On 1 February 2013 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a General Comment that clarifies for governments worldwide the meaning and importance of Article 31 of the Convention on the Right of the Child.
Minister for Health and Social Services Lesley Griffiths said:
‘Wales is already leading the way on promoting children’s rights and the articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The right for children to experience the freedom and enjoyment of play and recreational activities is of paramount importance to us. Recently we commenced the duty on our local authorities to assess the sufficiency of play opportunities in their local area. This is the first step in ensuring that we have places that are safe and freely available, for children to play, now and in years to come.’
A General Comment is an official statement that elaborates on the meaning of an aspect of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child that seems to require further interpretation or emphasis. The aim of the General Comment is to raise the importance of an Article and increase accountability among countries that have signed up to the Convention.
The International Play Association (IPA) provided evidence to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that has persuaded them there is need to clarify Article 31 – this clarification is made through the publication of a General Comment. The IPA has taken a lead role in the development of the General Comment.
Objectives of the General Comment on Article 31
The objectives of General Comment 17 are:
a) To enhance understanding of the importance of Article 31 for children’s well-being and development, and for the realisation of other rights in the Convention.
b) To provide interpretation to States parties with regard to the provisions, and consequent obligations, associated with Article 31.
c) To provide guidance on the legislative, judicial, administrative, social and educational measures necessary to ensure its implementation for all children without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity.
What will the General Comment do?
The General Comment will provide guidance to the governments of the 192 countries (States Parties) that are signatories, on the provisions of the Convention in relation to play and recreation, rest and leisure, cultural life and the arts. It will raise awareness of the importance of these in the everyday lives of children worldwide.
IPA hopes to position article 31 more centrally within the fuller context of the UN Convention, illustrating the indivisibility of Convention articles (for instance the right to play is crucially linked with the rights to be included and to be healthy) and also to put some emphasis on the role of children’s opportunity to play in their own way, which is facing increasing challenges.
The General Comment on article 31 will be a useful tool in harnessing worldwide energy to promote the children’s right to play worldwide. Governments and authorities can play a key role in helping to ensure that children grow up in conditions where they can exercise their right to play.
For a more detailed explanation about the purpose of a General Comment please see our article 'Play and Children's Rights in the Spring 2011 issue of the Play for Wales magazine (page 6 and 7).