print version

Independent human rights institutions for children

The Global Study
Independent Human Rights Institutions for Children, or 'Ombudspersons for Children', 'Child Advocates', 'Défenseurs', 'Defensorías' are institutions whose role is to monitor the actions of governments and other actors, investigate child rights violations, promote children's rights, and offer a space for dialogue between children and the State. A global movement for the development of independent institutions for children's rights has emerged since the 1980s and continues to grow, and their central role in the realization of children's rights has been increasingly recognized internationally.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has consistently emphasized the importance of these institutions in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in its General Comments and Concluding Observations on State Party reports. The adoption of General Comment No. 2 on the role of independent national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child (2002) and General Comment No. 5 on the general measures of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the Committee, as well as the concomitant identification of these institutions as major actors in ‘A World Fit For Children' (2002), the outcome document of the UN Special Session on Children, have further enhanced their visibility. Subsequent documents, such as the UN World Report on Violence against Children (2006), have also recognized their role and recommended their establishment and strengthening.

Main purpose of the research

The renewed momentum since 2002 and the worldwide expansion of these institutions have generated a need for evidence-based understanding of their mandate, functioning and conditions for effectiveness. As part of its overall research on the general measures of implementation of the CRC, IRC has undertaken a Global Study to analyze the role of Independent Human Rights Institutions for Children.

The study is intended to support informed decision-making for countries that are seeking to establish or strengthen independent institutions for children's rights. Through partnerships with a wide range of actors in the research process it also seeks to enhance the capacity of UNICEF officials and partners to support follow-up on the findings. It further aims to support the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its guidance to States Parties and contributes to international debates on national systems for the fulfilment of children's rights.

The study could also contribute to strengthening the Global Network of Independent Human Rights Institutions for Children of which IRC is the Secretariat, as well as regional networks, by highlighting commonalities in approaches, strengths and challenges, among institutions across all regions of the globe.


The research is based on data collected about individual institutions through surveys, key informant interviews and review and analysis of relevant documents. It also benefits from the contribution of various experts, dialogues in seminars, and interaction with partners in the field. Throughout the research process and based on its long standing knowledge and position on this issue, IRC has been able to bridge research, policy advocacy and partnerships for positive results, and act as a reference point on Independent Human Rights Institutions for children.

Recognising that country situations and contexts vary greatly, the study does not propose any single model, but rather identifies the key elements required to ensure that the institution functions effectively.

Work undertaken under this thematic area has been generously funded by the Governments of Norway, Sweden, France and Switzerland.

More information

Top of page