CRIN (Children’s Rights International Network) has established an excellent website and toolkit on children and discrimination.
The aims of the site are:
promote understanding of how discrimination affects all children’s rights
shed light on age discrimination against children
support the removal of barriers to all children’s inclusion
Discrimination involves treating an individual or a group of people unfairly in comparison to others because of who they are, or their circumstances.
The right to non-discrimination is a well-established human rights principle and one of the four over-arching principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This means that all children should enjoy all rights set out in the CRC. For any right to be realised, children must not be discriminated against.
The UN Human Rights Committee defines discrimination as: “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms.” (General Comment 18) Read more about definitions here. Discrimination may be deliberate and intended, or unintentional. Although there has been significant work on this topic, the wide range of ways in which children experience different forms of discrimination has not been sufficiently explored or challenged. Why a toolkit on non-discrimination? Looking at rights violations through the lens of discrimination helps to expose prejudices and beliefs that may have led to unfair treatment – whether such treatment was intentional or otherwise. It can create new means of challenging negative actions, whether through law, policy, education or practice.
So, for example, by understanding that the corporal punishment of children, if legal within a given State, constitutes discrimination on the basis of age (an adult smacking another adult can be prosecuted for battery), it helps us to think about the issue in a different way. What is it about children that makes us think it is acceptable to hit them, but not adults – or even animals! Are there other ways in which this discriminatory view of children affects how we behave towards them? Why is discrimination towards other groups of people, for example ethnic minorities, normally considered unacceptable, yet sanctioned by the State when it comes to children?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has non-discrimination as a core right for children. CRIN has made a detailed analysis of this right and how it relates to the other articles of the CRC:
Challenging discrimination against children requires a range of strategies which cover many different areas and are rightfully tailored to account for the particular situation of children in their countries. Nevertheless, successful efforts will include certain key components. These include: changing legislation, policy, attitudes, as well as the physical environment and the allocation of resources that perpetuate inequalities and discrimination, providing channels for children’s participation, collecting data, and establishing mechanisms to monitor and report discrimination. The pages that follow provide some guidance on these diverse areas and examples of how discrimination has been successfully challenged.
Human Rights Day (10th December) has non-discrimination as its theme so it may be worth exploring inequalities in primary classrooms through a recent UNESCO report.
This new study highlights the strong effect of social inequality on primary education systems in many countries and the challenge to provide all children with equal learning opportunities.
The World Education Indicators’ Survey of Primary Schools (WEI-SPS) offers unique insight into the classrooms of 11 diverse countries* in order to understand and monitor the factors shaping the quality and equality of primary education. It examines the main issues and inputs shaping primary schools: the background characteristics of pupils; demographic and educational characteristics of teachers and school heads; school resources and conditions; instructional time; school management; teaching and learning styles in the classroom; as well as learning opportunities provided to pupils.
The survey was designed to ensure that these data could be compared internationally. It serves as a valuable resource for everyone interested in education quality and equity – from policymakers to teachers and academics. By analyzing the diverse components and issues shaping policies and programmes regarding primary schools, the study can be used to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of educational systems. Furthermore, the comparative nature of the study allows each participating country to evaluate its position in relation to others in terms of the inputs, policies and processes of schools. These comparisons must obviously be interpreted within the unique traditions and contexts of each education system. But this framework will serve as a resource now and in the years to come for those committed to improving educational quality and equality.
As mentioned in an earlier post the 20th November is not only Universal Children’s Day, but also the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) has produced a celebratory explanation of some of the articles of the CRC and also some important resources. INEE is an open global network of over 3,500 practitioners, students, teachers, staff from UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, donors, governments and universities who work together to ensure all persons the right to quality, relevant and safe educational opportunities.
Tomorrow, 20 November 2009, is the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is a legally binding international instrument spelling out the principles that Member States of the United Nations agree to be universal – for all children, in all countries and cultures, at all times and without exception, simply through the fact of their being born into the human family. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.
The CRC is of particular importance to education in emergencies, because it forcefully brings together provisions relevant to emergencies and armed conflict in ways that few other international treaties do, offering added protection for the consistently most vulnerable group: the child.
The following 2 articles affirm the right of the child to education, in emergencies, as well as in times of peace and stability:
Article 28 obliges all state parties to establish educational systems and ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to them. Especially primary education must be compulsory and free to all, but also secondary, vocational and higher education must be made progressively available. Education must be provided in a way that respects the dignity of the child at all times. Lastly, Article 28 obliges States to encourage and promote international cooperation, with particular account taken of the needs of developing countries.
Article 29 defines the aims of education, chief amongst these being that education shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. This echoes the over-riding principle of the CRC, as stated in Art. 3, of the best interest of the child, requires that schools be child-friendly in the fullest sense of the term and that they be consistent in all respects with the dignity of the child. Lastly, that education must be for “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”.
These 2 articles must be read together with a few other key articles in the Convention:
Article 2 on non-discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.
Article 38 on the respect for the rules of international humanitarian law in times of conflict, ensuring the continued and specific protection of children and civilians, protecting them from taking part in hostilities and entering into armed forces.
Article 6 (right to life); Article 9 (separation from parents); Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child); Article 19 (Child’s right to protection from all forms of violence); Article 22 (Refugee children); Article 39 (Rehabilitation of child victims); and the 1st Optional Protocol (On the Involvement of children in armed conflict).
The right to education is also articulated in many other international conventions and documents, which do not limit this right to children, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951); the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006); and the non-legally binding Dakar World Education Forum Framework for Action (2000), promoting Education for All.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of independent experts responsible for reviewing progress made by States parties in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, devoted its 2008 Day of General Discussion (DGD) on to articles 28 and 29 of the Convention dealing with the right to education, focusing upon the education of children in emergency situations. The day was intended to provide States and other actors with more comprehensive guidance as to their obligations to promote and protect the right to education as outlined in articles 28 and 29. For more information about the DGD, please click here.
The Committee released its report, including recommendations, which you can find on the INEE website along with several other supporting documents about the day. Among the recommendations particularly relevant to INEE members, the Committee:
calls upon States parties to honor their obligation to fully ensure the right to education for every child within their jurisdiction, without any discrimination, throughout all stages of emergency situations, including the emergency preparedness phase and the reconstruction and the post emergency phases.
calls upon States parties, donors and relief agencies to include education as an integral component of the humanitarian relief response from the outset.
urges all States parties, in particular those that are prone to natural disasters or in areas likely to be affected by armed conflict, to prepare a plan of action for the provision of the right to education in emergency situations.
urges States parties to fulfill their obligation therein to ensure schools as zones of peace and places where intellectual curiosity and respect for universal human rights is fostered; and to ensure that schools are protected from military attacks or seizure by militants; or use as centres for recruitment. The Committee urges States parties to criminalize attacks on schools as war crimes in accordance with article 8(2)(b) (ix) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to prevent and combat impunity.
urges States parties, United Nations agencies, donors and relief agencies to ensure that INEE Minimum Standards are applied at all stages of humanitarian relief response in order to ensure the right of children to education in emergencies.
recommends that States parties and other international partners support child participation so that children can voice their views with regard to what they learn (the content) and how they learn (rights-based and child-centered active learning) and are empowered by the relevant content of education and the active learning process.
The DGD, and these ensuing recommendations on education in emergencies, built upon the 2008 report of Vernor Muñoz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education on the right to education in emergencies. Many INEE members contributed to the contents of this report through questionnaires developed by the Special Rapporteur and disseminated on the INEE Listserv and Website. For a summary of the report, the full text for download in Spanish and English, and highlights relating specifically to INEE and the INEE Minimum Standards please click here.
Right to Education Project http://www.right-to-education.org
The RTE site offers information and resources for States, civil society organisations and individuals on how to interpret and claim the right to education. It is centered on the basic premise that education must be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable to all; that education systems must be accountable, participatory, transparent and non-discriminatory; and that education rights entails both the right to, in and through education.
UNICEF Website: 20th Anniversary of the CRC http://www.unicef.org/rightsite/whatyoucando.htm
The UNICEF site includes a Take Action center that articulates what individuals can do – visa via governments, families and communities, schools and teachers, the media, the private sector, and development and humanitarian organizations — to change the Convention from words on paper into real actions for children. It also contains a section for youth, helping them to understand the CRC, know their rights and take action: http://www.unicef.org/rightsite/433.htm
INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit Thematic Guide on Human & Children’s Rights
The INEE Minimum Standards present a global framework for coordinated action to enhance the quality of educational preparedness and response, increase access to relevant learning opportunities, and ensure humanitarian accountability in providing these services. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the foundational documents for the INEE Minimum Standards. The tools and resources in this guide are a selection from the INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit that relate to the cross-cutting issue of human and children’s rights. To access the Thematic Guide, please click here. All of these resources are available online and on the INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit www.ineesite.org/toolkit.
Your Right to Education: A Handbook for Refugees and Displaced Communities
The Women’s Refugee Commission created Your Right to Education: A Handbook for Refugees and Displaced Communities to raise awareness of everyone’s right to education. The handbook uses drawings that readers at all levels can understand. It is hoped that you will share Your Right to Education with children, young people and adults in your community to help them better understand the right to education, how it fits with other human rights and the benefits that education may bring. It is also hoped that Your Right to Education will serve as a tool to discuss these issues in depth and to encourage action to expand and improve education in displaced communities. Click here to download the Handbook in English, French and Arabic.
A complimentary resource is Right to Education During Displacement. A resource for organizations working with refugees and internally displaced persons (2006, Women’s Refugee Commission), which is available here.
Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)
This website and listserv offers consistently high-quality and comprehensive information on the rights of the child as defined in the CRC. It also has a selection of resources relating to education. Explore the website, and sign-up for their listserv CRINMAIL here: www.crin.org.
A Human Rights Based Approach to Education for All
(2007, UNICEF and UNESCO)
This document brings together the current thinking and practice on human rights-based approaches in the education sector. It presents key issues and challenges in rights-based approaches and provides a framework for policy and programme development from the level of the school up to the national and international levels.While the predominant focus of the document is on primary basic education and child rights within education, it is based on the EFA goals and situated within lifecycle and lifelong learning approaches. It addresses the right to education as well as rights within education, which include human rights education itself. Click here to download this resource.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a beautiful piece of legislation…however, when in the field you understand how difficult it is to realise the goals of the CRC in practical terms. Many laws and constitutions have to be re-written or amended to allow for children to have basic rights.
Teachers and other educators should have the CRC as the basis on which to build relationships with their students. However, at present, it would be hard to find overt recognition of the CRC in any teacher training curriculum in the world.
The CRIN has been working hard not only to document abuses of the CRC but also to find ways to interpret the CRC in terms of practical use in the variety of contexts in which it should be used. First, a description of the CRC for those who are not cognizant of the Convention and secondly specific reference to a new guide to non-discrimination. Download in pdf
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, often referred to as CRC or UNCRC, is an international convention setting out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children. Nations that ratify this international convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child which is composed of members from countries around the world. Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which also hears a statement from the CRC Chair, and the Assembly adopts a Resolution on the Rights of the Child.
Governments of countries that have ratified the Convention are required to report to, and appear before, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress with regards to the advancement of the implementation of the Convention and the status of child rights in their country. Their reports and the committee’s written views and concerns are available on the committee’s website.
The Convention generally defines a child as any human being under the age of 18, unless an earlier age of majority is recognized by a country’s law.(ref wikipedia)
Introduction to discrimination
Children’s rights are violated or left unfulfilled in ways in which those of adults are not. This is a result of systemic discrimination – direct or indirect – against children.
Children face discrimination in most societies in comparison to adults because they have less power. This is a result of children’s dependence on adults and adults’ reluctance to give them more decision-making power as they develop the ability to exercise it themselves.
Besides experiencing discrimination as a group (or ‘age-based discrimination’), children face discrimination on other grounds such as their gender, disability, or sexual orientation, and sometimes because of a combination of reasons. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has so far identified 53 grounds of discrimination against children based either on their identity or the identity of their parents.
All forms of discrimination against children are exacerbated by virtue of their age and vulnerability which mean they have fewer opportunities for challenging discrimination because, for example, they do not have access to courts and complaints mechanisms on an equal basis with adults.
This document (Download in pdf ) aims to highlight the links between discrimination and the lack of fulfilment of children’s rights. It shows how article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the right to non-discrimination – could be applied to every right as set out in the Convention. Each article includes examples both of discrimination against children as a group and against particular children.