19 September, 2012 marked a day of celebration with the presentation of the International Children’s Peace Prize during a moving and inspiring ceremony in the Ridderzaal in the Hague. However, this occasion was also a call for action to improve the rights of street children, underpinned by a research project undertaken by Leiden’s Child Law Department (under the supervision of UNICEF Professor of Children’s Rights Ton Liefaard and Professor of Children and the Law Marielle Bruning) in partnership with KidsRights, an international NGO headquartered in Amsterdam.
The International Children’s Peace Prize is presented annually to a child whose courageous and remarkable acts have made a difference to problems affecting children globally. The 2012 winner, 13 year old Kesz Valdez, is a former street child who received the Prize in recognition of his work in the Philippines to improve the lives of street children. This year was the first time a report was launched alongside the Prize, adding context to the situation highlighted by the Kesz’ efforts by drawing attention to the ways in which street children’s rights are vulnerable and breached. The Remember 2015 Campaign was also launched by Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the Ceremony, calling for recommitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The report, entitled Street Children Have Rights Too! – Problems faced by street children globally and in the Philippines, and why their rights need protection provides an overview of the situation of street children internationally, assesses the rights of the child which are most affected or at risk, and discusses the situation of street children in the Philippines. The report will be a valuable source of information for anyone working to improve the rights of street children and in the field of children’s rights in general.
Although the situation of street children began to garner concern from the international community in the early 1990s, today tens of millions of children either live or work on the streets around the world. Given the on-going vulnerability of street children, the United Nations Human Rights Council recently adopted a resolution condemning the violations and abuses of the rights of street children, calling on states to strengthen efforts to improve the situation of street children and give full effect to their rights. The Report prepared by the Child Law Department, in partnership with KidsRights, is therefore particularly timely, given that it examines the situation of street children through the rights framework provided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It provides a thorough analysis of the rights under the CRC which are particularly at risk for street children, and puts these into context through highlighting some of the ways in which street children’s rights are affected in the Philippines, through working in hazardous conditions on dumpsites, through mistreatment in so-called ‘rescue operations’ and through a lack of access to basic health care and services. In the Philippines alone, it is estimated that there are 246,011 street children.
The report concludes by highlighting what still needs to be done to improve the situation of street children globally and in the Philippines. For example at a global level, it is suggested that among other things, interventions targeting root causes and more systematic mapping of street children will allow improvement. In the Philippines and internationally, it is highlighted that involvement and participation of street children will be crucial to achieve progress. Child participation is, after all, one of the core pillars of the CRC.