Who Does What for Children? by Julie Ward


UN Secretary General
He can send a message to the world about the importance of collective action, eg. to ensure we as a species take care of our planet for future generations. He can point out the importance of governments, institutions, UN bodies etc modelling best practice and working together to uphold human rights and international agreements such as the Migration Compact. 

He can promote the importance of mechanisms such as COP which aim to end the despoilment of the Earth and its biodiversity. He can focus on the disparity between rich and poor with the former being the biggest polluters, and he can highlight the importance of upholding the rights of indigenous people. He can raise awareness of the increasing and unacceptable threats to human rights activists and environmental defenders. He can encourage everyone to do more to defend the planet and our human rights.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague is known as the World Court but it can only receive cases from member states of the UN and not from individuals or NGOs, etc., so it is important for Justice Ministers to use the ICJ as an instrument for justice in the case of international disputes, such as Russia’s forcible transfer of Ukrainian children away from their parents and home communities. 

However, if an individual wishes to use a legal remedy there are other courts such as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg which takes cases of infringements in Council of Europe countries, and local regional and national courts which can hear cases appertaining to domestic law.

These courts will take cases where the constitution laws fail in securing the rights of children. 

EU Commission President
She/he can publicise good laws that the EU has made and encourage better implementation at Member State level. She can acknowledge where the EU needs to do more to protect people and the planet and encourage citizens to demand more. She can instruct all Commissioners to consider their department’s contribution to cross-cutting issues such as the Green Agenda and gender equality.  

Head of State
In some countries this is a King or Queen and in some countries this is an elected President. He/she can use their status to raise awareness of issues such as climate change, child rights, literacy, poverty alleviation, etc. They can help raise money for projects to tackle issues by setting up foundations, etc. They can model best practice in the way they live as they are always in the public eye. 

Prime Minister
This is someone who leads the government of a country and whose primary role should be to take care of the people by setting out a legislative programme backed by a sustainable financial plan. The PM appoints ministers responsible for different areas of life, eg. Education Minister, Environment Minister, and gives them a budget. Ministers should consult with stakeholders about what is needed to improve life for everyone. Different campaign groups lobby government ministers to try and influence decisions such as cutting emissions to improve air quality, improving education and training, and making transport accessible. Most governments have a Child Ombudsman who champions children’s rights and listens to complaints and grievances. The Welsh Parliament (Senned) has passed a law on ‘The Well-being of Future Generations’ and created a special Commissioner to look after this important policy area.

Members of Parliament & Members of the European Parliament
These are elected representatives who are supposed to fight for improvements for the people who live in their constituency, town or region. They spend some time in parliament debating issues, attending committee meetings, writing/amending laws and voting on new and amended laws. They also spend time meeting local people and listening to their concerns. They have a responsibility to answer letters, email and telephone enquiries within a specified timeframe, eg. two weeks. Depending on their political allegiance they may not support the changes you want but you should not give up.

These can represent towns, cities, regions. Increasingly elected mayors have greater powers to effect change at local level, managing integrated efficient transport, bringing in rules to limit vehicle emissions, providing support for homeless people, etc. Mayors often have ‘flagship’ projects which means they can drive forward change, for example with regard to the Green Agenda. 

Local councillors
These are people elected to represent a local neighbourhood.  They often live/work locally and really understand the needs of their neighbours. They generally come together in political groups to govern a city/region with ‘Portfolios’ which focus on different aspects of local life, eg. waste disposal, social care, education and youth provision. They vote on budgets and in many areas have introduced ‘participatory budgeting’ which enables local people to make decisions about where the money is best spent. Local councils are well placed to take action on things like climate change and have declared ‘a climate and ecological emergency’. They can also make child rights an important part of their work by working with organisations such as Investing in Children.

School teachers, librarians, youth workers, health workers
These are people whose job it is to help take care of the social needs of children and young people, especially regarding education, play, health. Children spend a large part of their time accessing these services and often have strong views about how things could be better. UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools are a great example of how schools can better ensure children can understand and enjoy their rights. 

Family & neighbours
They are best placed to provide wrap around care and a nurturing environment, ensuring that children grow into confident caring adults with enquiring minds who are motivated to take care of the planet and each other. Children learn behaviour patterns from significant adults in their lives so we should ensure we have lifelong learning and family learning to support learning societies. Children who see adults engaged in democratic processes are more likely to vote and understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens. 

Julie Ward
Julie is a Children’s Rights Activist and a freelance arts consultant, poet and former politician, life-long learner and campaigner for social justice.

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