The death of Fidel Castro has revealed the anti-democratic mindset of many leading citizens of T&T and the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Child Rights Observatory Network (CCRON) was launched on May 15 at the Institute of International Relations (IIR) at UWI St Augustine.
Representatives of Caricom and Unicef who are partners with the IIR in this venture, said the launch of the network was quite appropriate at this time when violence against children in the region seems to be “at its worst.”
CCRON as described by IIR director professor W Andy Knight, will act as a body which will conduct accurate analysis of the situation of children in the region and provide feedback and support to member states in developing evidence-informed policies and programmes for the fulfillment of children rights, as mandated by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In her presentation, Caricom representative Dr Morella Joseph said the establishment of the observatory was long overdue, as it had been mooted far back as 2008. She said at a special Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) meeting back then, ministers together with representatives of the regional and international organisations and regional educational institutions, noted, with grave concern, the adverse effects on children of natural disasters, climate change, violence, HIV and AIDS, child abuse and exploitation.
Topics such as family separation and migration, malnutrition, obesity and other lifestyle diseases, and the lack of systems and mechanisms in place to analyse and report on these situations, and empirical evidence to substantiate the accuracy of what is being reported, were also raised.
Out of that meeting she said several commitments were made. They included the following:
The establishment of mechanisms to enhance the quality of access to inclusive early childhood care, education and development services particularly for vulnerable and marginalised children;
The strengthening of protective environments in the home, school and communities;
Reforming legislation and the protection systems for children; (particularly the juvenile justice systems;
Improvement of data collection and monitoring systems to inform policy and interventions; and to accurately analyse the situation of children in the Caribbean.
“Throughout the Caribbean there has been increasing concern with regard to the various levels and types of violence against children,” Joseph said. “Such violence takes place in different spheres of children’s lives to include the home, school, institutions, during recreational activities and migration,” said Joseph.
She added, “The sensitive issue of corporal punishment in the home and school will have to be seriously addressed at the earliest possible time by the policy makers.
“There is no excuse and no justification for violence against children, especially sexual violence, which is on the increase,” she said.
According to Joseph, research has shown that the Caribbean's approach to addressing the issues cited, and the coordination and implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child are disjointed.
There’s nothing in place to ensure that the necessary child protection legislation, policies and strategies are effectively implemented or reinforced.
She said while some individual countries have achieved some measure of success in getting the necessary work done to protect children, this country and the region was clearly not doing enough and the evidence was there in our daily news.
"The Convention of the Rights of the Child is the first legally binding universal treaty on the rights of children. And as signatories to the convention, our Caribbean governments have an obligation to take all the appropriate legislative, educational and social measures to protect the rights of the region's children," Joseph concluded.
Her sentiments were endorsed by Unicef representative Khin-Sandi Lwin who added, the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Children's Fund and IIR, on the establishment of a hub for CCRON was the ultimate step in the right direction. She said in July 2012 they received the green light to create a center of excellence or knowledge on children's issues for the Caribbean which was in discussion and in the making three years prior.
"Today, not only do we have the partnership of Caricom, but all the academic and research institutions as potential members of the network of centers of knowledge represented along with members of Unicef offices in Jamaica, Guyana and Suriname, Belize and the eastern Caribbean area covering 12 countries and territories," said Sandi Lwin.
She reiterated state parties that are signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, had an obligation and duty to meet the standards in the convention they agreed to.
"We all need to have the information and data on what is happening to children; what are the most critical issues in a given country or locality; who and where are those left behind or are falling between the cracks of care and protection. All government and non-government actors need to have reliable data to monitor the situation of children for evidence-informed decision making," said Sandi-Lwin.
She said CCRON's vision is one where Caribbean institutions take on the full mantle of keeping a close watch on the situation of children, being the independent voice for them and providing the technical support that governments need to fulfill the rights of children—a role that Unicef currently plays.