Saturday, August 30, 2008

Concept Note on the Karnataka Child Rights Observatory

Karnataka Observatory on
Children's Rights Status and Progress
[A project supported by UNICEF, Hyderabad]

I. Introduction
The UN Convention on the Rights of the (CRC) has laid the onus of ensuring that every child realizes her/his rights on parents, but in the eventuality that they cannot or do not fulfill this role adequately, the State is enjoined to support or even step in to do so.

The duty to enable child rights whether by planning and implementing suitable programmes or by education of the parents, carries with it the corresponding duties of regularly monitoring and periodically evaluating their status, the role that the state has envisaged for itself as well as for other actors such as parents, family, civil society and academics, the process of both planning and implementation, and the relationship among inputs, outputs and outcomes. It also casts upon the State the role of an advocate for the Child.

The global WFFC review (2007) as well as cross-sectional and trend data from national and state level sources reveal that the achievements in India in the last half decade have fallen far short of the WFFC goals as well as of the MDG goals [since the last decade and a half]. But there are still many gaps and contradictions in the data that need to be investigated. Moreover, the data are generally macro - or meso - level, while data at local levels, where the actions need to be specifically targeted, are often not available even if they do exist with local organisations or the authorities. Generally, too, the causes of such shortfalls are not probed into. Yet another problem is that governments are not willing to acknowledge the full extent of the shortfalls but are dismissive of civil society findings when faced with them.
The result is that on the one hand, there is some immediate hand-wringing when the data are released and some generic responses or none at all – the data are only the sensation of the moment.
This scenario is not in the least conducive to the realisation of child rights in India even while the economy is growing and talent and expertise is not wanting.
Hence a systematic attempt to examine the policies, programmes and budgets that Government as well as NGOs have put in place with the aim of helping achieve the WFFC/MDG goals is needed. It is also necessary to examine the commitments to children that various political parties and people’s representatives make at the time of elections and measure the actual performance of those in power. The findings from such efforts can feed into both monitoring the State's implementation of the Convention and lobbying for children's rights.

This type of project will have greater credibility and clout if spearheaded by some eminent persons. Such an attempt needs to be a collaborative effort of several civil society organisations, so that there is maximum coverage as well as possibilities of building on the strengths of various partners’ concerted action and advocacy. It should create space for the voice of children. Also the various activities and programmes should interlink with each other. The project will keep in touch with, and involve, Government in the process, but will be independent of it.
Overall, the Observatory will be a rich source of information, analysis of data and policy, for all stakeholders. Since it is an independent body that draws on the expertise and concern of child rights activists all over the state, it will be a strong child rights resource centre. It is expected that not only NGOs but also government departments and the proposed State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights will use it for data, analysis and policy suggestions.

II. Objectives and Scope of the Observatory

The overall objective is to set up a Child Rights Observatory in Karnataka that is run by a consortium of NGOs & academics with Child Rights Trust as the coordinating organisation. The word “Observatory” is used more in a conceptual sense than a physical one: The project will an omnibus one with a number of sub-projects that together converge to provide the data, analysis, publicity and pressure [as needed] for both Government and Civil Society to act in the best interests of the Child. It will follow and document the progress of child rights realisation in the state over time; the collaborating organisations will use the findings and materials to strengthen their advocacy and actions.

With the Child Rights Observatory as a source for information and analysis on the status of children in the state with respect to various indicators, running through the entire duration of the project, other sub-projects will be carried out in the next five years with different timelines as needed.

III. The Observatory

With its experience in the field child rights research, advocacy, lobbying with field experience, CRT is confident that it can develop and coordinate the proposed Observatory project in Karnataka. This omnibus project will have two aspects with several sub-projects as follows:

A. Child Rights Resource Centre : will have activities such as Media Analysis, Data Bank at different levels Research Studies, Budget Analysis, CRC, NPAC & SPAC Monitoring, Analysis of CWC Cases;

B. Child Rights Advocacy - Children's Parliaments, Children's Poll, Pre-election Campaigns, Post-election Follow-up; Accountability of Peoples' Representatives at all Levels – Q & A Analysis, Child-friendly legislators, Legislators' Forum, Special Grama Sabhas/ULB Sabhas.

The two sub-projects have inter-linkages and each will utilise the results and sometimes the processes of the other project.

A. Child Rights Resource Centre:
i. Media Analysis: Media Analysis and scanning of media reports on violation of child rights and initiation of corrective actions by the concerned authorities; highlighting reports on best practices and case studies on good developments. The Child Rights Observatory sends a fortnightly email news bulletin to the stake holders to highlight the situation of children as reported in various print media.
ii. Data Bank at different levels: Quantitative and qualitative studies, based on primary and secondary data, will be collected through various sources by CRT and through NGO/Academic partners. The analysis of these data will form the basis for the other sub-projects.
iii. Reports on the Status of Children: Provision of inputs into CRC Alternate Reports at various intervals as required; monitoring of NPAC and SPAC, and updates on the situation of children in South India, Karnataka and India.
iv. Budget Analysis: Analysis of the state budget allocations and expenditures on children’s issues and advocacy for higher/adequate allocations as well as their use.
v. Analysis of CWC Cases: CWCs in the state have a lot of data on violations of child rights and decisions on them. Analysis of these will yield rich dividends

B. Child Rights Advocacy

i. Election Advocacy
Post-election follow-up with the successful candidates
a. Children's Parliaments: Consultations for children to speak out freely on various issues concerning them.

b. Q & A Analysis: Analysis of the Question Hour of the Legislative Assembly and Council to bring out the importance given to children's issues by people's representatives, the quality and type of questions and also the quality, reliability and accuracy of the answers given by the Government.

c. Child-friendly Legislators: For the past three years, CRT and UNICEF have been honouring state legislators who asked the most questions about children's issues in the Legislature with the title Child-friendly Legislators. Already some pay-off has been seen in some of them asking CRT for more information and suggestions on issues to raise in the respective Houses.

d. Forum of Legislators for Children: Another dividend in the making is that some legislators have expressed interest of creating a Forum for children among them.
When the houses of legislature are again in place, this initiative will need to be followed upon and the CRT will have to service the Forum with sensitisation, information and support to their efforts to act as a caucus for children.

e. Child-Friendly Grama Sabhas/ULB Sabhas: Provision of inputs and methodology to Gram Panchayats and local NGOs for organising and conducting Grama Sabhas on children’s issues at Grama Panchayat level as per the circular issued by the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Karnataka. The government is contemplating doing this in urban areas local bodies will also be covered with that expectation.

f. Media Events and Materials: Organization of periodic media events to publicise children’s issues from various sources in order to create awareness among public, officials, parents, communities and children; and to support advocacy for child rights.

IV. Partners and Advisers
CRT will look to all its state partners as well as UNICEF and expect to also benefit from the guidance of some eminent social leaders and experienced activists [some suggested names are depicted in the chart below]. The advisory board for the observatory will meet once in three months to take stock of the developments and also to guide the team for future activities. The findings of the advisory board will be shared with media for wider reach.

Government departments concerned with the child will be periodically apprised of the progress in KCRO and its outputs will be shared. They will be also involved in discussions of the results of the project as per the need and feasibility.

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