Press Release

To Mark the Day of Children and Adolescents of the Americas, IACHR Calls Once More on States to Reduce the Inequalities That Affect Children and Adolescents in the Region

June 10, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - On the occasion of the Day of Children and Adolescents of the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called on states in the region to continue to move toward adopting measures to promote and protect the rights of this group by prioritizing the best interests of children and seeking to reduce the inequalities that affect them.

There are currently more young people in the Americas than at any other time in the continent’s history. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that some 237 million young people between the ages of 10 and 24 live in the Americas, accounting for around one-quarter of the region’s population. Despite this, the IACHR noted that structural inequality and unfairness continue to affect this population in different ways. As a consequence, children and adolescents face obstacles to fully enjoying their rights and participating actively and accessibly in matters that affect them directly.

The IACHR acknowledged recent efforts that states have made to enable this population to exercise its rights, such as institutional strengthening in relation to the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents. Specifically, the IACHR acknowledged the approval of the appointment of authorities for the Ombud’s Office for Children and Adolescents in Argentina at the start of 2020, the Guardianship Council elections in Brazil in 2019, the creation of the Comprehensive System to Guarantee the Rights of Children and Adolescents in Honduras, and the creation of the National Council for Children and Adolescents in Panama. The IACHR also welcomed legislative reforms in the region that seek to mitigate violence against children and child abuse, such as the reform of article 44 of Mexico’s General Law on the Rights of Children and Adolescents, which prohibits the use of corporal punishment as a corrective or disciplinary method. Other notable achievements include Law No. 21.160 in Chile, which establishes the imprescriptibility of sexual crimes committed against children and adolescents, and the passing of the bill to create the National Child and Adolescent Protection Service.

Despite progress on these matters, the IACHR warned that according to data from UNICEF, there are 72 million children and adolescents living in multidimensional poverty in the Americas, who lack access to medical care, education, adequate nutrition, and decent housing. The region also experiences high rates of violence, including the highest rate of homicides among adolescents and young people in the world. According to information from the PAHO, over 45,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 die as a result of homicide each year in the region, and 60% to 70% of these deaths involve firearms. Similarly, the consequences of inequality and unfairness are also reflected in the exercise of other rights, such as access to education, food, and health.

The IACHR also noted how the intersectional nature of a range of factors—including gender, ethnicity, and disability—places various groups within this population at particular risk. In this regard, gender-based violence and discrimination significantly jeopardize girls and adolescent girls, preventing them from developing fully. The IACHR also warned that structural discrimination against children and adolescents from indigenous communities limits access to and recognition of their rights. Similarly, social exclusion continues to affect children and adolescents with disabilities, which prevents them from exercising their rights on an equal footing with those who do not have disabilities. Enormous vulnerabilities are faced by migrant children and adolescents, particularly those who are not accompanied by adults, which seriously jeopardizes their lives and integrity. The IACHR also expressed its particular concern for adolescents who are deprived of their freedom, given that they continue to be held in conditions of detention that contravene human dignity and the principle of the best interests of the child.

The IACHR also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges to protecting children and adolescents in the region. The pandemic has highlighted the shortfalls in the health sector’s provision of care for children and adolescents, while their rights to education and food have been disproportionately limited, and rates of intrafamily violence have increased alarmingly. In response, the IACHR notes that Resolution No. 01/20, Pandemics and Human Rights in the Americas and its press release of April 27, 2020, both contain recommendations to help states guarantee the rights of children and adolescents at this time.

To mark this special day, the IACHR urges the states of the Americas to celebrate June 9 by recognizing the need to guarantee children and adolescents a life free of violence, discrimination, and exclusion and to remedy the inequality gaps that limit access to and full enjoyment of their rights. The IACHR also urged states to make headway on public programs and policies that include the perspective of comprehensive protection and the best interests of the child, promote children’s and adolescents’ involvement at every stage, and guarantee their right to be heard.

The rapporteur on the rights of the child, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, said that “to date, opening up spaces in which children and adolescents can play a leading role remains a huge challenge for authorities, as does listening to them in a way that guarantees they can develop fully and exercise their rights as citizens.”

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. 133/20