Children's rights impact assessment

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends all countries that ratify the UNCRC undertake children's rights impact assessments on all decisions related to children.

"that the implementation of the principles and provisions of the Convention requires that priority be given to children's issues, particularly in the light of article 3. It is recommended therefore that in the formulation of policy options and proposals that there should be an accompanying assessment of its impact on children so that decision makers can be better advised when formulating policy as to its effect on the rights of the child"

What are children's rights impact assessments?

A children's rights impact assessment can be described as a prior assessment of the impact that a decision can have on a child or a group of children affected by it.

A children's rights impact assessment involves the examination of existing and proposed policies, legislation or changes in administrative services for their impact on children and for how they support the implementation of the Convention.

  • Children's rights impact assessments are a tool for translating the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its article 3, giving priority to children's best interests, into practice in a concrete and structured manner.
  • All decisions made, and affecting children must have the “best interests of the child” as their point of departure.
  • In all matters affecting the child, the child must be given opportunity to state his/her opinion and those opinions must be taken into account when the decision is made.
  • In this way the Convention becomes the starting point of a systematic child perspective in working and decision making processes for activities by which children and young people are affected.

Why are they needed?

  • Children are disenfranchised, through lacking the vote and not playing a significant part in political processes.
  • Children's issues are fragmented across government departments that can result in uncoordinated or conflicting policies that fall short of reflecting the "whole child".
  • Children's issues are often likely to be hijacked by other political agendas and consequently children in many cases are in a different (usually weaker) position as compared with the rest of the population.
  • There is a need for governmental mechanisms to give children's issues better visibility, coherence and significance. Child policy proofing is one element in a drive to improve government for children and the mainstreaming of children's rights. It creates an invaluable opportunity for making adjustments to policies to ensure that children's interests are protected.

When to do a children's rights impact assessment

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has established a number of points in which it particularly recommends that children's rights impact assessments be undertaken e.g. in the adoption of:

  • any form of new policy,
  • new legislation or regulations
  • an annual budget, at both national, regional and local level
  • organisational or administrative changes at all levels in society.

What should be included in a children's rights impact assessment?

  • A description of the proposed measure (legislation/policy/project)
  • Including how the measure affects (or might affect) children and young people.
  • Including how the proposed measure is affected by, or affects, other current government/activities/policy.
  • An analysis of how the measure promotes or impedes the implementation of the guiding principles of the UNCRC and other relevant human rights instruments (clause by clause analysis).
  • Identification of problems/gaps in information/expertise/conflicts of interest that the proposal entails.
  • Children and young people’s viewpoints on the measure/proposal.
  • Proposed steps to ameliorate or compensate for any adverse effects.
  • Guidelines on how the measure should be monitored.
  • Evaluation (afterwards) of the effect the decision actually had.

Who should conduct children's rights impact assessments?

  • At a national level – minister for children, inter-ministerial committee for children, children's commissioner, parliamentary select committee for children.
  • At local level – officials represented from different departments in the local authority working with key stakeholders and children and young people in the community, council, scrutiny committee for children and young people.

For further information on how to carry out effective children's rights impact assessments read the Scottish Children and Young People’s Commissioners report.

Take a look at this report on Child Impact Assessments from Save the Children internationally here.

Further literature on children's impact assessments

Sylwander (2001) Child impact assessments – Swedish Experience of Child Impact Analyses as a tool for implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Sweden & Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sweden.

Hodgkin, R (1989) Child impact assessments 1997/98: an experiment in child policy proofing UK Parliamentary Bills, UNICEF and National Children's Bureau.

Croke, R (2006) Chapter 3, Guiding Principles: Best Interests in Righting the Wrongs: the reality of children's rights in Wales. Save the Children.