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Launch of General Comment 20 on the Implementation of the Rights of the Child during Adolescence

On the margins of the 74th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, on 7 February 2017, a ground breaking General Comment on the realization of the rights of adolescents was launched.  But there was nothing marginal about the event itself.  The conference room in the Palais des Nations was packed far beyond capacity with Member States, NGOs and UN left standing in the back and peering through the door for this monumental event. “All children and adolescents want to be heard and have their opinions count so that they can contribute towards better, healthier and peaceful societies,” stressed 16 year old Henry Marzano Sacón who is the President of the Consultative Committee of Boys, Girls, and Adolescents of Ecuador and who participated in the launch. The line-up of States, requesting to speak reflected States’ commitment to the realization of the General Comment.

image3With the adoption of the General Comment 20, States will now have access to detailed guidance on the measures necessary to ensure the realization of the rights of children during adolescence, and in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “This is not a document whose time has come; it is long overdue!” stated Benyam Dawit Mezmure, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The General Comment highlights the importance of a human rights-based approach that includes recognition and respect for the dignity and agency of adolescents; their empowerment, citizenship and active participation in their own lives; the promotion of optimum health, well-being and development; and a commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of their human rights, without discrimination.

While the Convention recognizes the rights of all persons under 18 years, its implementation to date has largely been blind to children in the second decade.  The General Comment lifts up the importance of taking into account children’s development and their evolving capacities. Approaches adopted to ensure the realization of the rights of adolescents differ significantly from those adopted for younger children. The General Comment raises the profile and awareness on adolescents and allows States to strengthen their approach to the realization of adolescents’ rights.

“UNICEF welcomes this General Comment as a normative guidance for realizing the rights of children in their second decade of life,” mentioned Judith Diers, Chief, Adolescent Development and Participation Section at UNICEF HQ. She confirmed that  “UNICEF commits to working with adolescents and States parties to strengthen reporting on adolescents rights’ as part of their CRC report preparation. We will also work closely with State parties due to report in 2019 to model collaborative processes for reporting to the CRC.”

The General Comment recognizes adolescence as a life stage characterized by growing opportunities, capacities, aspirations, energy and creativity, but also significant vulnerability.  It emphasizes that adolescents are agents of change and a key asset and resource with the potential to contribute positively to their families, communities and the countries.

The full ‘General Comment 20 on Realizing the Rights of Children during Adolescence’ can be read here.

On Tuesday 14th February, UNICEF hosted a Geneva launch of the CRC General Comment 20 on Realizing the Rights of Children during Adolescence. One of our Commissioners Judith Diers (who serves as the chief of adolescent development and participation at UNICEF) was there at the launch event and was involved in the creation of the document. “It was an incredible event – with standing room only – full of member states, NGOs and others.  It was the culmination of 5 years of work – a great moment for adolescent rights” – Judith Diers.

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