Independent Children’s Rights Institutions

2023 Annual Theme

Children are rights holders as recognised by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (UN, 1989). Based on its four principles (Non-Discrimination, Best interests of the child, The right to survival and development, and Respecting the views of the child) the Convention poses obligations on state parties to protect, promote and fulfil their rights, including by undertaking all appropriate measures for the implementation of children's rights (Art 4). Independent Children's Rights Institutions (ICRIs) are an important mechanism to promote and ensure the implementation of the CRC, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child considers the establishment of such bodies to fall within the commitment made by States parties upon ratification to ensure the implementation of the CRC and advance the realisation of children's rights. The Committee's General Comment No.2 encourages States parties to establish an independent institution for the promotion and monitoring of implementation of the CRC and to support them in this regard by elaborating the essential elements and the activities such institutions should carry out.

While diverse in form, powers, and national climate in which they operate, ICRIs share the common objective of protecting and promoting children's rights, especially in a context where children still need to rely on adults' support to uphold their rights and access to justice and remedies when their rights are violated.

Children are more and more active and vocal in demanding the respect and fulfilment of their rights. However, they consistently need allies to make their voices heard. ICRIs have the power to fill in the gap between children and authorities and support their participation in decision-making. This essential role is sometimes unknown or not approached by children and young people, due to low visibility, accessibility, child-friendliness or limited powers/capacity of the institution. The strengthening of ICRIs across different dimensions was indeed the focus of ENOC 2023 research, which aimed at uncovering the current state of functioning of ENOC members and finding ways forward to advance and protect children's rights more effectively.

A special Working Group, chaired by the Children's Rights Commissioner of Belgium (Flanders), led the work on the ENOC annual theme, supported by the experts Prof. Ursula Kilkelly and Dr. Katrien Klep. The research consisted of presenting an overview of the structure, standing and powers of ENOC members, first through a survey administration across ENOC membership and then by conducting optional one-to-one in-depth interviews. During the Spring Seminar held in May 2023 in Stockholm, Sweden, a preliminary presentation of the findings of the research took place, along with a round of discussion on the ENOC position statement on "Strengthening Independent Children's Rights Institutions and recognising their unique role".

Alongside the research conducted at the ENOC level, the ENYA (European Network of Young Advisors) child participation project had children from 18 member countries/regions draft recommendations on how ICRIs' accessibility, visibility, engagement and powers can be increased and improved.

More information on the ENYA 2023 project HERE.

The final event - the ENOC 27th Annual Conference "The Strength of Independent Children's Rights Institutions: Upholding Children's Rights in Europe" - of the annual policy focus area took place on 19-20 September 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. It brought together Ombudspersons and Commissioners for Children from across Europe, 18 Young Advisors from ENYA, representatives of key European and International Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations, governmental authorities from Belgium (Flanders), experts and stakeholders working in the children's rights field. The main outcome - the 2023 policy position statement on "Strengthening ICRIs and recognising their unique role" informed by the research and the ENYA recommendations - was approved by the 27th ENOC General Assembly held on 21st September 2023 in Brussels.