On the occasion of the 80th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child from January 14th to February 1st, 2018, BICE Secretary General, Alessandra Aula, was present at the United Nations in Geneva to defend the cause of children.
At the end of this session, she was interviewed by Christian Peschken, independent correspondent at the United Nations in Geneva for EWTN-TV. Our Secretary General recalled the main principles of the Convention and took stock of the conditions of the rights of the child worldwide.
C. Peschken: Is your Catholic organisation able to influence the drafting of texts for the rights of the childat the United Nations?
BICE was involved in the drafting of the Convention. We were one of the pioneer NGOs in accompanying this process. Therefore, there are a number of articles in the Convention that reflect BICE values; for example, the attention paid to the dignity of the child or the child considered from a holistic point of view, including his or her moral and spiritual dimension.
Nowadays, of course, we continue working with the Committee. We make sure our partners in the field meet Committee members and provide them with first-hand and reliable information. In my opinion, these testimonies have a high weight and strength of conviction.
We have recently worked with our partner in Georgia Public Health Foundation of Georgia (PHFG) in the fight against sexual exploitation and violence. Our advocacy efforts allowed BICE and PHFG recommendations to be incorporated into the final conclusions of the Committee. These recommendations focus on the helpline for child victims of violence that is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including in the most remote rural areas. And one year later, the government changed the legislation in this respect.
This is just an example of how the field, the advocacy initiatives we have been carrying out here (at the United Nations) and the Committee are useful and can bring about changes. Because at the end, this is what we work for: changes in legislation, public policies, and more substantial budgets at the national level.
From your experience, are children willing to respond and collaborate with organisations like yours for example, or with the Committee on the Rights of the Child or the UN?
As you know, article 12 of the Convention recognises the right of children to be heard according to their age and level of maturity. […] Nevertheless, we have to be careful not to politicise nor manipulate them. Indeed, some groups may be tempted to encourage the child to say what they want him or her to say and not exactly what the child wants to say.
This has to be a real focus of attention for us. What are the criteria for selecting children? Why choosing a child from this community rather than from that one? As stated in the Convention, it is important to hear the voice of children, to involve them, to raise them in a culture of rights, with solidarity and respect for their peers, for their family, for the school… But, it is important to find the right formula to promote child participation if we want to avoid any risk of manipulation.
From your point of view, how does it look nowadays with the implementation of the rights of the child worldwide?
A culture of rights has developed in the last 30 years. There have been improvements in terms of national legislations, national codes on the rights of the child have been adopted, as well as public policies that did not exist 30 years ago. The other point is that, we, as NGOs, can now call upon States and urge them to take steps in favour of the rights of the child as these States voluntarily ratified the Convention.
Now, have we been successful on all sides? There is still a long way to go. There are still cultural barriers. We still have to raise awareness among the judiciary, children themselves, parents, and teachers of the creation of a “well-treating” environment and the development of a child-friendly living conditions.