42. Children experience difficulties different from
those of adults in benefiting from full enjoyment of their human
rights. These difficulties involve systemic problems of philosophy,
culture and understanding. They also derive from the lack of a
rights-based approach to children, ignorance among children themselves
that they are entitled to human rights protection and insufficient
meaningful participation by children in decisions that affect
them. In important respects, children are not as equal as adults,
notwithstanding the requirement in Article 2 of the CRC for the
Government to "take all appropriate measures to ensure that
the child is protected against all forms of discrimination".
Children are vulnerable to exploitation and oppression in ways
that adults are not.
43. We conclude that the Government's arguments for
further delay do not carry conviction. We
recommend that the Government declare now its commitment to the
principle of establishing a children's commissioner for England.
But we recognise that because the child
population of England is four times that of Northern Ireland,
Scotland and Wales put together, a different approach and structure
may be needed.
44. We recommend the establishment of a
children's commissioner who would be a champion for the children
of England, independent from but working closely with central
government and other agencies. The commissioner would use the
principles of the CRC as a guide and measure in considering delivery
of services to children by government and public authorities,
and would involve children as much as was appropriate in its work.
The commissioner would pursue children's interests by promotion,
advocacy and investigation. The commissioner would carefully select
issues for investigation where it was felt these could make a
difference to children, in partnership with NGOs, experts and
service providers. The commissioner should not be empowered to
investigate complaints from individual children but would be able
to work with existing advice and assistance services maintained
by other organisations to monitor policy implications of issues
raised by children.
45. We favour a separate, identifiable
champion for children. The work of the commissioner should be
grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, but
it is clear that those who advocate the establishment of this
office want it to go wider than a purely rights-based approach,
operating as a spur to better co-ordination of children's services
and an advocate within Government of the child's viewpoint.
46. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of
the Child recently commented
Specialist independent human rights institutions
for children, ombudspersons or commissioners for children's rights
have been established in a growing number of States parties. Where
resources are limited, consideration must be given to ensuring
that the available resources are used most effectively for the
promotion and protection of everyone's human rights, including
children's; and in this context, development of a broad-based
NHRI including a specific focus on children is likely to constitute
the best approach. A broad-based National Human Rights Institution
should include within its structure either an identifiable Commissioner
specifically responsible for children's Rights or a specific section
or division responsible for Children's Rights.
It is the view of the Committee that every State
needs an independent human rights institution with responsibility
for promoting and protecting children's rights. The Committee's
principal concern is that the institution, whatever its form is
able to independently and effectively monitor, promote and protect
children's rights. It is essential that promotion and protection
of children's rights is "mainstreamed" and that all
human rights institutions existing in a country work closely together
to this end.
47. For practical reasons, as well as considerations
of principle, we consider that the children's commissioner for
England will need to be closely linked in some way with the wider
human rights commission we have already proposed in our Sixth
Report. There is the potential to make shared use of some support
services. This practical arrangement should not, in our view,
compromise the role of a commissioner as an independent champion
for the children of England.
48. That champion is not a substitute for government
mechanisms, not a replacement for NGOs, advisory services and
charities, and will not have power to usurp parents. A children's
commissioner is not the answer to all the problems children face
but it can be a channel through which the voice of children can
be heard more clearly. An independent human rights institution
for children is, we believe, a necessary catalyst for change,
not a sufficient excuse for others to neglect their responsibilities
to respect and advance the rights of the child.
68 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child,
General Comment No. 2, 4 October 2002, paras 6 and 7 Back