States must implement UNCRC General comment 25, and look to Age Appropriate Design Code - UN Human Rights chief, experts and children concur

The UN Human Rights Council on 10 March for the first time dedicated its Annual Day on the Rights of the Child to discussing the digital environment, and concluded with a resounding endorsement of the UNCRC General comment No. 25, and a strong call for states to take regulatory action for corporate due diligence. The outcome of the day-long discussions with children, experts – including 5Rights – and national representatives, will feed into a UN General Assembly Resolution this autumn.

After listening for the first time in the Council’s history to a panel of children expressing their views on what needs to change for the digital world to respect their rights and meet their needs, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called for states to prioritise the full implementation of General comment 25 and take up best practice, such as the Age Appropriate Design Code.

Mariana (12, Colombia), Kidus (16, Ethiopia) and Nidhi (14, India) welcomed the opportunities the digital world offers, but highlighted significant challenges affecting their well-being and rights due to a lack of consideration of children in the design of products and services, exploitative data practices as well as unfair and inaccessible terms.

“Safety measures must be taken in advance to protect children’s rights, not after the fact. Children must be treated fairly” - Nidhi

The children’s testimony and asks were consistently echoed by the panel of experts bringing together 5Rights Chair and Founder Baroness Beeban Kidron, Australian eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant, Professor Konstantinos Karachalios from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Dr. Philip Jaffé from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Legal and policy frameworks, they concurred, must urgently be strengthened to uphold children’s rights in the digital environment, including by holding businesses accountable.

“First and foremost, states and tech companies have a responsibility to provide the conditions under which products and services are designed to recognise their child users and uphold their rights by design and default.” - 5Rights Chair and Founder Baroness Beeban Kidron

“We cannot say anymore that this is “too big to be regulated”. It is our job to innovate and to regulate. We cannot abdicate our role in shaping the future to private interest.” - IEEE Managing Director Professor Konstantinos Karachalios

Speaking from the floor, a large number of states and groups of states intervened to express their support for the implementation of children’s rights in the digital environment. Civil society organisations also called for action.

As part of a coalition of CSOs coordinated by Child Rights Connect, 5Rights Foundation put forward a joint position urging states in their UN General Assembly Resolution to take a holistic approach to children’s rights and focus on corporate accountability.

Read the joint position here.

Watch the full proceedings of the 2023 UN Human Rights Council’s Annual Day on the Rights of the Child here:

In the media: France24 Children take the floor at UN to call for digital access, safety.