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2nd EAC Child Rights Conference

East African Community (EAC) Partner States under Article 7 (2) of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community,  have agreed to abide by the principles of good governance, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, social justice and the maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights.

The promotion and protection of the rights of the child is a key priority of the EAC. As emphasised in Article 120 (c) of the Treaty, Partner States undertake to closely co-operate amongst themselves in the field of social welfare with respect to the development and adoption of a common approach towards the disadvantaged and marginalized groups, including children, the youth, the elderly and persons with disabilities through rehabilitation and provision of, among others, health care, education and training.


Child Rights Situation within the East African Community region

According to the EAC strategic plan for gender, youth, children, persons with disabilities, social protection and community development, children constitute more than 50% of the EAC population. Each of these children has the right to development, survival, participation and protection as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (and its Optional Protocols) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) some of which have been ratified and domesticated by the EAC Partner States.

A lot of progress has been made both at national and regional levels since the first EAC child rights conference which was held in September 2012 in Bujumbura, Burundi. The conference provided a platform through which the children of EAC shared views, opinions, fears and concerns.  The EAC has put in place a number of policy frameworks to facilitate the implementation of child rights in the region. Key among these is the EAC development strategy (2012-2016), the EAC Social Development Framework 2013, the EAC Strategic Plan for Gender, Youth, Children, Persons with Disability, Social Protection and Community development (2012-2016), the EAC Youth Policy (2014) and the newly adopted EAC Child Policy (2016) which is specifically targeted to children.

The EAC Child Policy is the culmination of various processes geared towards the harmonisation of standards and approaches to the implementation of child rights in the EAC. The Policy seeks to provide the region with an operational, legal, policy, and institutional framework to facilitate the development, co-ordination and strengthening of national efforts geared towards the promotion of children’s rights. The EAC Child Policy will facilitate the harmonisation of Child Rights standards in EAC Partner States as guided by the ACRWC and the UNCRC as the normative instruments for promoting child rights. The policy has also set out the priority areas in promoting child rights, and defined innovative strategies towards achieving the vision of ‘an East African Community where child rights and wellbeing are guaranteed.’

EAC Partner States have further, in their individual capacity, signed and/or ratified a range of documents on children’s rights, and adopted a variety of legislative, policy and programmatic measures to implement the resulting obligations.  It should further be noted that the EAC Vision 2050 already stipulates that Children and Youth constitute up to 80% of the total population of EAC, a figure that is projected to grow much larger by 2050. Therefore, any strategic development programs and interventions must take into account this demographic dividend in order to sustainably meet the community’s vision of transforming growth and development.

With all the above developments therefore, there is a need to review progress and reaffirm the strong commitment of the EAC in promoting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of all children in the region. The conference is organised on the basis of the understanding that children are involved and empowered to articulate issues that affect their wellbeing and duty bearers understand, appreciate and uphold children’s rights across the governments, private sector as well as communities and households.  

As the EAC consolidates the implementation of the Customs Union and the Common Market Protocols, moves towards the realisation of the Monetary Union and the Political Federation, it is imperative that we assess the impact of these processes on the realisation of child rights and put appropriate policies to ensure that all children benefit from the regional integration process.

The Necessity of an EAC Child Rights Conference

Using the EAC Child Policy as the point of convergence, the EAC Secretariat is advocating for “An East African Agenda for the Promotion of the Rights of the Child”. This Agenda will be implemented through enhancing the contribution of a wide range of stakeholders including Children. The Agenda will present general principles and strategies that will ensure EAC’s actions are exemplary in ensuring the respect of provisions of the UNCRC, the ACRWC and the EAC Child Policy.  

Furthermore, Partner States need to enhance accountability in Child Rights, especially budget allocation, delivering social services to children such as quality education, health, water, sanitation and social protection.

Special focus should be given to vulnerable children, for example Internally Displaced Children, refugees, children in disaster, conflict and other emergency situations, children living and working on the streets, children with disabilities, children in conflict with the law, children heading households, child forced into prostitution, among others

It is worth mentioning that children in the East African Community region and across the continent still face numerous challenges including lack of adequate resources, weak child protection systems, insufficient social protection, HIV and AIDS, inequitable access to quality services, inadequate space for meaningful participation and harmful practices. This situation poses a social and security threat to the East African Community that requires concerted efforts in addressing them. However, it is important to note that most of the issues concerning adequate service delivery to children cut across many sectors. Therefore, there is need to further explore innovative strategies of promoting a systems approach to the protection of child rights.

It is in this context that the second EAC Child Rights conference is organized by the EAC Secretariat in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Working Group on Child rights, UNICEF and other stakeholders to map out a collaborative agenda in the implementation of the EAC Child Policy.

This important and crucial Conference will enable representatives of children, governments, the EAC, CSOs, NGOs, and Development Partners to develop innovative and creative solutions to problems impacting the realisation of the Child Rights in the EAC.


Objectives of the 2nd EAC Child Rights Conference 

The objectives of the conference are to:

a.    launch the adopted EAC Child Policy and discuss the strategies for national implementation;

b.    take stock of the progress made towards the realisation of Child Rights based on the 1st EAC Conference and the Bujumbura Declaration commitments.

c.    share experiences on the progress made in the realisation of Child Rights in the EAC and how to address the challenges encountered during implementation;

d.    Identify key and common barriers that negatively impact on the realisation of Child Rights in the EAC; and

e.    Provide a platform for facilitating children participation in the definition of processes for integration of the EAC Child Policy at national level. 


Expected Outputs of the EAC Child’ Rights Conference

a)    Declaration on the EAC Agenda on the promotion of Child Rights;
b)    The framework for operationalising the EAC Child Policy in Partner States;
c)    The Conference Report with recommendations on the issues discussed.  


Theme  and topics of the Conference

Theme:   ‘Coordinated and Sustained Investment in Children’

Priority Area: Children in Conflicts and Emergencies
-    Internal displacement of children
-    Coordinated approach to emergency response

Priority Area: Ending Violence against Children
-    Child marriage
-    Albinism
-    Harmful Practices
-    Physical and humiliating punishment
-    Review of progress on ending violence against children in the EAC Partner States

Priority Area: Integrated approach to the implementation of Child Rights
-    Health, Education and Social Protection
-    Child sensitive and HIV Inclusive social protection

Priority Area: Resourcing Child Rights Implementation    
-    Over view of Investment in Children progress, trends and challenges within the region
-    Why is Investment in Children important
-    Suggested Policy Proposals
-    Coordination for implementation of Child rights

Conference Programme and Discussion Areas

The conference will be held over a period of two days and will adopt an open space approach with thematic open group sessions, plenary discussions and keynote presentations.

(a) Keynote address: ‘Investing in Children’

EAC Partner States have ratified the several international and regional instruments such as the UNCRC, the ACRWC and the EAC Child Policy among others, which obligate them to ensuring the realisation of rights of Children. Article of the UNCRC specially states that; ‘States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and, where needed, within the framework of international cooperation’ (UN, 1989).

Investing ensures that children survive and develop to their full potential and yields positive benefits to economies and societies. The foundation of an individual’s well-being is laid in early childhood. Programmes that invest in early childhood development generate considerable cost savings for government. Investments in children are increasingly seen as one of best and most valuable long-term investments we can make. 

Therefore, how can governments, the civil society, families and all stakeholders institute concrete actions, effectively implement policy commitments and work together to advance the rights and interests of children?

We know that ‘the world of tomorrow will inherit the children of today’. Are we therefore providing adequate investments that enable children to thrive today and in the future? 

How are children and young people (as rights bearers) involved in shaping their future and in making and decisions that affect them?

The Keynote address will attempt to answer the above questions, share best practices around the world and suggest practical approaches and interventions that the EAC can apply to realize positive impacts of investing in Children. 

(b) Status of Investment in child rights the EAC region
This presentation will highlight governments’, development partners’ civil society and private sector initiatives depicting investment in each child rights pillar to give an EAC overall picture.   


Discussion areas – Breakout Group Sessions  

Children in Conflicts and emergencies

Conflicts and disasters emerge without warning and adversely affect populations that usually unprepared to respond. The East African region is faced with several emergencies ranging from Ebola and Cholera breakouts, natural disasters to civil conflicts and wars within its borders or in the neighbouring countries. Children are forced to flee their homes and end up in refugee camps in other countries or are displaced within their own countries. During these humanitarian crises, children are exposed to child protection violations that can cause harm to their safety and survival, well-being, dignity and development. This includes all forms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence.

This session will attempt to discuss the issue of internal displacement and suggest approaches that relevant and responsible authorities, humanitarian agencies, civil society organizations and representatives of affected populations can coordinate child protection efforts in order to ensure full, efficient and timely responses.  


Ending Violence against Children

According to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, “Every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence. An estimated 120 million girls and 73 million boys have been victims of sexual violence, and almost one billion children are subjected to physical punishment on a regular basis.” In target 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) governments have committed end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, torture and all forms of violence against children by 2030.

In this session, EAC Partner States will present and discuss the initiatives they have undertaken and the progress made in ending violence and ensuring all children – girls and boys alike – grow up free from violence and exploitation.

Integrated approach to the implementation of Child Rights

Effective implementation of Child Rights requires integrated approaches where institutions and mechanisms are strengthened to address multiple vulnerabilities and maximize linkages between social protection and outcomes in child protection, HIV/AIDS, education and health – among other areas. This is often impeded by various resources and structural barriers.

This session will therefore explore and suggest meaningful and sustainable approaches in the promotion of child rights in Partner States’ policies and programmes.  Such approaches may involve participatory, collaborative, intersectional and creative approaches in planning and programming interventions complemented by wider policy initiatives that address and remove structural barriers and inequalities.


Resourcing Child Rights Implementation    

It is through government budgets that policies and commitments to children rights can be implemented and services to children delivered. Despite the UNCRC in Article 4, calling on all governments to ensure that they commit national and global resources to the ‘maximum extent’ possible in order to implement children's rights, issues such as child health, early childhood development, recreation and social protection are not usually top of the spending priorities of most governments.

Therefore, there is a need for deliberate and strategic actions by all stakeholders to influence the process and outcomes of budgeting in order to make government budgets responsive to all children.

This session will discuss the impact of national budgets on implementation of child rights and explore collaborative strategies to mobilise resources, efficient implementation of programmes and the tracking of state/stakeholder resourcing for children.


Collaboration between EAC, UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Working Group on Children

The Inter-Agency Working Group on Child Rights and Wellbeing (IAWG) is a group of international and regional non-governmental organisations (Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision, African Child Policy Forum, Elisabeth Glaser Foundation, African Platform on Social Protection, RIATT-ESA) that was formed in 2012 with a commitment to supporting the process of the development and implementation of the East Africa Community Child Policy.
Through this collaboration, the EAC, UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Working Group intend to place more focus on children issues in the regional integration process.  

East African Community
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Email: eac@eachq.org