Why we believe a child rights approach is the only way to work with and for children.
195 United Nations member countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This means that they have committed to developing the laws and child care systems in their country to fulfill the rights of children and standards of care described in the CRC.
Many countries still have a long way to go. The journey involves developing law, building systems and training child care specialists. Success also requires effective implementation and enforcement.
In some countries like Thailand, aspects of the law protecting children are impressive. However there are gaps that both foreigners and Thai nationals operate in without proper over-site. The absence of effective implementation of child protection laws allows private individuals to work with children in any way that they themselves judge to be “good”.
A survey of expats involved with children in Thailand reveals a broad assortment of the weird, the wonderful and the dangerous.
Children’s Rights in Thailand
Thailand joined the United Nations in 1946 and has ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child on 12 February 1989.
The Thailand Child Protection Act 2003 currently is the main legislation covering the rights of children in Thailand, a full copy of the Act can be seen here.
- The current constitution was proclaimed by His Majesty the King Vajiralongkorn on the 6th of April, 2017.
- Article 32 proclaims the right to have a family along with some other personal rights.
- Article 71 states that State should strengthen and support the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Although the act has been in place for many years, it is fair to say that it has yet to be fully and equally implemented throughout Thailand.
Thailand has a well-established child protection mechanism with a Baan Pak Dek (crises shelter for children and women) in every one of the 76 provinces and also special zones of Bangkok and Pattaya.
The Second World War ended in 1945 and the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations, tasked with building a lasting peace between all nations.
Thailand joined the United Nations on 16th December 1946. Of the countries now recognized as the ASEAN community, only the Philippines has a longer history with the UN having joined in 1945.
Recognizing the additional care and protection that children need, in 1959 the United Nations further developed the 1924 Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
The 10 core principles of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child
- The right to equality, without distinction on account of race, religion or national origin.
- The right to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development.
- The right to a name and a nationality.
- The right to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.
- The right to special education and treatment when a child is physically or mentally handicapped.
- The right to understanding and love by parents and society.
- The right to recreational activities and free education.
- The right to be among the first to receive relief in all circumstances.
- The right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
- The right to be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, and universal brotherhood.
Read More History
The declaration was signed by all 78 members of the United Nations in 1959. Although the declaration still lacked a clear definition of a “child”, it was a big step forward in terms of recognising the importance of children’s individual rights. Within the ASEAN countries, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam had not yet joined the United Nations when the 1959 declaration was signed.
On 20th November 1989 the Convention on the Rights of the Child was born, it was the 30th anniversary of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Today all 196 member states of the United Nations are committed to the vision of the CRC, except the USA. Although signing the CRC in 1989 the USA has not yet been able to ratify it (agree a plan of action to achieve the vision in the convention). Reasons for this include the strong autonomy that individual states hold in the USA meaning that in effect every state would need to agree separately to follow the CRC. Some of the deeply conservative Christian groups in the USA also find fault with the concept of individual children having rights beyond the realm of their parents.
However it must be remembered that all countries are progressing towards full implementation of the CRC at different rates. Although the USA has not ratified the CRC, child care standards are generally very high when compared to the full spectrum of care services through all 196 countries within the UN.
In 1991 the Committee on the Rights of the Child was formed. Its 18 members were voted for by the countries party to the CRC and they serve for four years. The 195 member states that have ratified the CRC provide regular reports to the committee on their progress towards its implementation.
The committee is in a position to offer advice and encouragement to nations and also to suggest amendments or additional protocols to the CRC where gaps are revealed.
Thailand was represented on the committee for the term of 2008-2012 by Khun Sanphasit Koompraphant.
From the outset of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the situation of children deprived of parental care has been the subject of “constant and serious concern”. Specifically the committee talked about:
- The large number of children coming into alternative care in many countries, too often essentially due to their family’s material poverty.
- The conditions under which that care is provided
- The low priority that may be afforded to these children who, lacking the primary protection normally provided by parents, are particularly vulnerable.
It became clear that a large gap exists between the vision of the CRC and the reality on the ground in many countries especially for children in, or at risk of entering, alternative care. In 2004 the committee gave full backing to the development of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.
The guidelines were accepted by all governments in 2009. Although not legally binding, the guidelines are now used in the monitoring of progress reports made to the committee by all of the 195 nations that have ratified the CRC.
The committee added a comprehensive handbook in 2012. “Moving Forward, Implementing the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children” is a practical tool enabling all involved to understand the core principles of the guidelines and sharing examples of how those core principles have been successfully implemented in some countries.
“There is a growing recognition among Member States of the need to act. Several countries have taken steps to strengthen national laws, and have adopted care reform strategies focused on prevention, taking children out of institutions, and reunifying separated families. But we must do more. The Report [of the Secretary General on the Rights of the Child] calls for the end of institutionalizing children, investing more in child protection and welfare, social services, and family-based care in the community, and improving data collection and reporting systems to know exactly where to target our efforts.”
– Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director The Third Committee of the 74th Session of the General Assembly
On the 18th of December 2019, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted by consensus its first ever Resolution on the Rights of the Child focused on the theme of children without parental care . For the first time in its history, the UNGA called on its 193 Member States to take concrete action to implement the international commitments they have made to protect the human rights of children without parental care, including children in alternative care, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child , the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and international guidelines, such as the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children . Particularly groundbreaking in this resolution, the UNGA:
Resolution on the Rights of the Child focused on the theme of children without parental care summary.
- Expresses deep concern on the potential harm of institutionalization and institutional care to children’s growth and development, urging States to take action to progressively replace it with quality alternative care, including by redirecting resources to family and community-based care services;
- Urges States to adopt and enforce laws, policies, services and programmes, and budget allocations to address the root causes of unnecessary separation and ensure children are cared for effectively by their own families and communities, including through child and gender sensitive social protection systems, targeted cash transfers, access to basic services, high quality education and affordable and accessible child care and health services;
- Calls on States to develop and strengthen inclusive and responsive family-oriented policies and programmes for poverty reduction, also designed to promote and strengthen parents’ ability to care for their children, and to confront family poverty and social exclusion;
- Reaffirms that every effort should be directed to enabling children to remain or swiftly return to the care of their parents or when appropriate close family members, and that where alternative care is necessary, family and community-based care should be promoted over placement in institutions;
- Urges States to strengthen child welfare and child protection systems and improve care reforms efforts, including increased multisectoral collaboration with health, education and justice sectors, and active coordination among all relevant authorities, improved cross-border systems and improved capacity building;
- Calls on States to strengthen the regulatory system and put in place rigorous ‘gatekeeping” procedures to ensure alternative care is only used when clearly necessary and in an appropriate manner, and that registration, licensing and other oversight mechanisms are in place to guarantee the quality of alternative care and that children’s placements are regularly reviewed;
- Urges States to ensure the availability of a comprehensive range of quality accessible and disability-inclusive alternative care options in line with the CRC, CRPD, and taking into account the Guidelines; prioritising quality alternative care options over institutionalization, including by adopting policies, strategies and comprehensive plans of action, and implementing relevant reforms;
- Underlines the importance of improving data collection, information management and reporting systems related to children without parental care in all settings and situations in order to close existing data gaps and develop global and national baselines;
- Reaffirms States’ responsibility to protect the human rights of children in alternative care, including by protecting them against all forms of violence and abuse in all care settings;
- Calls on States to take appropriate measures to prevent and combat the trafficking and exploitation of children in care facilities, and to take appropriate measures to prevent and address the harms related to orphanage volunteering, including in the context of tourism.
- The resolution also contains important language reinforcing international commitments made on specific aspects of children’s care, in particular, the UNGA:
- Reaffirms that States must ensure children with disabilities have equal rights with respect to family life, including by providing early and comprehensive information, services and support to them and their families to prevent concealment, abandonment, neglect, discrimination and segregation, and by undertaking every effort, where the immediate family is unable to care for a child with disabilities, to provide quality alternative care within the wider family, and failing that, within the community in a family setting;
- Calls on States to ensure adolescents and young people leaving alternative care receive appropriate support in preparing for the transition to independent living, including through access to employment, education, training, housing and psychological support;
- Reaffirms the importance of adequate and systematic training for all professional groups and staffs working with and for children, including children without parental care;
- Underlines the particular need for multi-disciplinary collaboration and coordination between a range of actors and sectors, including across health, education and justice to ensure all decisions, initiatives and approaches related to children without parental care are made on a case by case basis through a judicial, administrative or other adequate and recognized procedure and by suitably qualified professionals, taking into account the best interests of the child;
- Calls on States to take specific measures to prevent and respond to the separation of children from their families in humanitarian contexts, including by giving priority to family tracing and family reunification and reintegration;
- Reaffirms that unaccompanied and separated children should be protected at all stages of migration through the establishment of specialized procedures for their identification, referral, care and family reunification, and to ensure their access to health-care services, education, and legal assistance.
- An unprecedented coalition of over 255 organizations, networks, and agencies working at local, national, regional and global levels across all regions came together over the last 12 months to develop and advocate for a comprehensive set of Key Recommendations . This global movement reflects the reality that reforms of child care and protection systems are taking place in all regions of the world , supported by an ever growing partnership between governments, international organizations, donors, and civil society actors, including faith based organisations, and disability rights organisations. Many of the recommendations made by the coalition are reflected in the text of the resolution adopted today but some are sorely missing. This includes the critical importance of participation by children and their families , not only in the day-to-day decisions that affect them individually, but also in informing and evaluating the system reforms and interventions that are being made to support them more effectively and appropriately.
- As we celebrate the adoption of this groundbreaking resolution, we also recognize that the work has only just begun, and our focus is turning to the implementation of these important commitments. It is through these collaborations, through the growing partnerships and commitments at all levels to engage, learn, share, innovate together that better systems of care and protection for children will emerge over the next decade.