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Amnesty Children's Human Rights Network ran a year long campaign to encourage the UK Government to sign up to 'Optional Protocol 3' of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

 

The Problem

The 'Convention on the Rights of the Child' (CRC) recognises that Children have particular circumstances that require the specific codification of their rights - and some additional rights. (UNICEF have a wonderful summary document for more information.)

The convention is the most quickly signed and ratified international rights treaty ever. States all over the world promised to protect and respect the rights of children, as set out in the convention.

So far so good - but unlike most Human Rights treaties - the 'right to complain' is not part of the main convention. Instead, it is an additional, 'optional' protocol - Optional Protocol 3.

Optional Protocol 3 (OP3) ensures that young people can complain to the United Nations if states are not living up to the promises they made by signing the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Without it, there is no recourse if state bodies are failing to protect children's rights. 

 

The Effect

Simply, Optional Protocol 3 'Makes Rights Real'. The ability to complain if your rights are being breached is fundamental to being able to claim those rights. Otherwise, states can act with relative impunity, even if they are breaching rights they have promised to uphold.

While the CRC was quickly adopted by nations around the world - OP3 has seen far, far less take up. The UK, amongst many others, has not adopted the protocol.

 

The Campaign

The Children's Network led a multi-faceted campaign designed to engage young people and decision makers in a number of ways.

Our petition - latterly part of 2019's 'Write for Rights' campaign, gathered tens of thousands of signatures, which were delivered to the Department for Education toward the end of last year - though sadly, a year on, we are still awaiting a response from Government. Hundreds of local groups and youth groups contributed to collecting and sending in petitions and actions.

Alongside handing in the petition, we held an 'Empty Birthday Party' on Parliament Square ('A party as empty as our rights', encouraging people not to join us, because it's not worth celebrating the CRC until Optional Protocol 3 is in force. 

In fact - a little later, we did celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the Convention - and our Youth Conference for International Children's Day saw training, education and engagement with young people from schools across the UK. 

The campaign was noticed on the national and international stage, and led to the Children's Human Rights Network Committee being invited to a session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the United Nations and to Serena, a 17 year old committee member, giving the opening address at that session, in which she called for ratification of OP3