Amnesty International Campaign ManualOUTREACH
WORKING ON CHILDREN'S HUMAN RIGHTS
To work for human rights of children today is an investment for future generations. Children suffer the full range of human rights violations. But they also have a special vulnerability, especially when they or their close relatives are targeted for abuses. The protection required by a child's particular vulnerability led AI to resolve in 1980 that it would work on the special problems concerning children falling within the mandate. This section looks at:
N Developing an outreach strategy / 242
Work on your own country / 242
Campaigning on themes and countries / 243
N Identifying outreach targets / 243
N Outreach in practice / 244
N An integrated approach / 245
N Fundraising / 246
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights being distributed at a human rights rally in Istanbul, Turkey
© Z. Aknar/Cumhuriyet Developing an outreach strategy
When doing outreach to groups working on children's rights, it is useful to expand your targets beyond those NGOs or individuals specializing in children's issues. Interest about children's rights is widespread in many parts of the world today.
Campaigning for children's rights always generates a high degree of participation by members and the public at large. Groups and networks focusing on children's rights also continue to grow.
At the time of writing there were more than 25 AI Sections with working groups for children or children's human rights networks. An International Working Group for Children (IWGC) has been established and met for the first time in March 1997. It is hoped that the IWGC will eventually represent each world region. It works in close partnership with the IS.
There is a vast field of work for AI to undertake, including its campaigning to oppose human rights violations against children, and promoting the full range of children's rights through human rights education and human rights awareness. Your campaigning and outreach strategy on children's human rights should give equal importance to activities to promote other aspects of children's rights, enabling your Section to develop a wide range of contacts with individuals and different types of NGOs.
The following are some suggested activities or aspects that may be considered when working with other NGOs and individuals for children's human rights.
Work on your own country
N Be familiar with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
N Examine whether your country's legislation and mechanisms with regards to protecting the rights of children are consistent with its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
N The Country Reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and in particular the reports from the CRC evaluating each Country Report are valuable sources of information when checking the discrepancies between government policies and the provisions of the Convention -- be it in your own country or when focusing on other countries.
N Undertake human rights education and awareness directed at children and at the different sectors of your society about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights instruments and standards.
N Support the activities of other NGOs by sharing your information, expertise and materials on human rights and the international human rights standards. (Refer to AI's guidelines on cooperation with other NGOs produced by the IS.)
N Support other NGOs when lobbying your home government at the UN and other IGO bodies on issues based on a common agenda on human rights.
Campaigning on themes and countries
N Involve your outreach contacts in UAs and campaigns on themes or countries where common interests on human rights and children are highlighted.
N Ask them to publicize AI and what we do among their own constituencies by featuring our actions and publications in their magazines, journals and gatherings.
N Ask them to introduce AI to their own contacts in other organizations.
AI's campaigning for children's rights is likely to find allies among groups working on issues concerning refugees, development issues, welfare, education, peace, domestic violence, and modern forms of slavery (such as trafficking in people and child labour). Below are some of the key sectors with which you can link. You may be able to add more sectors depending on your local situation.
N Children's rights organizations.
There are many local, national and international NGOs working on different aspects of children's rights, as well as many NGOs which, although not exclusively focused on children, may nevertheless have major concerns on children's rights. Some of these organizations might have a children's desk or committee.
N Youth and students. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to young people up to the age of 18. Those in their adolescent years are as vulnerable as young children to having their human rights violated. Young people in student campuses, religious groups and communities often identify with issues concerning other young people. When they speak on behalf of young victims of human rights, they create a distinct, powerful impact in the minds of the public and on politicians whom you want to target. They can also bring creativity, vibrancy and visibility to your work, inspiring the activist spirit in your Section.
N Teachers and academics. Such people are influential in almost all societies and are your "natural" links to schools and therefore to schoolchildren, and to students in high schools and universities. They can play an important role in teaching human rights. AI's working groups on children in some Sections are working closely with teachers and academics in the development of human rights education curricula and materials. Teachers and academics use AI's campaigning materials and stories of children who suffer violations to teach lessons of human rights to their students.
Outreach in practice
N Working with schoolchildren and teachers
One important aspect of campaigning on children's human rights is outreach to schools. This aims to create awareness among young children in your country about human rights abuses against children elsewhere.
In Denmark, human rights have been included in the school curriculum for some years and this has created a unique opportunity for the Danish Section to keep in touch with children and their teachers. Many teachers approach the Section and the specialist group on children for materials and information for their classes.
Outreach to schools sometimes produces touching and heartening scenes in AI's campaigning through the involvement of children and young people in focusing the attention of the public, including their parents, on the plight of other children.
In Ireland, during the AI Children's Week, children and youth from Dublin schools and colleges marched to the Brazilian Embassy to protest against the Candelaria massacre of street children. School children in Switzerland made flowers which were sent to children and their families who had suffered human rights violations in Brazil with a message that they were being remembered.
N Working with other sectors
Countless individuals and organizations from different sectors and backgrounds have taken part in AI's advocacy for children's rights. The initiatives of African Sections to raise awareness on the harmful effects of the genital mutilation of girl-children have produced many important results in building AI's relationships with women's and human rights NGOs in their countries.
An integrated approach
A good example of an integrated approach in tackling issues concerning children's human rights is shown by looking at why and how states can be held responsible for the harmful effects of female genital mutilation (FGM). This can be done by examining what the various international and regional human rights standards and instruments say about the issue. Such an approach opens up a number of opportunities to involve other sectors in working with AI on children's human rights.
On this particular issue, women's NGOs are involved as they are concerned with the question of FGM from the women's rights perspective. Development agencies are involved because of the need to relate to FGM as a human rights issue, which therefore becomes a development issue. Teachers and academics are involved because of the human rights education and awareness aspects of exposing the issue of FGM.
The popular appeal of images of children always boosts AI's work in many ways, but especially in fundraising. In Denmark, for example, the working group on children is self-financing. Sections who have been successful in this way have realized that care must be taken to ensure that fundraising activities that feature images of children as victims are done in conjunction with actual work on children's rights. The public are generally seen as critical of any organization that seeks to use images of children for fundraising without accompanying evidence that there is actual work being done on behalf of children.
"A child _ every child _ is another chance to get it right."
When approaching NGOs working on children's rights, care should be taken that we are not seen as imposing our agenda. An atmosphere of cooperation and learning from each other should be encouraged.
Developing standards for children's human rights
The contribution so far of the broad human rights movement that includes AI in raising the standards of human rights for children is remarkable. In 1959 the UN adopted the Declaration on the Rights of the Child which, although expressing an intention to promote the rights of the child below the age of 18, was not a binding international document. Twenty years later, in 1979, Poland took the initiative and began drafting a convention that would be binding. In 1983 a coalition of 50 NGOs, including AI, began to generate proposals for the working group of experts formed by the UN following the Poland initiative. Some of these proposals found their way into the final text of the new convention, which was approved by the UN Commission on Human Rights.
Today, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely accepted international human rights treaty, ratified by 183 of the 185 member states of the UN (the USA has signed but not ratified and Somalia has neither signed nor ratified).
The Convention considers the child a person, and children's essential needs as rights which the adult world _ individuals, families, communities and governments _ are obliged to respect and fulfil. These "children's human rights" are understood to mean that children are in need of, and have the right to protection.
Children's lives cannot be put on hold while adult society mulls over its obligations towards them.
World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 1993
"It's important to get to know and develop a sustainable working relationship with the relevant NGOS working on children. Knowing them well and what their programs are could help us in identifying the potential areas of cooperation. In Denmark, we put each other's names on our respective mailing list. We share information on initiatives and activities to profit from each other's support; to save valuable resources by avoiding overlaps and duplications; but at the same time, accepting the value of friendly competition and challenges. A couple of years ago, we participated in an exhibition directed at children (and their parents) where we shared an information stand with Save the Children and Danish Refugee Aid. We displayed and distributed materials for the public from the UNICEF which explained each article of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the ones produced by the Danish Centre for Human Rights on Children's Rights and, of course, our own."
Jan Christensen, Coordinator of the Danish Section's working group on children
During the Scout's jamboree celebrations, members of the AI youth group in Mongolia organized a week of activities to highlight AI's human rights work
Campaigning on human rights and child labour: an example
The Nelson Group of the New Zealand Section (AINZ) was allocated the Action File on the case of Iqbal Masih, a young activist against child labour in Pakistan who was murdered in suspicious circumstances in May 1995. A meeting took place between them and the local branch of the Trade Aid office, an NGO which promotes products and trade with developing countries. The meeting prompted the Trade Aid office to consider issuing a public statement that their hand-made rugs were not made by child bonded labour.
Several months later, in November, a multi-sectoral coalition of several NGOs, including the national offices of the Trade Aid Office, Christian World Service, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the Asia Pacific Workers Solidarity Links, was set up. Called the "Set the Children Free Coalition", they launched the "Stop Child Slavery" campaign and invited AINZ to join in. AI's mandate did not prevent the Section from accepting the invitation to join on a limited basis.
The campaign was launched at the parliament building and AINZ issued its own information leaflets and press statement outlining AI's's position and human rights concerns. The campaign received the support of Wools of New Zealand, a private company, and the New Zealand Employers' Federation, boosting AINZ' approaches to the business sector. Meanwhile, the Nelson Group continued with the campaigning, producing leaflets and posters about the case that were then distributed by the 35 Trade Aid shops throughout the country. They received considerable positive feedback and an unknown number of letters were sent by the public to the Pakistan authorities.
In your campaigning and outreach on children's human rights, it is always important to find the link between the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as the main instrument against which governments' performance are measured, and other international human rights instruments or standards to which governments are equally accountable.
During the 1996 campaign on Turkey, AIUK's local groups, children's rights activists, youth and students were joined by a group of international students in a colourful vigil outside the Turkish Embassy in London. Dressed in their national costumes, the students presented the Embassy with a letter from the AIUK director and a petition signed by over 43,000 people protesting against the ill-treatment and torture of Turkish children in police custody.
In August 1997, AI group 17 in Kathmandu, Nepal, organized a talk program on AI and Children's Rights. The Minister of State for Information and Communications, Rakam Chemjong, took part, together with a number of members of parliament. AI Chairman Charan Prasai said that children's rights today have been left in a shambles, and added that everyone should unite in support of the inherent rights of the child.
AI Denmark produced this sticker for use by the Danish Working Group for Children
AIUK's youth action network and Children's Human Rights Network took part in a vigil outside the Turkish Embassy in London on International Children's Day,1996. Participants presented a petition of 43,000 signatures protesting against the ill-treatment and torture of Turkish children in police custody. Taking part were children from the Atlantic College in Wales, dressed in their national costumes (left).
The Italian Section persuaded the national postal office to run a postmark with the text "International Children's Day _ 20 November 1996 _ with AI for Children's Rights".
Amnesty International Campaign Manual