In June I joined Amnesty UK’s Children’s Human Rights Network as a committee member. The network – which is made up of 10 members from across the UK – meets once a month to plan its work around children’s human rights. We work on issues which affect children’s rights including knife crime, school exclusion, FGM, child marriage, climate change, cuts to mental health funding for under 18s, and citizenship rights. We also launch campaigns across the UK to secure rights for all children.
The most recent petition – which we delivered to the Department for Education on 6 September – carried over 7,000 signatures and called for the UK government to ratify Optional Protocol 3 (OP3) of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
This year is an important milestone for the CRC, as it turns 30 in November. It is the most ratified human rights convention in history and has been signed by all but one of the UN member states. The US is yet to ratify the convention – it has had the opportunity to do so, since 1989.
The CRC consists of 54 articles detailing how children should be protected by their governments with regards to family reunification, child labour, protection from violence, the right to education, and juvenile justice, amongst others.
OP3 is an addition to the CRC which – if ratified – would mean that children, who believe that their rights have been violated by their State, would be able to bring a complaint directly to the CRC to be heard on an international level.
The UK is yet to sign OP3 into law; therefore, children living in the UK are unable to complain or seek justice if they feel that their human rights have been breached by the State.
If children don’t have the option to complain if their human rights have been violated – their rights aren’t real.
On Monday 16 September, I travelled to Geneva with the network to attend the 82nd meeting of the CRC, taking place in the historic UN Palais des Nations – the UN’s European headquarters. We began the day at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, where our network met with committee members of the CRC, alongside child activists from Canada, Mexico and the Philippines.
We spoke with the CRC about our ongoing campaign to make rights real for all children, and how we’re pushing for the UK government to ratify OP3. In the afternoon we attended the launch of an exhibition which celebrates 30 years of the convention, where we heard from committee members on the importance of children’s human rights on an international level.
From 3pm – 6pm it was the 82nd meeting of the CRC, which was opened by our very own Serena, a child activist and member of Amnesty UK’s Children’s Human Rights Network. Alongside the chair, Serena spoke emotionally and eloquently about rights violations that children suffer due to climate change, universal suffrage (or the lack thereof), and the need for the ratification of OP3.
Her speech was delivered in a week that saw over 4 million people take to the streets in a historic demonstration against political inaction on our climate emergency. Adult allies stood alongside our school strikers, who have been skipping school in order to educate the global political elite on what needs to be done to secure the future of humanity.
It also came one week before Greta Thunberg – the 16-year-old activist who sparked a global movement in her Fridays for Future campaign – stood alongside 15 other child activists as they utilised OP3 to take the climate crisis to the CRC.
The climate crisis is a violation of our human rights.
The inaction taken by global leaders on the defining issue of our time, is a violation of our human rights.
The children leading this movement should be an inspiration to all of us. These children – who cannot vote, so therefore cannot have a say how their futures play out – are waking the world up to the devastating effects that a climate catastrophe would have on our future.
We need to listen intently to these children; politicians around the globe need to act immediately before it’s too late.