Local and regional governance - Childrens Rights Reform

Local and regional governance

Role of local and regional governance in children’s rights legislative reform

As the direct representatives of the community, local governments are at the forefront of protecting and promoting the human rights of the populations they serve and, in this capacity, may receive demands and claims from people directly.

  • The global trend towards decentralisation reflects the central role of local governments in assessing the needs of constituents and delivering States’ human rights obligations (OHCHR).

In some States, local and regional governments have the mandate to adopt children’s rights legislation at their own level of governance. Similarly to the national government, they must thus follow a children’s rights based approach when undertaking legislative reform, and ensure that children’s rights are realised in their legislative reform process and in the substance of legislation.

E.g.: The Mayor of Mexico City asked Laboratorio para la Ciudad, the experimental arm of the Mexico City government, to create a multi-tiered and citywide campaign to collect citizen opinions and proposals for the city’s Constitution. On Change.org, citizens submitted 341 proposals, receiving over 400,000 votes. Four petitions surpassed the 50,000-signature threshold and 11 received 10,000 signatures. The new Constitution of Mexico City, which went into effect in September 2018, includes 14 articles based on citizen petitions through this mechanism, including proposals from 17-year-old children. The result is a “historic document that includes an increased autonomy for Mexico City and a new series of human rights and social policies”.

Local and regional governments have a role in the implementation of national children’s rights legislation. Some States have granted local or regional authorities’ responsibility to fulfil some of their children’s rights obligations. It is thus important that they are involved and consulted in the preparation of the legislative reform, and aware of the content of the reform.

E.g.: At the request of the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) conducted research on national child protection systems in the 28 EU Member States. A component of the study addressed the decentralisation of child protection responsibilities. It found that the majority of EU Member States do not have a single authority with overall child protection responsibility. Child protection responsibilities are instead shared among different ministries and across national, regional and local authorities. The responsibilities had been decentralised at the regional level in 3 States, at the local level in 12 States, and at both the regional and local level in 9 States. There was no decentralisation of child protection responsibilities in 4 States.

E.g.: The Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) is a UNICEF-led programme that supports municipal governments in ensuring the realisation of children’s rights at the local level, using the CRC as its foundation. A child-friendly city is a city, town, community or any system of local governance committed to improving the lives of children within their jurisdiction by supporting the realisation of child rights in the CRC, and in which the voices, needs, priorities and rights of children are an integral part of public policies, programmes and decisions.

Local governments can also have a key role in promoting child participation in decision-making and consequently in legislative reform. They can support children’s participation in the legislative reform process by consulting children at their level of governance, bringing the process closer to children.

E.g.: In Turkish municipalities, the main decision-making body is the municipal council, which by law requires direct participation by citizens through the establishment of citizens’ assemblies. Article 76 of the Municipality Law provides that any proposal made by the citizens’ assembly will be added to the municipal council’s agenda for consideration. Municipalities can also elect to establish assemblies of children, youth, women and people with disabilities, which carry the same legal standing as citizens’ assemblies. By joining a children’s assembly, children can influence a municipality’s priorities (UNICEF 2017).

For more information, see UNICEF Guidance Note on Child Participation in Local Governance (2017).