Today, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights are hosting a follow-up meeting to last year’s successful Day of General Discussion on Protecting and Empowering Children as Human Rights Defenders.
This was the first ever-global discussion recognising that children are activists and campaigners for human rights, and need to be respected and protected as such. It was also the first time that children played a central role as speakers, moderators and participants, on an equal footing with adults at the UN.
Today’s meeting provides a space to discuss the DGD recommendations and agree on a roadmap to support their implementation.
Miga, our child rights activist from Mongolia, is in Geneva for this meeting and will be speaking about laws, policies, and their impact on child rights. Miga identifies herself as a human rights defender and works alongside Save the Children to campaign for child rights. Miga and other children are following up on next steps. She is joining Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Sigurd Johns, Save the Children Child Rights Director, to build a roadmap based on the Day of General Discussion recommendations on what needs to be done to empower and protect children like Miga.
We spoke to Miga just before the conference to ask her about her life as a child rights defender and what she hopes adults would do for the future for children.
What are some of the main issues children have to face in Mongolia?
There are many problems Mongolian children face. Adults do many things to helf protect children’s rights. But children know their problems best. But, in fact, when children talk about their problems, and try to protect other children’s rights, they often don’t know how to protect themselves. So I think protecting child rights defenders can be a problem.
Why did you decide to defend child rights?
I read about children’s rights convention when I was 14 years old. And once I knew about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I realized that Mongolia had some problems. For example, hitting children is common here, but I realized it was against their rights. And I want everyone to understand that.
Do adults listen to you?
Some adults think that children should just respect people who are older than them. And they don’t don’t want children to tell them how to do their job. But if children keep participating and speaking up, they will listen more.
How can adults change to listen better to children?
Adults should understand why it is important to listen to children. If they listen, they will know what they should do for children’s welfare. Also, they need to realize that children have very valuable ideas and advice that they need to take seriously.
What more can children do to ensure that their voices are heard?
Children need to support each other. Today you might see other children’s rights are violated, but tomorrow it could be you. For example, other children have supported Greta Thunberg, so now everyone knows that climate change is a world problem not just a Swedish problem.
6. What are the barriers or risks faced by child human rights defenders?
There are three main points. First, we need legal protection for human rights defenders. Second, the public needs to value human rights defenders, and third they need to understand that the work of human rights defenders protects everyone’s rights.
What are your expectations regarding the meeting in Geneva?
At the meeting I will say that Mongolian children fully agree with Michel Forst’s recommendations and we want the Mongolian Government to act on these recommendations. Also, personally, I am looking forward to the experience of an international meeting, and also to talking with child rights defenders from other countries and learning from them.