“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative bodies or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

Article 3, Convention on the Rights of the Child

Child Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) is a process that supports a systematic focus on the rights, needs and interests of children affected by the decisions and actions of governments, institutions and others. There are few evaluative studies of CRIA, partly because it is often an internal government process that is not publicly accessible. A survey of literature and experience identifies many potential benefits, dependent on the robustness of the methodology adopted by the user, including the following:

  • Make children visible in policy and other decision-making processes that affect them; children’s interests are often overlooked or subordinate, while a substantial number of decisions affect children directly or indirectly
  • Understand potential impacts on children before decisions are made
  • Maximize positive benefits and avoid/reduce/mitigate negative impacts for children, including identification of unintended consequences – and consider alternatives
  • Minimize discrimination (disparities and inequities) and promote equitable treatment through early identification of differential impacts among different groups children (e.g., by gender, age, family status, etc.)
  • Create space for consideration of conflicting rights claims and interests, and promote a balance while giving children due priority
  • Recognize children as “legitimate and specific” stakeholders – a large group with unique needs, rights and vulnerabilities
  • Ensure consideration of a population that has few avenues to influence political decision-making
  • Benefit from analysis drawing on the comprehensive framework of the the Convention on the Rights of the Child (particularly important when there is a lack of sufficient evidence on potential impacts); using an accepted international legal framework as the frame of reference broadens understanding of potential impacts on multiple dimensions of children’s lives, helps consider interdependent variables and ripple effects and helps take the guesswork out
  • Determine the aggregate “best interests of the child” through a valid, comprehensive analysis; provide a common framework for discussing and arriving at a ‘best interests’ conclusion
  • Identify early and address factors that have life-long impacts for children (because of children’s developmental stage, deprivations can have life-long impacts) and help ensure that future generations of children are considered such as in the areas of citizenship and adoption
  • Consider obligations under the Convention early in the policy formation process, rather than waiting until violations are identified in monitoring reports or in the courts; this can also prevent the need to amend decisions and incur costs later on if found to be unconstitutional
  • Challenge the assumption that impacts on children mirror impacts on households; policy areas including maternal labour market policy, child welfare and inter-country adoption demonstrate the need to consider children’s interests distinct from adult family members’
  • Provide a structured process to implement government obligations to respect, protect and fulfill children’s universal human rights
  • Increase the legitimacy of government decisions through accountability and transparency; public confidence can be improved, even if the results are not universally embraced
  • Encourage cross-departmental coordination and inter-sectoral policy coherence within and between governments, who share different responsibilities for children’s interdependent rights; help policy-makers consider the potential impact of proposals beyond their immediate area of responsibility
  • Recognize that children are dependent on adults for food, shelter, clothing, care and protection and are key users of public services
  • Recognize that children are often subject to rules that do not apply to other population groups – minimize arbitrary limitations on their rights while recognizing their evolving capacity and agency
  • Address the fact that children are often excluded from or unable to access effective complaints mechanisms when things go wrong
  • Ground-truth decisions with children’s views about how children may be affected and whether proposals are likely to be effective
  • Save costs – negative consequences can be costly to the well-being of children and to others (including families and service-providers); decision-makers can also save costs by aligning services with children’s needs – and if the proposal under consideration creates negative impacts, it is much less expensive to make these amendments early on in the process

Share the benefits you have identified in the Community Forum.