Leiden Law Blog

Five years of monitoring children’s rights in the Netherlands: A superfluous luxury?

Posted on by Apollonia Bolscher and Stephanie Rap in Private Law
Five years of monitoring children’s rights in the Netherlands: A superfluous luxury?

On 13 December 2016 the new Dutch Children’s Ombudsperson published the fifth Children’s Rights Monitor 2016, a jubilee edition. The monitor relies on an advisory report prepared by the Department of Child Law and the Institute of Immigration Law.

From a children's rights perspective, the monitor evaluates the implementation of children's rights in the Netherlands (including the Caribbean part of the Kingdom, i.e. Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba) and analyses how the situation of children can be improved. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Concluding Observations drawn by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child serve as a basis for this analysis. The Dutch government provided information concerning new policies and legislative developments and the Dutch Bureau of Statistics provided statistical information on the position of children. The Children's Rights Monitor concerns all children in the Netherlands. In 2016 3.4 million children were living in the Netherlands; 1 out of 5 inhabitants was under the age of 18 (see CBS). In the Caribbean part of the Kingdom 5.6 thousand children were under the age of 20 (see CBS).

As in previous years, the monitor is divided into six chapters on the following themes: 1. Family situation and alternative care; 2. Protection against exploitation and violence; 3. Deprivation of liberty and juvenile justice; 4. Adequate standard of living; 5. Education; 6. Young immigrants. The speciality of this jubilee edition is that each chapter presents a flashback of the relevant developments in the past five years. On the basis of statistical data, developments in legislation, changes in policy, relevant case law and scientific studies, the monitor gives an insight into issues influencing the lives of children in the Netherlands. The final chapter of this jubilee monitor looks towards the future.

On the basis of five years of monitoring children’s rights in the Netherlands, three main themes regarding the realisation of children's rights within the Kingdom of the Netherlands are identified in the advisory report. First, the decentralisation of youth care to the local municipalities. Second, the increasing Europeanisation of children’s rights and third, the importance of collecting disaggregated data and monitoring children’s rights.

Decentralisation of care

In recent years, a child’s place of residence has increasingly influenced the availability and quality of services provided by the local municipality. As of 2015 the provision of youth care has been decentralised to local municipalities. One of the concerns is that good quality care is not readily available everywhere, in part due to budget cuts. This does not only apply to youth care, but also to children who are in need of services because they live in poverty, children with disabilities and who need adaptations in accessing education and to the care for refugee children and children seeking asylum. From a children’s rights perspective, it is important to continue monitoring the availability and quality of services provided by the municipalities to children in need of care or protection.

Europeanisation of children’s rights

European law and regulations increasingly influence the lives of children. For example, EU laws largely determine Dutch immigration law. These laws are not only in favour of refugee children, for example because children are not always guaranteed a permanent residence permit. However, it is expected that in the coming years the EU will formulate a more comprehensive approach regarding the best interests of the child. The role of both the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Court of Human Rights will remain significant in the next few years ahead (see: Handbook on European law relating to the rights of the child).

Collecting data and monitoring children’s rights

Five years of monitoring children’s rights has taught us that in the Netherlands a considerable amount of data regarding the lives of children is collected. At the same time, however, there is a lack of disaggregated statistical data concerning certain children. For example, there is very little data regarding child victims of sexual exploitation, homeless children, children with disabilities and children living in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Effective children’s rights implementation requires the monitoring of children’s rights (General Comment No. 5, 2003). The Children’s Rights Monitor evaluates the progress the Netherlands is making in the implementation of children’s rights. The Dutch government uses this document to show the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child how children’s rights are being implemented. Five years of monitoring children’s rights has shown that it is an ambitious and unique exercise. But above all, it can be concluded that monitoring the practical implementation of children’s rights is no superfluous luxury. 

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