The need for addressing the deficit in implementation of children’s rights

Nearly three decades have passed since the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). Evidently, there is a progressive movement towards the acceptance, recognition, institutionalisation, and implementation of children’s rights in Africa. Today, most African countries have put in place fairly comprehensive laws and policies pertaining to children. The main challenges, as elaborated in greater depth in the African Report on Child Wellbeing 2016, are in relation to the implementation of the commitments made in these laws and policies. There is, therefore, an urgent need for addressing the deficit in the implementation of children’s rights in Africa which calls upon Governments in particular to take appropriate measures to bridge the gap between policy and practice. Numerous factors contribute to the deficit in implementation of children’s rights in Africa. Institutional capacity limitations, lack of coordination among the various implementing agencies, insufficient budget to cover operational costs and, most importantly, lack of functional accountability mechanisms to enhance performance are the main impediments to the fulfilment of children’s rights and improvement of their wellbeing.

The need to strengthen the capacity of the ACERWC to deliver its mandate, particularly the interpretative and protection mandate

The capacity of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) to implement its mandate of monitoring and promoting the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child has greatly improved in the past few years. For instance, based on a steady campaign spearheaded by the ACERWC, most African States have ratified the Charter and submitted at least an initial report to the Committee. The Committee has also received and considered a number of Communications, issued Concluding Observations, and developed General Comments on three articles of the Charter. Despite this progress, the Committee’s capacity to implement its full mandate under the Charter and to maintain the momentum of effectiveness is limited. Complementing the efforts of the Committee is necessary to harness the current momentum and ensure the continuity of effort to enforce State Party accountability for the implementation of the Charter

The need to build the capacity of CSOs and children to demand state accountability for implementation of rights

Civil Society Organisations play a critical role in enforcing accountability for the implementation of children’s rights through monitoring States’ implementation of the treaties and advocating for action. The ACERWC has specifically called for an increased participation of CSOs in the implementation of the ACRWC, as well as the CRC. While opportunities for CSOs to engage with the Committee abound, there are significant capacity and knowledge gaps that undermine their capacity to effectively engage. There have been several initiatives, including training workshops organised in the past 3 years by ACPF and SCI, to build the capacity of CSOs and to provide platforms for CSOs to collectively and individually engage with the Committee. These efforts need to be continued and targeted to maximize synergy and ensure effectiveness of implementation interventions at both national and sub-national levels.

The need to promote public investment in children through child-friendly public budgets

It is acknowledged that Africa has been experiencing, and is expected to continue experiencing steady economic growth. There are more resources available for economic and social development today than a decade ago. Furthermore, Africa’s development blue print, i.e. Agenda 2063, seeks to harness and facilitate more of this development for the benefit of the citizens of Africa, including children. Commitments have also been made in terms of allocating budgets to the various sectors, especially health and education. Research, including that of ACPF’s, has found that African countries often fail to adhere to these budgetary commitments. It is therefore necessary to ensure that public financing, including revenue and resource allocation, in Africa is efficient and effective in achieving outcomes for children in health, education and protection.