Children and Youth in Sharjah Voice Opinions on Digital Rights

SBFO and UNICEF consultative session outcomes will shape UNCRC General Comment to drive stronger international action to protect children’s rights in a digital world

Protecting children’s rights in the digital age is an ever-growing challenge for the world at large. In continuation of their efforts to elevate children’s wellbeing, the Sharjah Baby Friendly Office (SBFO) in partnership with the UNICEF Gulf Area Office, organised a consultation session involving 20 children across age groups from diverse nationalities, at Al Majaz Amphitheater in Sharjah.

 

The objective of the session was to obtain a detailed overview from the emirate’s young populace on their experiences in the digital environment, document their observations about the extent to which the internet shapes their social interactions and influences their development, and the risks or threats they are or may be exposed to in the digital space. The session also met SBFO’s objective of upholding children’s right to be heard in matters which affects them.

 

The consultation session was conducted by Essam Ali, Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF Gulf Area Office and delivered in English.

 

SBFO and UNICEF Gulf Area Office will collate the findings of this consultation session and present them to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to support their work on developing a first draft of a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment.

Highlighting the implications of the digital age for children’s rights, Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SBFO, says: “No group is more affected than children by the communications revolution of the internet age. In the UAE, more than 99 percent population are active internet users. While this is a significant enabler of national initiatives like establishing an innovation- and knowledge-based economy and a tech-driven society, it also means we need to do our very best to safeguard the full range of children’s rights that are impacted within a highly digital environment like ours”.

 

“Sharjah’s leadership has always concerned itself with listening to children, offering them the right platforms to voice their opinions and expectations. We need to see their perspectives in order to truly benefit them. This consultative session in collaboration with UNICEF Gulf Area Office is in line with Sharjah’s Child Friendly City project goals, and reflects vision of the emirate to ensure that all children from all nationalities and age groups have equal opportunities to participate in shaping their city, and their future,” she added.

 

After due consideration of all inputs shared at similar consultative sessions with children around the world, CRC will prepare a first draft of the General Comment for additional consultation with relevant stakeholders. The UN Committee has been encouraging submissions from a diversity of parties so that the General Comment reflects the widest possible expertise and experience.

 

About the CRC General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment

The digital environment poses broad-ranging opportunities and challenges for States, businesses and non-governmental organizations in respect of all the rights embodied in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Therefore, the Committee on the Rights of the Child decided in 2018 to develop a General Comment on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment. The purpose of the General Comment will be to strengthen the case for greater action and elaborate what measures are required by States in order to meet their obligations to promote and protect children’s rights in and through the digital environment, and to ensure that other actors, including business enterprises, meet their responsibilities.

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