Day of general discussion

CRC Day of General Discussion 2021 - Children’s Rights and Alternative Care

The Day of General Discussion (DGD) is convened by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) every two years. It provides an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the contents and implications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as these relate to specific articles or topics.

In particular, the DGD offers an opportunity to engage directly in a dialogue with members of the CRC Committee and other relevant stakeholders, and more importantly, to hear from children, young people and adults with lived experience.

About the 2021 Day of General Discussion

The 2021 DGD focused on Children’s Rights and Alternative Care, a topic chosen in 2019. Originally scheduled to take place in September 2020, the DGD was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and was held online on 16 and 17 September 2021, over two half days, to enable participation from people and organisations across the globe to come together across different time zones. Attendance at the DGD was open to all those with experience of, and an interest in improving, the lives of children in alternative care and preventing family separation whenever possible.

Interest in this topic was great, as demonstrated by the high level of engagement and attendance, both in the run up, and during the DGD: a call for submissions to the CRC Committee received over 200 responses from a variety of stakeholders - children and young people, NGOs and civil society organisations, academia, governmental bodies, national human rights institutions and international organisations. Children and young people could also share their experiences of child protection or alternative care through a global online survey, and over 1200 children and young people from all regions of the world took part. 1500 participants from 125 countries joined the DGD sessions over the two days of proceedings.

One of the fundamental principles of the UNCRC is that of the right of the child to be heard and taken seriously: children have the right to express their views on all issues that affect them, and for those views to be taken into account. Children’s participation in the DGD enables the CRC Committee and all participating stakeholders to listen to children and young people’s perspectives, and to develop a better understanding of the situation in different countries and contexts.

At the 2021 DGD, children and young people participated actively and meaningfully through co-chairing and speaking in all DGD plenary sessions and working groups, enabling a dialogue with CRC Committee members and other stakeholders focusing on prevention of family separation and improving the lives of children in alternative care. Adults with lived experience also spoke in various sessions, and additional speakers and discussants came from NGOs, governmental bodies at various levels, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, academia, or represented the perspectives of families. Importantly, they hailed from all regions of the world, representing a variety of different contexts and backgrounds.

The programme of work for the DGD was developed by the CRC Committee, children and young people from around the world through participation on two advisory boards: the Child Advisory Team (CAT) and the Young People’s Advisory Team (YAT), and civil society organisations. Discussions were based on the contributions shared through the call for submissions and the global online survey for children and young people.

Many important themes emerged through the submissions and global survey, and highlighted a range of different perspectives, thus pointing to the need to continue to work towards solutions and, most importantly, to listen to children, young people and adults with experience of care and the child protection system from different countries and contexts. These themes included:

  • Prevention of family separation, including calls for better access to services
  • The value of kinship care
  • Foster care
  • Residential care
  • Deinstitutionalisation and the need to reform care systems
  • Developing a better understanding of what constitutes good quality care
  • Addressing violence, abuse, and neglect in care settings
  • The importance of the care sector workforce
  • Access to justice and redress

This information, knowledge and learning will be captured in an Outcome Document, which will describe the process that led to the DGD and highlight key findings and recommendations. The Outcome Document will set out the next steps for protecting and promoting the rights of children without, or at risk of losing, parental care, and include recommendations for Member States and other stakeholders. It is expected that this document will be adopted by the CRC Committee during its next session, at the beginning of 2022.

Background to the 2021 Day of General Discussion

The proposal for the 2021 DGD to focus on Children’s Rights in Alternative Care was submitted by a group of organisations working in this area, including CELCIS, the Centre for Excellence for Children’s Care and Protection.

These organisations were involved in the development of Key Recommendations to address challenges and opportunities in implementing the rights of children without parental care, aimed at Member States of the United Nations. This work was developed ahead of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in December 2019, and which centred on the rights of children in alternative care.

The UNGA Resolution on the Rights of the Child was adopted 10 years after the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children were unanimously welcomed in 2009. These Guidelines were developed as a result of the 2005 Day of General Discussion, which focused on Children without Parental Care, when the Committee recommended the preparation of a set of international standards for the protection and alternative care for care experienced children and young people.

Various resources were developed to facilitate awareness, knowledge, and implementation of the UN Guidelines, with CELCIS playing a key role, while working in collaboration with a range of international partners. These include ‘Moving Forward: Implementing the ‘Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children’, the official global Handbook to assist legislators, policy makers, practitioners in understanding and implementing the Guidelines; ‘Alternative Care in Emergencies (ACE) Toolkit’, a toolkit for practitioners on implementing alternative care programming in humanitarian settings; 'Getting Care Right for All Children', a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), delivered by CELCIS and the University of Strathclyde for a taskforce of humanitarian and children’s agencies, to help increase awareness, understanding and use of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children; and the Tracking Progress Initiative, an online tool that can be used to measure a country’s progress in the implementation of the Guidelines.

While it is clear that progress has been made in advancing key rights, many challenges remain across the globe. Often, these affect children who have lost, or are at risk of losing, parental care, including unnecessary family separation, low quality forms of alternative care, and discrimination. There is a need to build on and advance the implementation of a number of international and national agreements and actions to child protection and alternative care and ensure the rights of these children and families are fully protected.

Aims of the 2021 Day of General Discussion

The overall aim of the 2021 DGD was to examine the current situation regarding alternative care across the world, to identify and discuss particular areas of concern with regard to the unnecessary separation of children from their families, and to identify appropriate ways to respond to family and child separation in cases where it is unavoidable.

Objectives included acknowledging the harms that care can cause and the abuse of some children in care, and exploring measures that can be taken to ensure prevention, intervention and access to justice, accountability and suitable reparation; exploring efforts towards the development or strengthening of fully-integrated child protection systems, grounded in a multi-sectoral approach; and encouraging rigorous research to identify the outcomes and impacts of alternative care provision in different settings, and follow-up mechanisms for children leaving care.

To achieve this, children and young people from around the world were invited to participate as Child and Young Person Advisors. The Child Advisory Team (CAT) and the Young Person’s Advisory Team (YAT) brought together children and young people up to 25 years old who have experience of different types of alternative care and/or child protection services.

Members of the CAT and the YAT worked collaboratively with the CRC Committee and civil society organisations to prepare the DGD; co-chaired sessions during the event, and spoke in the plenary and working groups alongside other children, young people and adults with experience of alternative care and/or child protection systems.

The information, views, feedback and reflections gathered prior to the DGD and during the event itself, will help to inform efforts to improve prevention of unnecessary family separation, deliver quality alternative care, and learn from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the view to strengthening the resilience of welfare systems going forward.

2021 Day of General Discussion: Additional Resources

The OHCHR DGD webpage has a range of resources available in English, Spanish, French and International Sign Language, including:

  • Recordings from the 2021 DGD sessions and workshops available to watch online
  • Report of children’s global consultation responses
  • Background document, providing a synthesis of all submissions sent to the CRC Committee
  • DGD Concept Note
  • Programme of work

Visit the Webpage


Miriana Giraldi, International Associate at CELCIS wrote an article for the September 2021 edition of the Scottish Journal of Residential Child Care to coincide with the DGD. The article, entitled ‘Why engaging on children’s rights internationally matters at the local level: 2021 Days of General Discussion on Children’s Rights and Alternative Care’ discusses the purpose and ambition of the 2021 DGD and makes the case for active participation and involvement in international policy and legal work in order to support work at a local level, and in countries and communities around the world.

Read the article 

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