To ensure effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, so that children really benefit from the protection it gives, practical indicators, based on reliable statistical or other data-gathering methods, are required. These must be easy to collect, interpret and use, not only for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, but also for UNICEF and specialised agencies of the United Nations as well as national governments and the NGO community.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has called for indicators related to the various articles of the Convention, that could meet some basic requirements such as validity, objectivity, sensitivity, comparability, accuracy and disaggregation, and has appealed to the UN system, NGOs and the research community for assistance.

Childwatch International has designed a project to meet the needs expressed by the Committee that will analyse further specific needs for indicators to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and suggest how the status of the various rights could be expressed through objective data. Through a series of country case studies, the project is developing a strategy for identification and development of the appropriate indicators.

Through the involvement of national research teams in the case studies as well as in its overall development, the project is contributing to capacity building within child research and child welfare in the participating countries. It is characteristic of the project that it does not impose a set of universal guidelines but has established a framework and a process through which country case study teams are able to develop protocols for data collection and indicator development that are relevant to regional. national and local situations. Although a core set of universal indicators will eventually be developed this will not be before the universals of bio- psychological child development have been clarified.

The results of the project are being presented in Country Case Study Reports, to be published as a series in collaboration with the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge (UK), where the project is based, together with two companion volumes: an introductory volume and a final Summary Report that will combine the results and experiences of the study as a whole, with recommendations for future actions and activities. Manuals and other appropriate training materials on the process of developing and using indicators based on easily-available quantitative and qualitative data in the monitoring of the Convention for use by governments, communities, NGOs and child rights advocates will also be produced.

The project is designed to fit into the overall process within the field of human rights to develop indicators for use in monitoring the various international human rights treaties, particularly the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

The project also relates closely to relevant developments within the field of child welfare and child directed development assistance. It is drawing upon the experience of UNICEF to develop indicators relevant to its mandate, as well as child related activities of other UN agencies, research institutes and non-governmental organisations.

The project is coordinated by Childwatch International in close consultation with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF and other UN agencies, the academic community and relevant international NGOs in the field of child welfare and child directed development assistance. The project began in August 1994 and is expected to extend over a three year period.

Thus far the Senegal Country Case Study is complete and a local follow-up committee is in place to coordinate future development of the project nationally. The studies in Vietnam and Nicaragua have been completed and monitoring processes have been set in train in both countries. A country case study in Thailand is well under way and that in Zimbabwe has begun. Once funding is secure, the project should also take place in Belgium and Venezuela. Plans for a study in Ukraine (which has replaced Armenia in the overall plan) are still in a very early stage. Nevertheless, other countries have already expressed an interest in using the Childwatch approach to children’s rights indicators. In addition, the project has aroused considerable interest at a number of levels, as well as uncovering some interesting new areas of investigation. This has resulted in plans for a number of associated future activities.