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What is a Child Rights Impact Assessment?

Impact assessment

Impact assessment is the systematic analysis of the potential changes positive or negative, intended or not, direct or indirect, short-term or long-term, in people’s lives brought about by a given decision or action.

Child rights impact assessment (CRIA) is, in the simplest terms, a tool for decision-making in the best interests of children. CRIA is a systematic process or methodology of ensuring children’s best interests and the potential impacts of policy change upon them are considered in the policy-making process. CRIA involves examining a proposed law or policy, administrative decision or action in a structured manner to determine its potential impact on children or a specific group of children, and whether it will effectively protect and implement the rights set out for children in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Potential impacts may be positive or negative, intended or not, direct or indirect, short or long-term. A CRIA should be undertaken whenever there are new policies, proposed legislation, regulations or budgets being adopted, or other administrative decisions at national, provincial/territorial, and local levels that can have an impact on children. In this context, it will generally be used more in the consideration of impacts on children as a group, and – with an equity filter – on specific groups of children, rather than on individual children. It uses the framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols as a lens: considering the full scope of rights, the core principles, and also the Concluding Observations from the country’s progress reports.

Scope of the CRIA methodology

It would be impossible to carry out a CRIA on every legislative or policy decision across the government that might have an effect on children. Instead, CRIA should be carried out on those decisions that are likely to have a significant impact on children, including both those that directly concern children – such as criminal justice, immigration or child health policy – and those that may have a more indirect impact where children are not obvious stakeholders – such as macroeconomic policy reform that will have an impact on family incomes.

Three steps for carrying out an ex-ante CRIA

The CRIA process should be simple enough to be useful and in repeated use, and detailed enough to be meaningful. There are three basic steps to carrying out an effective CRIA:

Step One:  Selection, Screening and Scoping

Step Two:  Assessment

Step Three: Communication

Selection,  screening and scoping

This step is used to identify what could be assessed and what will be assessed.   It would also include an initial screening of the measure to be assessed to identify what particular rights and issues may be affected that should be looked at in more depth during the assessment phase. 

Recognizing that the Convention covers a wide range of rights that may seem overwhelming, the process can use a well-accepted consolidated version of the articles as a first step, for the screening process, to identify what groups of rights are relevant (i.e., “clusters” of rights that the government uses when reporting to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child)  Back to Top

Assessment

The analysis of the law, policy or regulation seeks to identify potential impacts on children, based on input from a number of sources: academic literature and studies that identify impacts on children in the area under assessment, input from experts (including from children and civil society), relevant jurisprudence, and the Concluding Observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as appropriate. Depending on the time frame and depth of the analysis, different tools can be used for the assessment ranging from checklists to more detailed modelling of potential impacts on children. Assessment will also include engaging with relevant government departments that have a responsibility for this area of policy. The assessment should explicitly address the four core principles of the Convention – non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, child survival and development, and the need to elicit and give due consideration to the views of children (articles 2, 3, 6 and 12), and the other relevant articles of the Convention identified during the screening process.  The CRIA analysis should be used to formulate recommendations (in partnership with key departments and/or levels of government involved in the development and implementation of the policy), setting out potential amendments, enhancements and alternative policies to address any concerns that have arisen through the CRIA process. 

The UNICEF Implementation Handbook for the Convention on the Rights of the Child is an extremely valuable reference as it explains each of the articles in clear and accessible language, using jurisprudence and other guidance from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to show how the Convention can be realized in practical terms. The Handbook is used by the European Union for legislative screening.  Back to Top

Communication

Publicizing and communicating the CRIA, its results and recommendations is essential to inform the decision-making process, to encourage ownership of the results of the impact assessment and to enable transparency. This communication can be internal or external to government depending on the point in time in the decision-making process.

An ex ante CRIA can also serve as important input into designing a monitoring and evaluation process for the relevant law or policy.  Monitoring should identify whether the projected impacts did in fact have the effects identified, identify unforeseen impacts, etc.  Back to Top