Championing children's rights at the UN

by Ewan McCall

Published: 20 Nov 2015

Visiting Geneva to speak to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) was an unforgettable and inspiring experience from start to finish. Our journey began a month before in Scotland when the committee’s Vice Chair, Ms Amal Aldoseri visited us to assess the conditions for children and young people here. We showcased the good that's going on through organisations like Scottish Youth Parliament and the Children's Parliament. However, it was clear that many aspects of the Convention were far from being fulfilled, like issues surrounding child poverty, the criminal system, and our right to a voice.

It was these messages that myself and fellow member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, Kirsty McCahill, brought to the committee in the children’s meeting and pre-sessional meeting. For the children’s meeting we were joined by about thirty other young people from across the UK.  We each gave a 10-minute presentation, and then answered questions.

Myself and Kirsty then went onto the pre-sessional, joined by Children’s Commissioners from across the UK and important leaders in the field of children’s human rights. We made a statement to the committee, highlighting the problems around poverty in Scotland and what has to be done. I also brought up how the lowered voting age in Scotland has strengthened the voice of young people in our country.

This experience has filled me with some confidence that our governments have a body to hold them to account, and that our views are being heard through the UNCRC reporting process. The UK and Scottish Governments now need to listen to these views, these recommendations, and take action on what's going right, and what's going wrong, for the young people of the UK.

Background information

In October 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) met to discuss the key children’s rights issues in the UK. The list of issues that they decided upon can be found here. UN CRC heard evidence from a range of organisations and individuals, including children and young people, the Commission and other National Human Rights Institutions, Children’s Commissioners and civil society organisations.

As part of its work to support children to engage in the CRC process, the Commission funded a visit to Geneva of children and young people from England, organised by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), and Scotland, organised by the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP). The children and young people presented their concerns to the UN CRC at a formal meeting with all stakeholders and at a separate children’s meeting. Children and young people from Wales and Northern Ireland also attended the session and raised their concerns.