Play matters: UN

This weeks blog post is from Robyn Monro Miller who recently attended meetings in Geneva in her capacity as International Vice President of International Play Association (IPA). Network of Community Activities has a long and proud history of support for the UNCRC and enshrined in our constitution is a commitment to advocacy on Article 31 and Article 12.

Article 31

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.

In February 2011 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, announced its decision to draft and adopt a General Comment on Article 31.  Article 31 is historically one of the least understood areas of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)  and contains a number of themes that draw in the interests of people from across the spectrum who may work in widely diverse settings. This is why the development of a General Comment on this article is so significant.

The General Comment will be issued to every government of the world, which has signed up to the Convention, which includes Australia.  The General Comment provides further guidance to world governments on implementation of Article 31 and highlights the important role of play and access to cultural life and arts in children’s healthy development.

The International Play Association received funding from the Bernard Van Leer Foundation for the development of the draft General Comment with a cross sectoral team of experts from across the world. As a working document of the UN, the draft was required to remain confidential and was not released for public consultation.

At the end of September, International Play Association representatives and the expert panel assembled met in Geneva to finalise the document ready for presentation to the UN committee. The Article 31 ‘Working Group’ consisted of 15 people from 12 countries who met with the UN Committee’s focal group chaired by Awich Pollar (Uganda).

This was the final stage in a long process that involved a core team, the expert working group and child consultation processes across the world.

The child’s voice was included in the document with special consultations held in selected locations across the world.  These locations included Brazil, Italy, Scotland, and Kenya. Children in post conflict situations and conflict situations in Lebanon and Sierra-Leone were also engaged in consultation as well as children in refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border.

The final draft of the document was given to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in early October with formal adoption likely at the January 2013 meeting of the Committee. The draft cannot be released until the UN officially adopts it. However it has been identified as a comprehensive one that is inclusive of the issues and challenges associated with play and important considerations for implementation.

Once released, the children’s services sector will be in a position to use the General Comment to inform our work with children and highlight the valuable role of play and access to culture and the arts in the healthy development of all children. It will be an opportunity for Governments across Australia to take shared responsibility for reflecting on how their own planning and processes support Article 31.

As educators working in children’s services we have an important role in supporting children’s opportunities to engage in play and a responsibility to advocate on its benefits to families and the community.

Representatives from Brazil, Turkey and Mexico who will be leading Article 31 projects in their home countries with Robyn Monro Miller (2nd from right) and International President Theresa Casey from Scotland (right) outside the UN.

About the Author

Robyn Monro Miller attended meetings in Geneva in her capacity as International Vice President of IPA. 

Robyn is the Executive Officer of Network of Community Activities in NSW, Australia. Network is an organisation with a long and proud history of advocacy for children and has embedded in its constitutional objectives the requirement to promote and support Articles 31 and 12 in the UNCRC. 

Robyn has represented the Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) at a State and National level for the past 20 years as a member of the National Out of School Hours Services Association (NOSHSA). Most recently she was on the steering committee for the development of the first Australian school age care framework “My Time, Our Place.”

For more information please email Robyn Monro Miller through play@netoosh.org.au

This article may be reproduced with written permission, please email play@netoosh.org.au.

1 thought on “Play matters: UN”

  1. Wonderful to know we are well represented and that the voice of the child and play are now key connections and a planning focus across the world.

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