Engaging migrant communities in the promotion of the rights of the child


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By the end of this module you will be able to:

Describe the concept of child protection system and its components

Child protection systems


UNICEF has defined child protection systems as “certain formal and informal structures, functions and capacities that have been assembled to prevent and respond to violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children”.

Primary components of child protection systems include laws and policies, human and financial resources, governance, means of data collection and system monitoring, child protection and response services, and non-formal support of families and communities.

Child protection systems are inherently multidisciplinary and intersectoral.

The state has the primary responsibility for realising the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and translating its principles and standards into reality for all children. Moreover, government actors at different levels bear responsibility for the protection of children within the state’s territorial boundaries. Formal actors such as social welfare officials, police, government social workers, and magistrates lead the child protection system at national and sub-national levels.

At grassroots levels, the role of non-formal actors is highly visible. Children are frequently protected by non-formal actors such as families, communities, and leaders such as elders, teachers, or religious leaders. For example, parents may not label their activities as “child protection”, however, they do much to protect children by ordinary activities, such as shielding infants from harm, and teaching children good behaviour and how to avoid hazards.

While individuals can take responsibility for doing their part, they can also put pressure on governments to fulfil their obligations: to pass laws and advance policies centered on the best interests of the child.

Communities include valuable protection resources such as religious leaders, teachers, elders, nurses, and natural helpers who respond to and prevent harms to children. Worth mentioning are the community-based child protection mechanisms (CBCPMs), which are local-level groups or processes that respond to violations against children and work to prevent risks to children. CBCPMs are key parts of child protection systems since they operate at grassroots levels such as village level in rural areas and neighbourhood level in urban areas, which is where children and families live and where children may be exposed to significant risks on an ongoing basis. Also, they are rich in potential child protection resources such as parents, teachers, and religious leaders, among others.

At societal levels, media, government leaders, and civil society organisations play an important role. Civil society organisations are among the primary agents engaged in actively promoting and realising children’s rights. Their numerous efforts spurred and sustained the process that resulted in the drafting and finalisation of the CRC in the late 1970s and the 1980s.  Moreover, article 45 of the Convention provides a designated role for the NGOs in monitoring its implementation by States Parties. NGOs play also a critical role in lobbying decision-makers and acting as watchdogs to ensure governments are held accountable in realising the commitments under the CRC. In addition, by bringing attention to issues affecting children, the media have a unique role in realising children’s rights. Greater awareness of children’s rights deprivations and violations is in part due to increased media focus on these issues.

Last but not least, as problems such as child trafficking cross international boundaries, international actors may also contribute to or support national child protection systems.