UNICEF– International Child Development Centre


Children’s rights has been one of the main programme areas of the
UNICEF International Child Development Centre in Florence since the
Centre’s establishment in 1988. With the remarkably rapid and
widespread ratification of the 1989 United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child, the setting of end-decade goals at the 1990 World
Summit for Children, and the on-going preparation of National
Programmes of Action (NPAs) to realize these goals on a
country-by-country basis, work in this area has become increasingly
urgent. The Centre’s Child Rights Programme seeks to promote the
effective implementation of several important articles of the
Convention. Initial research has focused on the general principles
contained in the Convention’s ‘umbrella provisions’, particularly
Articles 2, 3 and 4. A number of thematic areas are also being
explored, such as issues relating to child labour (Articles 32) as
well as the psychosocial effects of war on children (Articles 38 and
39). More broadly, the Centre is investigating mechanisms for
monitoring the protection of children’s rights, examining successful
strategies and techniques of decentralization relating to NPAs, and
supporting the development of a children’s rights information network.

Article 2: Non-discrimination.

The United Nations Committee
on the Rights of the Child has indicated that it will direct
considerable attention to the provisions of Article 2, requiring
States Parties to take positive action to protect children from all
forms of discrimination. The Centre’s Children of Minorities project
seeks to contribute to efforts being made, not only by the Committee
but at all levels of society, to break the vicious circle of
intolerance, discrimination, exploitation and destruction of cultural

Initial project work involves case studies on specific
child populations of ethnic minorities, immigrants and indigenous
peoples, mainly in Europe and Latin America. The project is also
undertaking comparative analyses of legislation and enforcement
mechanisms, and assessments of effective programmes addressing the
needs of the children of minority or indigenous groups. Outputs may
include social indicators to measure the progress of these children,
field guides or handbooks for practitioners, and possibly, in
co-production with other groups, several video productions addressing
critical issues.

Article 3: Best interests of the child.

The research results
of the project on “the best interests of the child”, based on this
principle in Article 3, are explored in a book entitled The Best
Interests of the Child: Reconciling Culture and Human Rights,
published by Oxford University Press in association with ICDC. The
book examines both legal-conceptual dimensions and practical
applications of the “best interests” principle, especially in Africa,
Asia and Europe, in very different socio-legal traditions and cultural
contexts. It is also anticipated that a separate volume of essays on
the best interests of the child in the southern Africa region may
emerge from this project. Several of the publications resulting from
this initiative are expected to be especially well suited for
educational or training purposes, ranging from teaching materials for
law faculties to those more useful for programmes for paralegal
workers or other practitioners concerned with children’s rights. The
Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed particular interest
in this study to help guide its review of reports submitted by States

Article 4: Implementation of rights.

The Child Rights
Programme has also focused on the resource implications of
implementing the Convention, dealing especially with the clause in
Article 4 concerning States’ obligations and “the maximum [allocation]
of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework
of international co-operation”. This project is seen both as a
research undertaking, intended to enhance the prospects for effective
implementation of the Convention, and as a contribution to
strengthening the capacity of UNICEF and some of its major allies for
work in the area of children’s rights. Of particular interest in this
regard is the effort to encourage a highly complementary relationship
between implementation of the Convention and the work!including
resource planning!on the post-Summit NPAs. A paper on this
relationship has been published in the International Journal of
Children’s Rights. A number of Occasional Papers have been also
produced, exploring resource issues relating to the children’s rights
to health, nutrition, education and protection from exploitation.
These studies will be incorporated in a book, to be published in 1995,
and may also be summarized in the popular Innocenti Studies series. In
addition to the publications emanating from this project, the
principal contributors are participating actively in seminars,
professional meetings, training sessions or other events in an effort
to ensure that the experience gained and materials produced are widely
shared with others concerned with the Convention.

Articles 32: Child labour.

A new initiative at the Centre
concerns the provisions in Article 32 that commit States Parties to
protect children from exploitative labour. The project recognizes
explicitly the close link between eliminating child labour and the
goal adopted at the 1990 World Summit for Children of expanding basic
and more relevant education, especially primary education. It also
takes into account, however, that some children, including in the
vulnerable 12-14 age-group, will need to work, either to continue
their education or to provide financial support for their families
(which in increasing numbers of cases are female-headed). A major
policy issue is how to make the educational opportunities for these
working children not only more consistent with their everyday
realities, but also more relevant and promising in terms of the
enhancement of their options for their future. The project will seek a
better understanding of the effects of work on children and their
families, including the important issue of the extent of reliance of
low-income families on income generated by children. This project has
been initiated first in the Latin America and Caribbean Region, with
partial support provided by the Government of Sweden and with the
cooperation of the International Labour Organisation.

The Centre and its host institution, the Istituto degli Innocenti,
have also launched a project documenting historical experiences with
reducing child labour, mainly in Europe, but also in one or two
developing countries. The study will span the early 19th and the
mid-20th centuries, a period that saw the promulgation of child labour
laws removing children from the labour force and the introduction of
legislation for universal and compulsory primary education. An
historical perspective is seen as particularly worthwhile since the
legislation and experiences of the industrialized countries in child
labour regulation have significantly influenced approaches in many
developing countries.

Articles 38 and 39: Armed conflicts and rehabilitative care.

Another project under way at the Centre concerns the protection,
rehabilitation and social reintegration of child victims of armed
conflicts and other forms of violence. The case for the Centre’s
playing a role in this complex area is closely related to the
increasing extent to which UNICEF and its United Nations partners are
being drawn into difficult and often controversial actions relating to
humanitarian relief during and after violent conflicts. There are,
moreover, compelling moral and other arguments for UNICEF to do
everything possible to strengthen its own capacity and that of key
cooperating institutions in an enhanced effort to address the critical
problems of children and women affected by these violent events. The
Centre’s main contribution, in terms of its concern for children’s
rights, will be to support research, policy analysis and programme
strategy formulation, perhaps combined with training support, relating
especially to the psychosocial rehabilitation and expanded educational
opportunities for children affected by war, violence or displacement.
An exploratory set of activities, concerned especially with the
situation of children and women in the Horn of Africa, has been
initiated with other parts of UNICEF.

Monitoring the rights of children

A recent Innocenti Global
Seminar on ‘Monitoring the Protection of Children’s Rights’ identified
monitoring as one of the most powerful weapons available to ensure
that the trust of current and future generations of children entitled
to the protection of the Convention is not betrayed. A distinction was
made between monitoring as a ‘watchdog’ function and monitoring as a
measuring and social planning instrument that allows evaluation to be
made of how an intervention is progressing and what impact it is
having. The Seminar recognized the importance of monitoring children’s
rights at all levels of society, and the need for monitoring to be
carried out by many players, including by governments,
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media, the private sector,
UNICEF and other concerned international organizations, and, of
course, the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Future work of the
Centre will involve participation in international and regional
conferences and workshops, aimed at experience-sharing and
capacity-building for monitoring.

Decentralization of National Programmes of Action.

The Centre
is also analysing successful strategies and techniques of
decentralization relating to NPAs. As of 29 September 1994, 147
countries have finalized or are preparing NPAs as part of the
commitments made at the 1990 World Summit for Children. Their next
challenge will be the formulation of Local Programmes of Action at
city, municipal and regional levels. Decentralization is especially
important because it will enable politicians, public officials, NGOs
and communities to become more aware of children’s issues and more
directly involved in achieving Summit goals. The ICDC study is
focusing primarily on country experiences in Africa, Asia and Latin
America. Specific issues addressed include: ways of increasing
planning and participation at the local level; methods and techniques
for decentralizing NPAs (e.g. use of statistics, definition and use of
local indicators, and monitoring); social mobilization;
decentralization of financial resources; and organization and
management. The study responds to needs expressed in many fora,
including by mayors and other local leaders, for effective strategies
for municipal planning and action to achieve the goals for children in
the 1990s.

Children’s rights information base.

Information is widely
accepted as the single most powerful and effective tool in promoting
and upholding human rights, including the rights of children. To make
informed decisions concerning children, policy makers, international
bodies and civil society need to have access to current, reliable and
relevant information from many disciplines and from many sources
throughout the world. As one step in this direction, the Centre has
been involved in developing an effective user-oriented international
children’s rights information system. Working with international and
regional partners, the Centre will initially play a facilitating role
by (a) stimulating the development of internationally accepted
information-handling tools and building up an organizational database
on children’s rights through surveys of intergovernmental
organizations, NGOs and academic institutes; (b) promoting networking
arrangements that actively involve developing countries; and (c)
strengthening its own database on children’s rights and production and
dissemination of reference tools on children’s rights information.
Other information products currently being developed include the first
in a series of “essential readings” on children’s rights topics and a
glossary of children’s rights terminology. As in many areas of the
Centre’s work, the scope of future outreach services such as these
will depend on the extent of additional resources that may become

International Child Development Centre
Piazza SS. Annunziata 12
50122 Florence

tel: 39-55-234 5258
fax: 39-55-244 817

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