By Stephen Langton, Partner at Blackden Financial in Geneva and a member of the executive committee of Child Rights Connect.
Children’s charities may have been shaken by recent scandals – but we cannot forget their vital work and the hope they give to vulnerable people throughout the world.
Major charities and NGOs have been criticised for many years – for perceived waste, large salaries and a lack of results.,
But stories of sexual harassment, hired prostitutes, and historic child abuse; coupled with apparent financial mismanagement has caused the government and the general public to sharpen their view of human rights charities.
Charities and vital studies are under threat
Oxfam has been threatened with the potential removal of nearly £36 million of annual funding, by the UK government. The EU is also considering its position and public donations are down more than 30% for Oxfam so far this year.
In this climate, trying to raise funds for a study on children has become difficult.
Helping children deprived of liberty
The UN’s ‘Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty’ is a vital study, which aims to understand the scale and conditions of children held behind bars throughout the world.
According to international law (the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ‘UNCRC’), children are only to be detained as a very last resort.
But in practice, this is often not the case.
Defence for Children International (DCI) – an NGO with its Secretariat based in Geneva – launched a campaign in 2014, calling for a study to be carried out on this critical issue, which was requested through a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York.
However, funding was to come through “voluntary contributions” (UNGA/res/69/157 para.51.d).
Two previous UN Global Studies have been centered on children:
- UN Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (1996).
- UN Study on Violence against Children (2006).
Each study was a strong platform for advocacy and action; exposing the nature, extent and causes of these issues while proposing clear recommendations for prevention and responsive action – leading to important advancements for children.
And the UN’s Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty will offer the same benefits – for what is an urgent situation.
Funding a vital study to help children deprived of liberty
An Austrian human rights lawyer – Professor Manfred Nowak – has been appointed by the UN to lead the study, which has around $1 million USD in funding, which was raised primarily from the USA and the EU.
However, significantly more resources will be required to ensure that this study is thorough, successful and reaches its full potential.
Deprivation of liberty takes many forms, which include:
- Criminal Detention
- Children incarcerated with their parents
- Immigration Detention
- Military Detention
- Children held for national security reasons.
With only $1 million, it would not be possible to address all of these areas of concern.
This is a one time opportunity that needs to succeed.
Vulnerable people still need our help
Despite the discovery of appalling behaviour within some charities, it’s important to recognise the work performed by so many charitable organisations – work which delivers hope and better futures to vulnerable, disadvantaged and suffering people through the world.
Let us not become disillusioned, but instead, do what we can to support their efforts.