on coordination and cooperation between different sectors and levels of government, adequate planning, sufficient financial investment, information systems, and mechanisms for monitoring, evaluation, and accountability.”

The Commission also notes that the planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the National Policy for Children requires the permanent participation of civil society, as well as the establishment of channels and mechanisms to incorporate, in an appropriate and sustained manner, the views and proposals of children and adolescents themselves, in the exercise of their right to participate in matters that affect them. “Taking an innovative approach, the IACHR in this report analyzes the collective dimension of children’s right to participate and express their opinions regarding the policies, programs, and services intended for them, underscoring children’s position as social actors and identifying the characteristics of the institutional spaces and processes for participation,” the Rapporteur said.

For the first time, the Commission is also developing standards based on inter-American human rights law to determine States’ obligations in terms of investing financial resources in children. The IACHR has established that one of the main barriers to the fulfillment of children’s rights is the lack of sufficient economic investment that would allow for these rights to be fully realized. It has also noted that it is common for there not to be information available on a State’s investment in children, to be able to evaluate whether the State in fact treats the protection of children’s rights as a priority in its budgets. The standards seek to address this situation and are helpful to improve the level of financing, budget design and management, and accountability on this subject. The IACHR urges the States to include the principles of transparency, effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, sustainability, accountability, and participation, coupled with anti-corruption measures, throughout the budget cycle. In addition, the Commission analyzes the existing systems for administrative and financial management and identifies some promising steps forward to introduce better methodologies in the budget process in terms of planning, approving, implementing and tracking budgets from a standpoint of human rights and children’s rights.

In this regard, the Rapporteur called to mind that “under international human rights law, complying with international obligations regarding the rights of the child implies allocating the maximum resources available for the realization of their rights, keeping in mind the obligation to provide special protection to children and recognize their best interests.” She added that “budgets should go hand in hand with the National Policy for Children, providing sufficient resources to meet its objectives. Transparency and availability of data on the budget and its implementation, as well as on the concrete results achieved with those resources, is key to improving management of public funds, preventing corruption, and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of decisions on the budget for children.”

The report notes that there is a dynamic decentralization process underway in countries in the region by which decisions, resources, and management of child-related issues are increasingly handled at the municipal level. Local actors, moreover, are in close contact with the children and can carry out actions that fit the context and more easily incorporate the participation of citizens and of children themselves in managing public affairs and identifying problems and potential solutions. However, the Commission notes that the establishment and operation of national child protection systems are particularly weak at the local level. There are wide disparities in capacity for action, response, and resources at the local level, which gives rise to potentially stark differences between municipalities and regions within the same country in terms of equal access to services and enjoyment of rights. In its report, the Commission identifies the factors at play and makes a series of recommendations to strengthen the national protection systems at the local level. “Generally speaking, it is important for States to incorporate suitable measures so that decentralization is not an obstacle to the protection of the rights of children and adolescents but rather a better means to protect each of them and address the conditions of inequality in the exercise of rights,” the Rapporteur said.

Through this report, the Inter-American Commission offers specific recommendations so that States can strengthen the operation of their National Systems for the Protection of Children’s Rights and move forward with determination to protect the rights of all children and adolescents.

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 and to defend 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. 037/18