AICHR holds 4th ASEAN Dialogue on UN Convention on children’s rights
MANILA, 23 June 2023 – The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) Philippines, in cooperation with the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office (UNICEF EAPRO) and Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia) conducted the ASEAN Dialogue on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) focusing on the UNCRC General Comment No. 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment.
In his keynote remarks, Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Rex Gatchalian emphasised the need to “ensure that children are able to thrive in a safe, nurturing, and enabling environment” as they are the next generation of leaders.
On behalf of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo, DFA-ASEAN Deputy Assistant Secretary Angelito Nayan welcomed the dialogue as “an opportunity for ASEAN Member States (AMS) to not only exchange views and practices but also to develop policies and actionable proposals to protect our children while they navigate the digital environment.”
In his welcome remarks, Philippine Representative to AICHR Hans Mohaimin Siriban noted the timeliness of discussing General Comment No. 25 as “technology shall always be double-edged…[posing] new challenges to the discharge of the State’s duties and adds layers of complexity…[to] the protection and fulfillment of the rights of stakeholders.”
Justice Mama Fatima Singateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and exploitation of children shared a recorded message on combating the sale and sexual exploitation of children online. Other speakers were Attorney Mikiko Otani, member and Chair of the CRC Committee from May 2021 to May 2023, and child speaker Jemuel, President of Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kabataan, who shared his views on child participation in online political discourse, access to correct and sufficient information online, digital literacy, and children’s mental health.
Representatives of AICHR and the ASEAN Committee on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) participated in the event along with stakeholders and child rights advocates from the AMS government agencies, representatives from international organisations, national human rights institutions, and civil society organisations.
During the two-day dialogue, participants discussed the status of children’s rights in ASEAN, recent updates on the implementation of the Regional Plan of Action for the Protection of Children from All Forms of Online Exploitation and Abuse in ASEAN, and the latest developments on the work of the CRC Committee. They also shared emerging issues in the region, such as children’s rights in the context of business and human rights, the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of children, and the right to a healthy environment.
The dialogue was a platform for exchanging experiences, challenges, best practices, and opportunities in upholding children’s rights in the digital environment. Participants also had the chance to discuss considerations in relation to UN CRC Concluding Observations.
The sessions included presentations from the AICHR representatives and the Children’s Rights Representatives to ACWC, practitioners and experts on child rights from UNICEF, the Childline Thailand Foundation, and the Child Protection Network.
In conclusion, the dialogue acknowledged the need to build institutional capacities and technical expertise on General Comment No. 25 and the need for a multi-sectoral collaboration in its implementation.
Since 2018, the dialogue has been part of AICHR’s continued advocacy to promote and protect the rights of every child in ASEAN. It aims to discuss experiences and challenges of AMS in localising the comments, recommendations, and concluding observations issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee).