The protection and promotion of children’s rights, including those of children in armed conflict and children at the risk of abduction, form an integral part of the FCO’s wider international human rights agenda. Violence, discrimination, poverty and marginalisation can impact children disproportionately, affect their health, education and overall development and put them at an increased risk of exploitation, abuse and trafficking.
Our international work to advance universal standards on children’s rights is done mainly through the UN and other international institutions. We were among the main sponsors of the annual resolution at the Human Rights Council on the Rights of the Child. During the Human Rights Council in March, the EU co-hosted an all-day panel discussion on Children and the Administration of Justice. This provided an opportunity for member states to discuss what happens when children come into contact with the justice system and to reaffirm existing standards and commitments, highlight best practice and identify potential ways forward on this issue. The discussion also covered the impact on children when their parents are incarcerated. The UK also hosted an event chaired by the British Ambassador in the margins of the September session of the Human Rights Council on early and forced marriage.
The UK was pleased that UN member states agreed during the General Assembly in November to extend the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children for a further three years. The UK supports the work of the Special Representative on the prevention and elimination of all forms of violence against children. The UK also marked the first International day of the Girl Child, held on 11 October, which called on governments to recognise the right of the girl child as a woman of the future, to ban forced marriage and girl child marriage, and promote education amongst girls.
The EU Working Group on Human Rights (COHOM) continued the review of the EU Guidelines on the Rights of the Child (2007) throughout 2012. We expect discussions to continue into 2013, when we hope to see the adoption of a final agreed text. We were pleased that the EEAS Human Rights and Democracy Strategic Framework, adopted in June, included commitments to promote the universal ratification and implementation of the International Labour Organization standards on child labour, to ensure EU input to the World Conference on Child Labour in 2013, to conduct a targeted campaign on the rights of the child with a specific focus on violence against children and to promote the prevention of early and forced marriages. We support the work of the EEAS in the protection and promotion of the rights of children.
We have a range of domestic remedies to address issues raised by children in respect of their rights. The arguments for signing and ratifying the Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child will be kept under review in light of emerging information on how it will be applied in practice, including the resources that the UN proposes to make available to support implementation.
Our embassies and high commissions play an important role in our work to protect and promote the rights of children. Our High Commission in Mozambique funded a Child Protection and Counter-trafficking Project to contribute to the protection of children from sexual abuse and trafficking by raising awareness of these crimes in target communities and by challenging aspects of customary law and practice, such as the giving away of child brides. The project has enabled the community to voice their opposition to these practices, which were formerly a taboo subject, and has increased awareness of the free legal remedies available. The project has trained 140 people in Zambezia Province, including traditional leaders, mentors of initiation rites and teachers and has set up “monitoring and denunciation” clubs which have taken on responsibility for publicly identifying and denouncing these crimes. Since the start of the project in June, there have been 25 denunciations.
In Indonesia, for the third year running, our Embassy worked with the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency (CEOP) to create sustainable national and regional capacity to prevent and deter the sexual exploitation of children both online and offline.
In Guyana, our High Commission worked with the Linden Care Foundation to support services for orphans and vulnerable children, including those affected by HIV/AIDS.
Our High Commission in The Gambia funded a project to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. The project, carried out by the Child Protection Alliance, aimed to raise awareness of child protection issues among community and religious leaders, the tourism industry, police and government officials in order to create a safe environment for children across The Gambia. Information on children and armed conflict can be found in Section IV.