In May 2012 the Dutch Children’s Ombudsman presented the first Children’s Rights Monitor which he developed together with Leiden University (Child Law Department) and the Dutch Institute for Social Research. Its objective is to assess Dutch law, policies and practice regarding children in light of the provisions of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter: CRC). Ultimately, it aims to monitor the implementation of children’s rights in the Netherlands. This is a rather unique project in Europe. Monitoring the implementation of children’s rights on a nationwide scale is still a rare phenomenon (for a Dutch research project on a local level see Kinderen in Tel (2012)).
How can we measure to what extent the provisions of the CRC are being fulfilled in the Netherlands? Indicators which give insight in the way we are living up to these standards are needed. Doing this, we have to be aware of the difference between childhood indicators (‘well-being’) and children’s rights indicators.
Although this seems to be rather obvious, it is difficult to draw a clear line and unfortunately, much of the datasets are limited to data like ‘total amount of child porn cases known to the police’. Is this about rights or about well-being? But keep in mind that the CRC is an interesting mix of three ‘Ps’: the right to the provision of basic needs; the right to protection from harmful acts and practices and the right to participation in decisions affecting children’s lives. The non-homogeneous nature of children’s rights presumes a more or less close relationship between children’s rights and children’s well-being. Eventually, the Children’s Rights Monitor shows an entangled relationship between the needs and the rights of children.
In order to counter this problem, Ennew recommends to consider two special dimensions in particular: disaggregated data (e.g. how many girls under 6 get an out of home placement order in rural areas?) and child-centred statistics (direct information about children, not just divorce statistics e.g.). These two perspectives have been the guiding principles in our research.
What can be concluded from the gathered disaggregated data and child-centred statistics that were collected for other research projects and all put together in the first Children’s Rights Monitor? We already knew from research by Unicef (2007) that Dutch children belong to the happiest children in the world. Nevertheless, the Monitor illustrates that there is a world to win.
By questioning compliance with children’s rights, the Monitor indicates five ‘ major concerns’ about (groups of) children in our society. The first concern is the prevalence of child abuse and the rights of children who are victims of child abuse. Secondly, the rights of unaccompanied minors, refugee children and asylum-seeking children are under attack. Thirdly, there are concerns about children with special needs and their right to education with extra support. We also have to keep an eye on children in poverty. Finally, we are concerned about the rights of children in conflict with the law.
Two other developments that give rise to serious concern are the recent budget cuts and a shifted focus from preventive politics to a more repressive approach. Children’s rights are under pressure and the Netherlands has the mere obligation to meet the standards of the CRC. Even more than that, because a developed country has to meet even higher expectations. We expect this Monitor to be raising awareness about the most vulnerable groups of children in our society and the infringement of their rights. The second Children’s Rights Monitor will be released next year: we can then compare the outcomes of these two Monitors and analyse improvements and serious concerns or declines. It will then become clear whether children have become victims of the economic crisis or will receive special attention in order to guarantee their rights.