Delivering on the SDGs with Regard to Children’s Rights

By Musa Chibwana

So the SDGs were launched by the UN after a couple of years debating their framing and coverage.

The 17 goals and 169 targets seek to take over from where the MDGs left off while addressing the gaps that were identified. Here are my observations and prognosis:

The SDGs do well to address key systemic barriers to sustainable development such as inequality, unsustainable consumption patterns, weak institutional capacity and environmental degradation which the MDGs did not pay attention to.

Since we are now thinking of implementation at national level, there seem to be overlaps amongst the goals.

SDG 1 on ending poverty in all its forms (greater progress in framing than end extreme poverty as was previously framed) cannot be achieved without achievement of SDG 2 on food security and SDG8 on macroeconomic policies related to targets on full and productive employment and decent work. The foregoing will rely on SDG 10 as well on reduction of inequality, which is related to enhancing resilience to climate change – SDG13. Overall, the success of all the foregoing will lead to better health and wellbeing thereby contributing to SDG3.

What am I saying? While there are 17 Goals in total, civil society has to work with its government in prioritising in view of the overlaps that exist. The prioritising should however not leave the governments in their comfort zones, but should stretch them to do more.

One of the major challenges with the SDG framing is that it does not identify the various social groups which the governments have to mobilise in delivering the goals. As civil society, we have to claim that space in both complementing and holding the governments accountable – it will not be given to us as we have seen with the SDGs!

You may be wondering like I am, these are 17 Goals, but the question is, what is the ideal picture that we see when all of them are achieved? The succinct overall goal or vision to be achieved is missing from the framing. What are the 17 goals feeding into? This has to be interpreted since it is not readily provided with the goals.

These goals are not coming into vacuum; the governments have their own development plans some of which are going to end, for example, in five years or two years. In this case, where do the SDGs come in at national level? It is our prerogative as civil society to engage with our governments so that the SDGs are mainstreamed into the existing development agendas. We should avoid SDG orphan hood (child protection people would know about this better!) where the country does not adopt any of the goals under the pretext that they have their vision 2020. I’m sure there are linkages that can be identified so that the national development plans fit into the global development framework or vice versa.

It has been estimated that the full realisation of the SDGs will require USD1 trillion each year at global level. Our various countries can easily excuse themselves by saying that they do not have the resources to implement these goals. This is where civil society is expected to play a part in ensuring that the available resources are used judiciously.

Colleagues, anyone who does child rights work should be interested about this subject because it directly has a bearing on the fulfilment of children’s rights in their country. I always argue that a national budget or local authority’s budget is a human rights instrument! Let’s lobby for earmarked taxes to address issues of e.g. education or health. I yearn for a time when our social policies are wholly funded nationally.

Civil society organisations should create platforms for children to engage with duty bearers on implementation of the SDGs and the national development agendas in place.

Lastly, to measure progress, there must be the data that is systematically collected. Civil society organisations should lobby governments to budget for this element. Sometimes it’s not prioritised in national budgets. Let’s measure the progress we are making!

Why the SADC Needs a Children’s Protocol

By Musa Chibwana


A Protocol is a legally binding document committing Member States to the objectives and specific procedures stated within it. In order for a Protocol to enter in to force, two thirds of the Member States need to ratify or sign the agreement, giving formal consent and making the document officially valid. Any Member State that had not initially become party to a Protocol can accede to it at a later stage.


One generation on, very little substantive change has taken place in the lives of southern African children despite the ratification by most countries of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). The region is rife with child rights violations which have proceeded despite the well couched ACRWC and the UNCRC which governments have signed.

Despite these measures, children in Southern Africa still die of preventable diseases, hunger and children grow up in poverty. Most countries in Southern Africa are not on course in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with most having a great effect on children.

This provokes the question; do we not need another instrument? Indeed a new instrument is needful and it has to be the one that will deliver specifically on the rights and the welfare of children in Southern Africa.


  1. The rationale for a Child Rights Protocol lies in the evident lack of progress by most SADC countries in meeting targets set under non-binding agreements like the UNCRC and the ACRWC.
  2. The Child Rights Protocol should be considered as important to move the region from an era of paying lip service to member states’ regional commitments into one in which they will be compelled to act through the process of an obligatory, action-oriented child rights framework.
  3. Such a framework will require the support of various instruments already in force; but, because of their number and scope, their content needs to be consolidated into one, comprehensive document – which will be the Protocol. This not only will ensure clarity of normative expectation, it will also permit the inclusion of and focus on region-specific child rights violations.
  4. Thus, the Child Rights Protocol will result in increased accountability among member states both regionally and domestically.
  5. Since the SADC Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Youth Strategy of 2009-2015 is expiring, the child rights movement can take advantage of the momentum which this initiative achieved so that the next level be to come up with a more binding regional framework. The development of the SADC Children’s Protocol will tap into the experiences and observations obtained from implementing the SADC Minimum Package of Services for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and Youth for the realisations of children’s rights.
  6. The Child Rights Protocol will take the region a step closer to finding home-grown, concrete ways of fulfilling children’s rights in all the 15 member countries of SADC. Current instruments are generic and they do not have measurable standards which countries have to observe. This explains why the situation of children has barely changed despite the ratification of the UNCRC and the ACRWC.
  7. The Child Rights Protocol will both be a policy document and an implementation framework for the realisation of children’s rights. Since it will be binding, member states will have an obligation to fulfil its dictates.
  8. By creating common normative standards, the Protocol will empower policymakers, service-delivery institutions, child rights activists, and children as rights holders with the legal tools to demand and claim for the promotion, protection and respect of children’s rights.
  9. The Protocol will provide for setting of specific targets and time frames in which provisions of children’s rights will be realised. The Protocol will institute a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for measuring progress.
  10. Implementing the provisions of the Protocol should lead to more measurable, comprehensive, relevant and sustainable change across the region. It will create an imperative for taking immediate action.
  11. The hope is that this fresh approach will result in milestones being achieved after a stalemate that seems to have characterised attempts in the sub-region to move beyond the many commitments made on paper. The revised approach specifically means that SADC states will now be legally bound to speed up efforts towards the fulfilment of children’s rights.
  12. The Protocol will articulate, in a more nuanced and peculiarly southern African way, a number of child rights violations while proffering practical ways of addressing such violations, particularly in the area of child protection.
  13. The Protocol will contain some clear enforcement mechanisms. These mechanisms also need to exist at both the domestic and regional levels.


Children constitute more than 45% of the Southern Africa population. It is imperative for the region to give special attention to the aspirations and rights of such a significant population.

Even though the member countries have done well in ratifying child rights instruments like the UNCRC and the ACRWC, the ratification has barely made children to realise their rights. The region is still bedevilled by a myriad of challenges for children leading to questions being asked whether the already ratified instruments are enough.

The call for a Child Rights Protocol at SADC level is a statement to member states that there is need to set normative standards for the realisation of child rights. The Protocol will not be an end in itself; it will provide impetus to member states to fulfil their obligations as duty bearers for children’s rights. It will provide a premise for children as rights claimers and those in solidarity with them to demand for the fulfilment of their rights


Overview CRNSA Strategic Plan

Introducing the CRNSA 2015-2019 Strategic Plan

The CRNSA Strategic Plan focuses on five thematic areas:

  • Capacity building and strengthening
  • Research, lobbying and  advocacy
  • Communication and  information dissemination
  • Child Rights monitoring, evaluation and  reporting
  • Organisational development

These goals inform our five strategic outcomes:

Outcome 1: National Child Rights networks in Southern Africa strengthened and supported to effectively promote and protect the rights of children

Key Results

  1. Vibrant national child rights networks with sound corporate governance systems operational in Southern Africa
  2. Increased sharing of experiences at national, regional and international levels by CRNSA partners
  3. Increased resource base (human and financial) of national child rights networks in Southern Africa
  4. Knowledge and skills in child rights instruments among national child rights networks and member states improved
  5. National child rights networks effectively engaging with human rights mechanisms at country level and regional level through CRNSA


Outcome 2: Improved social, economic and policy environment for the promotion, protection and fulfillment of children’s rights in Southern Africa

 Key Results

  1. Gaps and challenges on children’s rights identified, documented and remedial strategies and
  2. interventions developed and implemented by CRNSA members and their respective state parties
  3. International and regional child rights protocols domesticated and commitments observed by all
  4. member states
  5.  A SADC Child Rights Protocol developed & adopted all member states
  6. Child rights governance frameworks and mechanisms established with adequate resources
  7. Increased resource allocation by member states for child focused national and local budget votes
  8. Improved documentation of ‘best practices’ and knowledge management by CRNSA partners


Outcome 3: Mechanisms for effective and timely communication of the regional network’s programs and activities established and maintained

 Key Results

  1. CRNSA communication and information dissemination strategy produced
  2.  Key communication and information dissemination technologies in place
  3.  Increased sharing of experiences at national, regional and international by CRNSA partners
  4.  A continuous and systematic mechanism of collecting, collation dissemination of child rights information in place


Outcome 4: States parties in SADC are compliant to regional, continental and international child rights protocols

 Key Results

  1. Continuous and systematic mechanism for child rights monitoring established
  2.  Member states produce periodic status reports on children’s rights policy and
  3.  State parties meet their reporting and accountability requirements to international and regional bodies on child rights
  4.  Readily available and up to date information on the state of children’s rights in Southern African countries


Outcome 5: An effective regional child rights network for Southern Africa is established

 Key Results

  1.  Joint programs with SADC and other regional child rights stakeholders established
  2.  Observer status to treaty bodies like the ACERWC and the UNCRC obtained
  3.  MOUs signed with all the members for effective participation
  4.  CRNSA registered with the secretariat fully established with but not limited to the following:
  • All key positions in the secretariat filled
  • Fully resourced offices
  • A monitoring and evaluation framework established
  • Administrative and operational guidelines in place