Universiteit Leiden

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New international platform campaigns for children’s rights

From the rights of refugee children to the right to a sustainable Earth. The online platform Leiden Children's Rights Observatory makes information on children’s rights accessible and raises the social and scientific debate on this subject worldwide. Ton Liefaard, Professor of Children's Rights and initiator of the Observatory, explains why this is desperately needed.

Why did you set up this platform?

‘Since 2014, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has had the power to deal with complaints brought by children about the observance of children's rights. This rapidly led to an enormous need for more information on this right of complaint and on the working methods and decisions of this UN Committee. After the first decisions, the platform began a scientific analysis of this form of case law on the basis of the case notes. These case notes, a combination of a summary and legal comments, are written by renowned scientists from all parts of the world. Ideally, they do this as soon as possible after the decision has been made.’

What else does the Leiden Children's Rights Observatory offer?

‘The observatory presents brief discussions to illustrate recent developments concerning children's right of complaint. In addition, researchers publish papers with detailed analyses of particular complex legal issues. That is very useful, not only for lawyers and other people who represent children, but also for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. These papers are immediately shared with the Committee. The platform is also relevant for scientists who carry out research and for students who study International children's rights in Leiden, for example. Our aim is to contribute to the global scientific and societal debate on children's rights.’

What are currently the most pressing issues?

‘The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child celebrates its 31st anniversary on 20 November. A lot has been achieved, but the complaints that have been brought before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child indicate that there are still many children who do not enjoy these rights, including for example refugee children. Children who are being held in Northern Syria have also appealed to the Committee because France, their country of origin, has no interest in their fate. The Committee is currently considering a complaint brought by a group of children who think that governments are not doing enough to prevent global warming. The Rights of the Child include these kinds of topical issues, too. I would not be surprised if the Committee were asked to look at the impact of COVID-19 on children. We can see that the corona virus is threatening the progress of the past thirty years in many different ways, which is very worrying.’

Banner photo: Children in a refugee camp in Iraq. Source: Wikimedia/Annmarfaat

The platform receives financial support from the Janivo Foundation and it has evolved from the UNICEF Chair in Children's Rights which was established in Leiden University in 2012. The UNICEF Chair is a result of a collaboration between UNICEF, Leiden University and the Leiden University Fund. Its aim is to promote academic research and education on the subject of children's rights and to close the gaps in this area of knowledge worldwide.  Special educational programmes have been developed, such as the annual Frontiers of Children’s Rights summer school and the Master of Laws: Advanced Studies in International Children’s Rights

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