Kids had plenty to say: UN monitors

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:50am

Adults should listen to children and pay attention to their needs, visiting members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have urged.

Committee chairwoman Kirsten Sandberg and rapporteur Maria Herczog were in the city meeting more than 40 children's rights and services groups last week over three days.

They said the children they spoke to were very responsive.

"The children are very well prepared. They have thought of what they'd like to tell us," said Herczog, a Hungarian native and a professor of sociology who has been working on children's rights internationally for over 25 years.

"Even very young children can explain themselves very well once they are given enough time," she said.

Sandberg, a Norwegian jurist, expert on children's rights and law professor at the University of Oslo, said: "It has been very interesting to meet children from very different groups in society.

"Reports and picture books had already given us an impression [of the situation in Hong Kong], but it always makes a strong impression, seeing [the places and people] in real life."

But Herczog and Sandberg said they could not elaborate on their trip, which included visiting children living in subdivided flats and rooftop homes, and talking to disabled children and scores of social workers.

"We cannot comment on the visits," said Sandberg.

The 18-member group will reveal its consensus in a 20,000-word observation report, which will be presented at the 64th meeting on child's rights to be held from September 16 to October 4 in Geneva. Representatives of the Hong Kong government will attend the meeting to report on the development and issues to do with children's rights in the city. Herczog said their trip, arranged by local non-governmental organisation the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights, had been well planned. "Hong Kong is well known for its efficiency, and it has been visible [on this visit]," she said.

Herczog and Sandberg also warned against the practice adopted by many countries of placing responsibility for children's rights with parents.

"States often forget the second part of the convention, which is that the state needs to equip and provide parents with the necessary knowledge and resources [to take care of their children]," Herczog said.

She added that a clearer definition of children's rights was needed, and that the state, community and society in general should share responsibility for ensuring those rights.