Hong Kong, 5 February 2018 –The Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF HK) welcomes the Government’s decision to establish a Commission on Children this year, and suggests that the Commission should perform as an advisory body at the start with a view that by 2020, it would have mapped out the proposed statutory powers and functions and a bill on the Commission on Children that would be finalized and introduced in Legislative Council within the term of the current administration (i.e. before 30 June 2022) so that the Commission can function as an independent agency for children.
In response to the Government’s public consultation, UNICEF HK says that it is important that as an advisory body at its inception, the Commission should take up an inter-ministerial coordination role, under the leadership of the Chief Secretary for Administration, and work alongside bureaux dealing with child-related matters and facilitate child rights governance processes that will bring children’s needs in focus.
At present, government’s approach to addressing child-related matters is handled by different government bureaux and departments. “By having an independent and authoritative body that looks after children’s well-being in a holistic manner, children’s rights to survival, protection, development and participation can be better respected and addressed,” said Jane Lau, Chief Executive of UNICEF HK.
As a strong and powerful voice for children, the Commission on Children should educate and promote child rights in the community and develop a child-friendly consultation system that facilitates meaningful participation of children in the policymaking process. The Commission should also engage in evidence-led decision making and support the development of a central data bank, which will be able to provide systemic analysis and evaluation of child right situations, thereby identifying policy priorities and improvement plans.
UNICEF HK urges the Government to note that in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a child is defined as a person under the age of 18. The inclusivity of the Commission on Children in Hong Kong must extend to those of age 0-18 to put forth protection for all children at the highest level.
“UNICEF believes that every child should have a fair chance to survive and thrive. In Hong Kong, we envisage the Commission on Children to develop a coherent children’s policy that would direct attention and policy interventions to build Hong Kong into an environment that is friendly to children and will enable every child to grow to their full potential regardless of ability, socio-economic background, gender, ethnicity or religion,” noted Ms Lau. “Such a vision would only be achievable if the Commission on Children is an effective body, bestowed with clear statutory mandate and powers, to perform its roles and duties as an independent voice for children in Hong Kong.”
Aside from the aforementioned, there should be pluralistic representation on the Commission on Children, including members from non-governmental organisations that work for and with children and families, social and professional organisations, and academia and experts in children’s rights. In particular, children’s voices and opinions should be heard and considered in the policymaking process.
The establishment of a Commission on Children represents a watershed moment for furthering the rights and well-being of the 1.1 million children under the age of 18 in the city, as it marks Hong Kong’s commitment to mainstreaming child rights into the heart of government policies.
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Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF