The UN General Comment on Street Children is published

Posted on the 21st July 2017

Article by Jo Griffin

The UN General Comment on Children in Street Situations has been published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, a year after children taking part in the Street Child Games took part in a session to share their experiences and thoughts at the highest level.

Their strong wish to have the opportunity to improve their own situations, which emerged from that session, is reflected in the words, “Give us the chance to change our story”, included in the introduction to the UN General Comment, published on June 21.

The General Comment gives all those working with street children a high-level tool with which to hold their governments to account for not implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The Convention on the Rights of the Child has been signed by every country in the world bar one [the US] but governments have always told us, ‘we can’t apply this convention to street children because it is too difficult.’ The General Comment will enable us to show them exactly how to implement it line by line,” said Caroline Ford, CEO, Consortium for Street Children.

Speaking at Street Child United’s third Global Summit in June, before publication of the UN General Comment, Ford said it would be a powerful weapon in the armoury of NGOs and other organisations working to protect the rights of the most vulnerable children worldwide.

Usha from India contributes to the General Comment at the Street Child Games 2016

The CSC worked for five years to secure the UN General Comment. With a network of more than 100 members, it consulted more than 1,000 street-connected children in more than 40 countries to put forward their views on their needs and experiences. The young people from nine countries that took part in last year’s Street Child Games, a mini Olympics and Congress for street-connected children in Rio de Janeiro, also contributed feedback to the process.

Now the real work starts, said Ford, stressing that the CSC would analyse the UN General Comment, once published, and then advise its members how to use it to approach governments in their countries. It’s not a new law, she stressed, but a clarification on laws that almost all governments have already signed up to.

 

Florence Soyekwo and America Argumedo from Retrak, Uganda and Casa Alianza, Mexico. Photo by Malachy McCrudden.

 

At the summit delegates discussed the difficulty of getting an up to date overview of the situation of street-connected children because of inadequate data. The UN total of 150 million street children is often quoted, but no one really knows if this figure is a realistic estimate.

We need to turn that question [how many street children are there?] on its head, said Ford. Governments must include street children in their census.

“We need to ask governments, ‘these are your citizens, why don’t you know how many of them are on the streets?”

Caroline Ford, CEO, Consortium for Street Children

Duncan Ross, of StreetInvest, which supports a global network of street workers, said the organisation had developed a methodology for enumerating street children, and how to count what are known as “the missing millions” – the estimated 750 million children who do not even have a birth certificate.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 16.9 requires states to “provide legal identity for all, including birth registration”, which is key to securing a raft of basic rights, Ross said.

This year’s Summit welcomed NGOs that are preparing to bring young people in their care to represent their countries at the next Street Child World Cup in Moscow 2018.

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