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Street children at the United Nations

Our AIUK Children's Human Rights Network colleague at the Consortium for Street Children, Advocacy Officer Louise Meincke, has had a very busy year, since the creation of International Day for Street Children on April 12th, 2011.  This post details the progress that has been made on the issue of street children since then, at the UN's highest human rights body. 

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) held a special session to look at the rights of, and abuses against, street children, in March 2011, and unanimously adopted Resolution A/HRC/16/12, the first street-child specific resolution for almost 20 years.

As a result, the UNHRC invited the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to conduct a study into the promotion and protection of the rights of street children. The study was to look at challenges encountered, best practices and lessons learned with regards to the realisation of street children’s rights. The study was sponsored by Aviva, and in collaboration with UNICEF and the Consortium for Street Children.

Preliminary findings were presented in Geneva during an Expert Forum. The final OHCHR report was presented to the UNHRC on 2nd March 2012 during its 19th session.

The report makes concrete recommendations for follow up for States at a national level, including an end to street child round-ups and criminalisation of street children.

The 'criminalisation' of street children takes place when police decide to punish homeless children for what are widely known by street-child protectors as 'survival behaviours', such as sleeping rough, begging, and stealing - a practice many children resort to when they become teenagers and cannot survive alone on urban streets through begging alone.

This research reminds us that children are especially vulnerable when they come into contact with law enforcement agencies.  Follow-up studies undertaken by the above agencies reveal that all countries - rich and poor - are duty-bound to protect children that may end up sleeping rough. 

There is a belief that this issue is one that effects only developing countries. A study on street children in Britain, however, highlighted that 80 percent of the people in the UK had significantly underestimated the extent of its street children (where 100,000 children run away every year).  One-fifth of the British public feels suspicious of potential criminal activity at the sight of young people sleeping rough, and only 10 percent would feel compelled to help a young person living on the streets.  Please see the press release from the Consortium here.

In light of this excellent report and greater attention to the issue of street children at the UN in Geneva, the AIUK children's human rights network would like to remind the international human rights community that 'children's rights are human rights', and protecting children in vulnerable situations is the duty of the State, especially as almost all of them (except the US and Somalia) have signed and ratified the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.



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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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