International children’s court is needed to punish abuses, says global report

Child labour, Gordon Brown

Child labourers work in a field in Vietnam’s northern mountains Picture: © ILO/Hoang Dinh Chieu


An international children’s court should be set up to investigate and punish abuses such as child labour, child marriage and child slavery that prevent children from going to school.

That was one of the major recommendations by the Global Citizenship Commission headed by Gordon Brown, the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education.

In a hard-hitting report on human rights, the commission also said the UN Security Council should annually review violations of children’s rights.

A children’s court would be similar to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which hears cases such as war crimes and genocide. It would have powers to rule on cases reported by children and give legally-binding rulings.

Mr Brown told the UN on April 18: “We need, in a sense, a civil rights struggle by and on behalf of children because their rights have been neglected in the international community.”

The Global Citizenship Commission presents its findings to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on April 18 Picture: UN

In a blog for the Boston Globe, the UN envoy said children had been overlooked when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was agreed in 1948.

He added: “Globally, 168 million children have no choice but to take up work and 85 million are engaged in hazardous labor.

“In addition, nearly 60 million children will never enter a classroom – will never find the hope and fulfillment that can come only with an education. And every year, some 10 million school-aged girls are married off and deprived of a future.”

The commission is made up of political leaders and academics, incuding Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed El Baradei, politician and campaigner Graca Machel and Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum.

Its report – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 21st Century – also looked beyond children’s issues and recommended far-reaching measures to reform the UN’s human rights structures.

The commission also examined the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and said human rights should be part of a “global ethic” that includes issues such as the eradication of poverty, responsibility for the planet and climate, and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

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