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Why SADC Needs a Children Protocol


CRNSA - Child Rights Network for Southern Africa

Child Rights Network for Southern Africa

Prepared by Musa Chibwana

CRNSA Coordinator


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 UNCRC

and the ACRWC. The sub 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 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. 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. Such a framework will require the support of various

instruments already in force; but, because of their number and scope, their

content need 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. Thus, the Child Rights Protocol will result in increased

accountability among member states both regionally and domestically.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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

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