New Hong Kong children’s commission must engage all sections of society

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Monday, 13 November, 2017, 11:10pm

The formation of a commission on children in 2018 was announced in last month’s policy address. A preparatory committee is undertaking three months of public engagement to determine the roles and functions of the commission.

The Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights believes that the commission should be for every child, and no children should be left out. For the commission to be effective, it must take a proactive, holistic, rights-based approach.

Instead of only debating “hot issues”, the commission could maximise its role by addressing social policies and systems which extensively impact every child in society.

A central data system for children is urgently required, to enable us to trace trends and characteristics of issues pertaining to children’s rights in survival, development, protection and participation, which will serve the ultimate goal of incorporating child perspectives in policies and practices.

In striving for the proactive improvement of children’s rights and holistic well being, we often gain a new perspective when we look at our society through children’s eyes and through their own experience. It is essential for the commission to have an ongoing engagement system for children.

A central data system for children is urgently required

However, the 1.1 million children of Hong Kong are not a homogeneous group. They are of various ages, from different backgrounds, and have diverse interests and a wide range of often deep-seated concerns.

For the commission to deal effectively with these concerns will require a lot of time and reflection.

Any consultation by the commission with children must be meaningful and in a language they can understand. They must be given the information they need to be able to make a real contribution and make their views known.

It is not good enough to have a few consultation sessions with a small number of children before the commission is set up next year. The consultation process must be ongoing and extensive.

Also, there are groups that will probably not be involved in these discussions, comprising some of the most vulnerable and marginalised children. They may be in institutions, have disabilities, live across the border or have gender concerns. Unless their voices are heard, the commission may not be able to adequately list its priorities.

Some international bodies have spent a considerable amount of time developing guidelines and training programmes to ensure children’s genuine participation, and the commission should draw on this information.

Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, chairperson, Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights