Principles and Strategies for Implementation of UNGC21

Children who rely on the streets used to be called ‘street children’. They are visible and vulnerable on street corners around the world. No government willingly abandons a child to that situation and, until recently, the knee-jerk response has been to remove children, forcibly, from the street. But this is not effective for children and is expensive for governments. New guidance confirms that forcible removal also contravenes children’s legal rights. As governments strive to improve children’s lives, reconciling State legal obligations to children and limited budgets is a challenge. Policy-makers have lacked authoritative guidance and specialist knowledge to develop cost-effective programmes that help children access their rights and improve their livelihoods. 

An action taken by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in July 2017 has helped take great strides to reverse that. For the first time, governments now have authoritative legal guidance based on specialist knowledge, in the form of UN General Comment No. 21 (UNGC 21) issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in July 2017. 

Launch of a rights-based approach for children in street situations constitutes a clear statement of national and international leadership on childhood and commitment to the most vulnerable. It also contributes to achieving targets in priority areas such as poverty reduction, universal education and healthcare, and to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) commitment to leave no child behind. There is a new approach with international momentum and support behind it. Examples include: 

  • Uruguay - first country government to declare as an ‘Early Adopter’ of UNGC 21 
  • Consortium for Street Children – first network to publish a child-friendly version of UNGC 21 
  • Baker McKenzie – first corporate to consult experts and children for UNGC 21 
  • American Bar Association – first legal association to champion UNGC21 

The Principles and Strategies presented here are the result of the first International Summit on the Legal Rights of Street Children in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in November 2017, led by the American Bar Association (ABA) and hosted by the law firm of Baker McKenzie (International Summit). 

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