“A significant moment in the development of democracy in Wales”
The Occasion – a ‘DGD Hub’ – live discussion over video link about the role of children as human rights defenders in advance of the UN’s Day of General Discussion, scheduled to take place in Geneva on 28th September 2018.
The Participants – Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament, and young people working on children’s human rights in Wales – including pupils from Pentrehafod School and Blackwood Comprehensive School and the Children’s Commissioners Young People’s Advisory Panel.
Two groups of young people meet, chat and create links. Happens all the time. What was so different about the web chat that took place on the afternoon of Wednesday 20th June 2018 that prompted Professor Jane Williams of the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, Swansea, to make this observation?
Well, for a start, one of the groups of young people was sitting in a committee room in the National Assembly of Wales, Cardiff. The other in Scotland, at the Scottish Parliament. And while plenty of groups have taken part on plenty of web chats before, there was something very special about this one.
Secondly, not only the participants but the subject for discussion was significant. The web chat marked the first time that members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament, and young people working on children’s human rights in Wales had taken part in a DGD (Day of General Discussion) hub together
Human Rights Defenders and the DGD Hub
Protecting and Empowering Children as Human Rights Defenders is the theme of this year’s Day of General Discussion organised by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Although anyone can be a human rights defender, protecting and promoting human rights, the UN recognises that children may need more support to fulfil this role. The Day of General Discussion has been organised to focus on what it means for children and young people to be human rights defenders. A DGD hub is an opportunity for children and young people to discuss the issues and in turn feed into the DGD. Some of the members of the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament will be going to Geneva and will be able to pass on the outcomes that were discussed during the webchat.
More about the first Welsh/Scottish DGD Hub
Ably chaired by Jack Gillum of CYPAW – the Campaign for the Children and Young People’s Assembly of Wales – in Wales, and Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, introductions were made, and the meeting quickly moved on to the real business of the afternoon – sharing experience, listening, asking questions. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was time for the discussion to come to a close.
Here in Wales we’re excited about the forthcoming elections to the Welsh Youth Parliament, due to take place in November 2018. It’s a really exciting development, so this was a fantastic opportunity to share experiences, and pool knowledge and for us in Wales to be inspired by the great work the young people of Scotland are involved in. Although youth democracy in Scotland is more deeply embedded, they were impressed by the experiences shared by the Welsh Young People about the work they are doing in Wales as human rights defenders.
The web chat was a great example of young people coming together with a shared purpose – it also highlighted common themes that arise for young people no matter where they are in the United Kingdom –
- The importance of being informed. The UNCRC gives children the right to receive information and to be able to access information. The young people in Scotland and Wales both highlighted how important it is to them to have information about things that affect them.
- The need for training. Training allows young people to develop the skills they need to research the issues that are important to them, express themselves clearly and to be heard.
- Young people should have an opportunity to engage and to be engaged. The views of children and young people count and should be listened to in decision making.
- Alliances with people in power help get things done. The members of the Scottish Youth Parliament explained how it had helped them that they had the support of the First Minister. In Wales, the support for the Welsh Youth Parliament from prominent figures including Elin Jones AM, Y Llywydd/Presiding Officer of the Senedd has been fundamental in driving forward the Welsh Youth Parliament. Support from the Observatory at the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, Swansea University, had helped strengthen their research, impact and influence.