Safeguarding Children in the Commonwealth: CFAB’s Delegate-led session at the Commonwealth People’s Forum 2022

This June, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW), CFAB convened a delegate-led event at the Commonwealth People’s Forum in Kigali, Rwanda, to highlight the importance of child protection across the Commonwealth. This continues the mission of the Children’s Interest Group, set up in March 2022, under the umbrella of the Independent Forum of Commonwealth Organisations (IFCO) and with administrative support provided by CFAB.

The group aims to improve the rights of children across the Commonwealth by pooling their expertise to identify policy areas that require additional support and have potential for collective Commonwealth action. Whilst children’s issues range across much of the Commonwealth’s work, there was no unifying child policy statement or declaration in the Commonwealth to consider their rights, protection, care and needs. This Interest Group, and the People’s Forum session, is a step toward making this a reality.

The discussion was led by Gerald Okiria (COSW), Charles Mbugua (COSW), and Chaste Uwihoreye (ISS-Rwanda) with other members of the Children’s Interest Group – including Brian Speers, President of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association – participating.  With the continuing impact of Covid-19 and impending climate collapse, the futures of children have become more uncertain, and it has never been more important to prioritise the rights of children across the commonwealth in every corner of the globe. The session was a roundtable discussion, bringing in a diversity of voices and perspectives that can otherwise be marginalised or silenced. In this case, the children’s focused session sought to generate new ideas about how to transform systems, institutions and attitudes to secure a better future that leaves no Commonwealth child behind.  

The discussion was extremely fruitful and productive, enabling Commonwealth members colleagues to utilise their deep-rooted networks of friendship and goodwill to generate new ideas to safeguard children. The session covered:  

  • How can we work together to build systems protecting children from all forms of violence, including their sexual exploitation and abuse, and safeguard them, nationally, transnationally, and in the donor community.
  • How best to protect children and families as they are displaced or move across borders and the value of the 1996 Hague Convention.  
  • How can we better hear and include young voices through case studies of young carers’ experiences, the newly released Young Carers’ Charter and its consultation processes with young people across the Commonwealth, and the role of the Commonwealth Children and Youth Disability Network.  

Overall, it was a vitally important session that once again placed firmly the importance of child protection and safeguarding on the agenda in Commonwealth Organisations and we look forward to building on this discussion in the future.