Eurochild took part in the Child Rights Connect Global Conference on countering anti-child rights rhetoric

On 26 May Child Rights Connect celebrated its 40th anniversary with a conference focused on countering anti-child rights rhetoric, through changing the narrative around the role and impact of the child rights movement, in particular of children acting as human rights defenders.

Across the globe, including in Europe, attacks on democracy, shrinking civil society space and an unprecedented backlash against universal human rights have been undermining the freedom, safety and action of those defending human rights. And the child rights movement has not been spared. Gathered under the banner of advocacy for the ‘protection of the family’ and ‘traditional values’ restrictions and attacks on child rights come from non-State groups (particularly conservatives religious groups, civil society and individuals), as well as States that lead conservative initiatives at UN human rights processes in Geneva.

At the conference, Eurochild’s Director of child rights & capacity building, Mieke Schuurman, moderated a session on ‘anti-child-rigths narratives and attacks based on traditional and family values’. Interventions in the workshop were made by Luis Pedernera, member of the UNCRC Committee, Monica Ferro, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as well as Eurochild’s member Evgenia Toneva, from the Know-How Centre for the Alternative Care for Children at New Bulgarian University and four child human rights defenders from Bulgaria.

Key outcomes of the debate were that we to need to collect evidence, map the opposition, track their funders and make sure to disseminate this evidence widely. We also have to ensure we are in dialogue with each other, not only among children and adults, but also including faith-based organisations, so to learn from each others experiences. Civil society needs to have champions that can speak up on behalf of child rights defenders.

At the conference it was made clear that civil society has to use existing UN mechanisms to counter anti-child-rights movements. Among these, there is the UNCRC Optional Protocal no 3, which allows child human rights defenders to submit complaints to the UNCRC Committee and file evidence on violations of children’s rights defenders with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. With respect to this, The Icelandic Minister for Education and Children, Ásmundur Einar Daðason, called on governments and civil society, in particular grassroots organisations, to cooperate more and break down barriers.

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