The collaboration with the Julius-Leber-Schule in Hamburg began with an Erasmus+ project, called sustain.me, which was attended by the head of our children’s rights department, Samia Kassid, in the early summer of last year. As part of sustain.me, second-level students from Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain came together to work together on the project on sustainability.
From the 28 – 30 November the World Future Council (WFC) hosted an international child rights conference in Zanzibar to explore the positive impacts of Zanzibar’s Children’s Act and share success stories on child protection, child friendly justice and participation from around the world. Representatives of ministries and policymakers from 12 countries, mainly from Africa and Asia, alongside experts on children’s rights and representatives from civil society drew up the Zanzibar Declaration on Securing Children’s Rights, committing themselves to taking strong action to eradicate all forms of violence against girls and boys. The assembly greatly benefited from the expertise and passion of two WFC Councillors Dr. Gertrude Ibengwé Mongella, former President of the Pan-African Parliament and Dr. Auma Obama, Chair and Founder of the Sauti Kuu Foundation.
Securing Child Rights in Zanzibar
Some of the loudest applause at our recent international gathering of child rights policy-makers in Zanzibar came after the representative from Indonesia took to the floor to list his key priorities for progress on child rights law: “implementation, implementation and implementation!” he boomed to a receptive audience. That this struck a chord with the assembled delegates is testament to the long history of good laws on paper and poor on-the-ground enactment that still plagues child rights policies around the world. It was to tackle this problem that over 100 participants from 15 countries were gathered by the World Future Council in Zanzibar last month, eager to learn and share best practice. We came to see for ourselves how this semi-autonomous island region of Tanzania had made some decisive moves to deliver real progress in how children experience justice and protection.
This was well illustrated by a series of field trips our visiting international legislators made to Zanzibar’s new or improved child rights institutions. One of the striking things you immediately notice is the child-friendly atmosphere that has been created throughout the system. At the new Children’s Court murals adorn the walls, staff dress in civilian clothes and closed circuit video links mean young people can give evidence in a non-threatening environment. The new One Stop Centres, which comprise a 3-room unit of plain clothed police officers, medical personnel and counsellors who provide health, legal and psychosocial services to survivors of violence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, reduce the trauma of victims of abuse to a minimum while streamlining the collection of evidence and the provision of care.
Another clear feature of the system is coordination. The National Child Protection Unit (NCPU), is the coordinating agency responsible for the implementation of the national strategy. A small team coordinates responses across governmental sectors (social welfare, health, education, justice, etc.), and involves civil society, international agencies, families and children to ensure that child justice and protection is being delivered effectively. Similarly a new Child Rights Centre serves as a hub for civil society organisations working in the field of child rights, identifying gaps in training and filling them. From here the ‘Baba Bora’ (“good father”) campaign is run to engage fathers, men and boys in changing attitudes and behaviours toward women and children, promote gender equality and transform traditional beliefs and norms in order to promote non-violence. The campaign has got the islanders talking with local exhibitions on children’s views on positive parenting, public debates and even a popular R&B song promoting the message.
Of course, there is much still to do in Zanzibar to fully operationalise its child rights laws and action plans and ensure that the rights of children are truly safeguarded. But for many of us who have seen the system first-hand, the innovations and progress made were impressive, particularly given Zanzibar’s limited resources. If anything, it is the system-wide approach that can serve as a model for others. So why has similar progress been so slow in some other parts of the region?
“Because children don’t vote often the political class ignores them altogether”
Part of the answer is certainly the cost. Across the African continent, children represent close 50% of the population, but this does not translate into them becoming a priority in national planning and resourcing decisions. In fact as Dr. Nkatha Murungi from the African Child Policy Forum noted “Because children don’t vote often the political class ignores them altogether”. When there is funding and resourcing available, too much is dependent on external development partners.
Child protection services in the context of Africa require long term and sustainable investment in the social welfare workforce and developing an effective system and this doesn’t come cheap. The Zanzibar national plan of action will cost $4m annually over the next four years. But it’s clear that adequate budgeting is a crucial instrument for advancing the survival, protection and development of children, particularly in the case in Africa where there are huge unmet needs for access to basic services.
It’s also clear that there can be no better way of spending resources, no matter how scarce, than on our youngest citizens. After all investing in children is investing in the success of our collective future. Whether nations and societies grow and prosper will depend to a large extent on the health, education, protection and the ideas and innovations of the coming generations. We have a huge opportunity to make progress on child rights through the global sustainable development goals (SDGs) whether on poverty (Goal 1), hunger (Goal 2), health (Goal 3), education (Goal 4), gender equality (Goal 5), climate change (Goal 13) or violence against children (Goal 16.2). There’s also no time to lose; 1 year is 6% of a childhood. Any delay in protecting their interests is a lost opportunity. Let’s get to it!
This article by Jakob von Uexull was originally posted on his HuffPost blog
World Future Council organizes international child rights conference in Zanzibar with high-level political participants from across Africa and Asia
Hamburg/Zanzibar, 27th November 2017: The World Future Council (WFC) is organizing an international conference to exchange best practices and policies to tackle violence against children and youths. The conference is taking place in Zanzibar from 28 th to 30 th November. High-level policy-makers from across Africa, as well as Indonesia, Seychelles and Mauritius, are attending the conference. Zanzibar will host the conference as the winner of the World Future Council’s 2015 Future Policy Award, also known as the “Oscar for best policies”, for its Children’s Act. Read more
Sharing best practice and policy on child protection, justice and participation
Realising every child’s right to freedom from violence and to participation is a fundamental element of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Recent estimates show that at least one billion children are victims of violence every year. Violence against girls and boys in all its forms compromises all children’s rights and leaves not only long-lasting scars on children’s lives but also weakens social and economic progress.
In 2009, Tanzania and its semi-autonomous island region of Zanzibar was one of the first countries in Africa to undertake a national study on violence against children. In response to its findings, and to streamline national child rights legislation, the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar introduced a comprehensive children’s rights law. Zanzibar’s ‘Children’s Act’ was awarded the gold prize at our 2015 Future Policy Awards for its effective response to child abuse and violence and for its promotion and protection of child rights.
Following up on the awarding, the World Future Council is now organizing an international child rights conference in November in Zanzibar, offering participants, nominated by their ministries, from across Africa and internationally a platform to learn from the Zanzibar example and exchange best practice examples from their home countries.
Aims of the conference:
… to offer insights from Zanzibar’s Child Protection System and the Children’s Act to policy makers and technical experts from other jurisdictions
… to exchange best practice examples from countries across Africa and internationally on topics such as child rights, participation, child justice, protection and positive discipline
… to provide a platform and learn from each other and to mutually improve policies, practices and impacts for the benefit of children and young people, particularly those that are vulnerable
… to strengthen synergies and networks for multi-stakeholder dialogue and promote the ongoing improvement of child rights laws and policies through cross-border learning.
… to identify opportunities, trends and success factors for policy reform and progress in the child rights arena
Context of the conference:
With its specific target (16.2) on ending all forms of violence against children, ensuring their safety and protection as well as reiterating their rights to access justice and information, the 2030 Agenda adds further strong international impetus to ending violence against children. Good child rights laws, policies and practices and their effective implementation play a crucial role in meeting these aims and targets.
In the recent years, Zanzibar is increasingly working on the implementation of empowerment of children and women. A pioneering feature of the drafting phase of Zanzibar’s ‘Children’s Act’ was a child consultation process which provided young people with a strong role in the law’s development and led to a greater societal understanding of children’s rights. Another successful feature was the involvement of a wide range of relevant stakeholders (ministries, religious leaders, civil society groups etc) in the drafting phase and thereafter.
To promote a conducive policy environment to address child protection in Zanzibar a National Plan of Action to end violence against women and children (NAPVAC) (2011-2015), a national campaign and a child justice reform process were also undertaken. A very recent (2017) National Plan of Action to end Violence Against Women and Children (2017-2022) has also been introduced. Zanzibar’s Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUZIII) stresses the importance of empowering women, protecting children, promoting gender equality and equity; all critical factors for Zanzibar’s economic and social transformation.
We hear a lot these days about the need to include children in decisions that affect them, but it’s a real pleasure when there’s a genuine commitment to participation that leads to positive real world impacts for children. It’s even more impressive when this commitment comes from a place with limited budgets and no shortage of alternative competing priorities. Such is the case in Zanzibar with its innovative Children’s Act (2011).
The World Future Council’s Rights of Children team will be in Zanzibar next week to explore the islands’ comprehensive child rights approach which has led to a marked change in attitude towards children. Zanzibar’s Children’s Act was the gold award winner of the WFC’s 2015 Future Policy Award and used a pioneering community-level child participation process to find out what Zanzibari children wanted to see in the Act. We’ll be working to help other countries follow Zanzibar’s lead in the coming months.
For the next 10 days, the bustling city of Marrakech will host a small army of government negotiators, NGO representatives and business delegates for COP 22, a huge international follow-up conference that aims to build on the scaffolding of 2015’s historic Paris Agreement on climate change. Read more
From 12-14 October the World Future Council hosted a workshop in Annapolis, Maryland for representatives of education and environmental ministries from around the world, to explore the positive impacts of the state’s Environmental Literacy (E-lit) Standards. Participants from five continents came together to see Maryland’s pioneering policy in action but also share their own experiences and success stories in pursuing environmental educations in their home countries.
The link between children’s rights and well-being and the environment is now beyond doubt, and was recently discussed as an urgent point of action at the UN-Committee on the Rights of the Child at which we raised Maryland’s environmental education model as a best practice example. Access to a healthy environment is vital for children’s physical and mental health.
Maryland became the first US State to make environmental literacy a mandatory high-school graduation requirement in 2011, a policy for which we awarded the Silver Future Policy Award 2015. This environmental education requirement has fostered the integration of environmental content in varied ways and in subjects across the curriculum from Kindergarten through to graduation. It has also strengthened the cooperation between outdoor education providers and schools to ensure that every child has regular meaningful experiences in nature.
The link between children’s rights and well-being and the environment is now beyond doubt, and was recently discussed as an urgent point of action at the UN-Committee on the Rights of the Child at which we raised Maryland’s environmental education model as a best practice example. Access to a healthy environment is vital for children’s physical and mental health. In the face of climate change and widespread environmental degradation and pollution, many children are already experiencing adverse effects such as chronic respiratory problems, asthma and behaviour disorders. In many countries we are witnessing the first generation of children largely growing up indoors. Too often the experience of childhood has become disconnected from the natural world. As several of the delegates in Maryland noted this can have serious impacts for both children and nature: you do not protect what you do not know.
Maryland’s environmental literacy standards with its focus on hands-on outdoor learning offers a wide variety of benefits for students – enhancing engagement, raising test scores, and increasing well-being – as well as the local environment and wider society. The workshop, hosted in cooperation with the Maryland’s Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) and the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, allowed delegates the chance to join a broad range of field experiences with Maryland school kids testing river pollution levels and relating the findings to surrounding land use, identifying wildlife and plant species in the Chesapeake bay ecosystem and conducting experiments to learn about the importance of oysters for water quality. These rich experiences added to three days of fruitful exchange and insightful discussions, on environmental education best practice from both the agencies, NGOs and champions delivering it on the ground in Maryland and the international delegations that took part.
Our task now is to apply the lessons we have all learnt and work with this vibrant network of legislators to help spread elements of this proven policy into national and local curricula around the globe.
Hamburg/Annapolis, October 28: Environmental education programmes could be key to the long-term fight against the devastating impacts of climate change, say a group of representatives of education and environmental ministries from around the world, recently convened by the World Future Council (WFC) in Annapolis, Maryland, USA. Read more