Child Human Rights Defenders


Implementation Guide

4.1. National Human Rights Institutions 


DHRD Article 14(3)

The States shall ensure and support, where appropriate, the creation and development of further independent national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all territory under its jurisdiction, whether they be ombudsmen, human rights commissions or any other form of national institution.

The Committee has consistently encouraged States to develop or strengthen the capacity of NHRIs to include a specific focus on children (whether that be through an institution dedicated to children or through a work stream focused on children within an NHRI). It has identified a series of reasons why children should get special attention in an NHRI, including the following: ‘children’s developmental states makes them particularly vulnerable to human rights violations; their opinions are still rarely taken into account; most children have no vote and cannot play a meaningful role in the political process that determines Governments’ response to human rights; children encounter significant problems in using the judicial system to protect their rights or to seek remedies for violations of their rights; and children’s access to organizations that may protect their rights is generally limited.’ Each of these justifications are especially relevant for CHRDs and it is important therefore that there is an NHRI which understands the rights and needs of CHRDs, provides accessible protection and remedies and which supports their activity. It has been recommended that an NHRI should: ‘publicly position itself as a child rights actor, by including a child rights perspective in its public statements and publications.’  Moreover, the Paris Principles require NHRIs to ‘develop relations with the non-governmental organizations devoted to promoting and protecting human rights, to economic and social development, to combating racism, to protecting particularly vulnerable groups (especially children).’  This should include child-led organizations as well as civil society organizations working with and for children.

All NHRIs, irrespective of whether their work is dedicated to children or not, should be accessible to all human rights holders, including children. However, it is particularly important that children are able to access an NHRI that has a specific role and expertise in protecting the rights of children when they are seeking to enforce their own rights (whether as an individual or a group). One key aspect of this is providing accessible material to children that will enable them to understand their rights and how to access them. The Paris Principles require that NHRIs ‘assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles.’ As part of this NHRIs should familiarize children and professionals who work with them with the definition of HRDs and should support them to understand their rights as CHRDs or obligations as duty-bearers. For example the Scottish Children’s Commissioner has developed the first  child-friendly version of the Declaration. DGD2018 recommended that NHRIs should disseminate information about their work to CHRDs; work more closely with CHRDs; and support them to report on and seek redress for human rights violations.  This applies to child specific institutions such as Children’s Ombudspersons and Commissioners as well as NHRIs with a general remit. 

NHRIs should have the power to consider individual complaints and petitions and carry out investigations, including those submitted on behalf of or directly by children. This should include the powers to compel and question witnesses, access relevant documentary evidence and access places of detention. They should seek to ensure that children have effective remedies – independent advice, advocacy and complaints procedures – for any breaches of their rights. Where appropriate, NHRIs should undertake mediation and conciliation of complaints. Finally, NHRIs should have the power to support children taking cases to court, including the power (a) to take cases concerning children’s issues in the name of the NHRI and (b) to intervene in court cases to inform the court about the human rights issues involved in the case. 


Table of Contents



Child Human Rights Defender


Convention on the Rights of the Child


Children’s Rights Impact Assessment


Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities


Human Rights Defender


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


National Human Rights Institution


Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights


Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure


Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe


Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children 


Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

The Committee

Committee on the Rights of the Child 

The Declaration or DHRD

The United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

The Special Rapporteur

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders


United Nations