The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) took effect on 2 September 1990, and was extended to Hong Kong on 7 September 1994. In order to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the UNCRC coming into effect, three non-governmental organizations concern about children's rights including Against Child Abuse, Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights and Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF jointly organized the UNCRC - Child Ambassadors' Scheme in September 2000, with the sponsorship of Home Affairs Bureau. The Scheme aimed to raise public awareness, in particular children, on the UNCRC. It also encouraged people to concern and understand the situation of children's rights in Hong Kong. Most importantly, it provided an opportunity for children to exercise their right to participation.
In the first year of the Scheme, 20 children aged between 12 and 16 were appointed as the UNCRC - Child Ambassadors. In January 2001, the Child Ambassadors had an exchange visit to Geneva in Switzerland, where they met the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. They also met representatives of the Children's Parliament of Lucerne. The trip not only gave them inspiration, but also ignited their passion for setting up a similar body for children in Hong Kong. Later, the Child Ambassadors met government officials and Legislative Councilors, participated in meetings related to children's affairs, and shared their experiences and views about children's rights whenever possible, to ensure the voices of children were being heard.
With the continuous support of Home Affairs Bureau and many years of exploration, learning and experiences drawn from overseas, the three organizing agencies together with the Child Ambassadors kicked off the first Children's Council project in Hong Kong in late 2002. Secondary school students below the age of 18 were recruited to be the first batch of Child Councilors. Through a democratic system, children can present and discuss motions relating to children for government's and community's consideration. Thereafter, the Children's Council projects continue to provide channels for children to participate in the civil society; enrich children's understanding of their own rights and responsibilities; as well as allow them to voice out on matters of their concern.
The Children's Council project has successfully organized in the past ten years. The project is sponsored by the Children's Rights Education Funding Scheme under Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau now. Through these years, children's views were collected and systematically presented by the Child Councilors and 31 motions concerning children were discussed in the areas such as education policies, child abuse, school bullying, children in poverty, childhood overweight, children's right to participation, unhealthy information to children, children and youth at risk, sex education among children, children left unattended, newly arrived Mainland children's learning environment, children's mental health, South Asian ethnic children’s learning of Chinese, cyber-bullying, parents’ divorce, children's right to political participation, and integrated education. Child Councilors interact with representatives of government officials, Legislative Councilors as well as other guests in the Q & A sessions. We have received encouraging responses from the Government, Legislative Councilors, schools, NGOs, media, individual guests in the local community as well as overseas, and the most important of all, the children themselves.
It is indeed encouraging to see the right to participation of children be realized and the mission of promoting children's rights be passed from generation to generation! We deeply believe that the implementation of the Children's Council project and the participation of more children will contribute to the establishment of a permanent platform for children to contribute and express their views on matters that affect them.