CRIN is a creative think tank that produces new and dynamic perspectives on human rights issues, with a focus on children’s rights. We challenge the status quo because the norms that dictate children’s place in society need radical change.
This is what we’re fighting for
Our goal is a world where children's human rights are recognised, respected and enforced, and where every rights violation has a remedy. This is a world where organisations like ours would not need to exist. But we realise this may be a long way off and may not happen in our lifetime. In the meanwhile, we will start paving the way. To this end, we have set ourselves three overarching objectives that will guide our work in the coming years:
1) Change the narrative so that children become recognised as people with independent human rights;
2) Build a collective so that defending and promoting children’s rights becomes a shared responsibility; and
3) Seek justice so that when rights are violated, we fight for justice, accountability and redress.
These are our principles
Our core strength lies in our values and principles, which have always guided the work we do. The following Code now sets these out explicitly, describing our vision for a rights-respecting world, how we intend to get there, and what our role will be, in the hope that others will collaborate or even take inspiration and start their own rebellion.
Part I - We have a mission
Rights, not charity
We promote rights, not charity, for children. Human rights and freedoms cannot be donated or gifted through expressions of charity; they are not the subject of goodwill. Yet this is the daily mistaken response to human rights violations against children. Charity, however, does nothing but evoke a sense of pity without tackling the problems children face. For these reasons, we fight the causes, not the symptoms, of rights violations against children. We seek long term solutions, not quick fixes. Children are independent rights holders, not passive objects of charity.
Children’s rights, human rights
Children are human, humans have rights, therefore children have human rights. While children have unique rights because of their age, they also hold universal human rights which apply to all humans everywhere. Despite this, there is the paternalistic misconception that children’s rights are all about protection. This inevitably affects how children are viewed and treated in law and society. But when we talk about the right to free speech, to privacy, to health, and more, we are not referring to the rights of particular age groups, but to the rights of humans. Accordingly, children have human rights now because they are human beings now.
Justice, not compromise
Human rights are not goals, targets or promises, but obligations, and there must always be a way to enforce them. In this sense, access to justice is pivotal. Not only is it a human right in itself, but it also makes other human rights a reality, otherwise rights would be nothing more than promises on paper. All humans must be able to use and trust the legal system to protect their rights through quick, effective and fair responses to violations. Anything less is inadequate. The importance of access to justice applies equally to children and adults, yet children’s rights in this area have long been neglected and ignored.
Accountability, not apology
Everyone working in human rights should be held accountable for their actions — or inactions. A lack of transparency, cover-ups, a failure to act when necessary, or apologies issued when found out all signal an intention to evade one’s obligations to children and place the needs of an institution above those of its users. This applies to organisations like ours too, for if we are able to make important decisions behind closed doors, how can we be justified in telling governments not to do the same? This expectation therefore applies across the board from States and international institutions to charities and donors alike.
Diversity, not homogeny
Being closed to different ways of working, thinking, ideas and people only serves to protect the status quo of how we work. Bringing people together for the common goal should not only involve like-minded people, but also those we disagree with or who we have never worked with. Only preaching to the converted does not change the status quo; it is through the clash of ideas, the introduction of new thinking, and when people change their mind that things begin to shift. Working with a range of professionals, both internally and externally, is also how we expose ourselves to a diversity of approaches and experiences, which helps to push organisations like ours out of our homogenous comfort zones.
We are Earth’s custodians, not its owners
It goes without saying that humans cannot live and have rights if there is no planet to live on. Ensuring this does not happen is therefore a fundamental precondition to human rights, including children’s. Every human has the right to a clean and healthy environment, but the planet is not ours to own or do with it as we wish; it is our responsibility to act as custodians and preserve the planet so that generations of people to come can enjoy it too. This should make us ask hard questions about how we live and what needs to change in terms of our impact on the environment, but also the issues we tackle.
Part II - We have an attitude
Principles, not pragmatism
We will stand by our principles and not cave in to pragmatism. We will speak out even if the majority remains silent. At times this may mean being a lone voice striving to break taboos, but this is our role and we will not shy away from the things that need to be challenged. We understand that compromise and incremental progress may at times be the only way forward, but we will not settle. To this end, we will reclaim radicalism; there was a time when every idea that seems perfectly normal today was once wildly radical too.
Critical thinking, not compliance
Just because something happens every day, does not mean it is not awful and that it cannot change. We must always question the world we live in and the norms and assumptions we live by, with critical thinking as the driving force. This is simply about asking questions and not feeling you have to conform. In a world rich with a diversity of information, we have the resources to achieve this. This same world is flooded with misinformation, however, so sticking to thinking critically is an urgent requirement for all of us.
Feminism, not patriarchy
The feminist approach to equality between the sexes is fundamentally about breaking the power structures that allow one group to hold primary power at the expense of another. With social justice principles at its core, it is therefore an approach that can be applied to other forms of discrimination. This would involve breaking all power structures that benefit the few and serve to reinforce one another - such as patriarchy, sexism, capitalism and white privilege - and building an all-inclusive system that gives everyone an equal stake and footing. We must then fight against all systems of oppression which condition anyone’s opportunities based on their sex, race, gender identity, sexuality, disability, religion, class, or age.
If you can’t imagine it, you can’t achieve it
If we cannot imagine the world we are claiming to fight for, we will never get there. In a constantly changing world, we need to be creative and adaptive if we are to be effective. While we can be skeptical, it does not have to mean that we let pragmatism kill ideas and imagination. All change begins with an idea. History is full of examples of small groups of people who came together because they had an idea that then changed the world. You just have to find it, explore it and share it.
Promote children’s rights, not ourselves
The ultimate goal of all our work is to secure the fulfilment of all children's rights. This means we constantly strive to work ourselves out of existence, not to prolong it unnecessarily. There is no limit to what we can achieve if we ground our existence in our objectives, not our survival. We do not choose the issues we work on based on how they make us look, but on what needs to change. And the measure of our success is the change itself, not how often we get our name in print or are credited for our achievements.
Invest in failure, not quick wins
Organisations like ours have become unable to openly recognise and discuss our own failures. It can be the result of wanting to keep up appearances in front of donors or among the real or perceived competition for attention among organisations in our sector. But this is slowing us down. Failures are there to learn from, not to conceal. In fact, we can learn more from of our failures than the successes we choose to parade. And the strength of learning is doubled when we can openly learn from one another. We ourselves are not there just yet, but we will strive to openly describe the mistakes we make in the hope that others will do the same and we can all learn from one another.
Part III - We have the means
Advocate in language, not words
We believe in the power of language. We promote the use of plain language so everyone can access the information they need about children’s rights. We also use artwork over photographs of children as a conscious move away from images that merely evoke pity and inspire charity. We do our best to avoid using jargon and will continue to poke fun at our sector when it does. But we will also call out those who misuse the language of rights to justify violating certain people’s rights.
Don’t grow; network
We are small but we have big dreams. We believe that the notion of relentlessly pursuing growth can lead to stalled progress and reduced autonomy. Plus, we do not want to grow; we want to network better. Small means agile, flexible, lean and daring; it means we can change and adapt to new circumstances and environments when needed, and continue to fiercely maintain our independence and stick by our principles. It’s about quality, not quantity.
Stronger together, not apart
We believe that making human rights a reality for children and adults alike is a collective responsibility we all share, not something to be confined to non-profits or diplomats in the corridors of the United Nations. Everything we do happens because groups of people come together in support of an idea. And history shows us it is harder to ignore a big group than a single voice. But it is imperative that that voice is inclusive of those whose rights we defend. To this end, we will not only explore ways to systematically involve children and young people in our work, but also continue to push for systemic reform of the laws - and mentalities - that deny children the chance to speak up and represent themselves in their own words.
Be open, not proprietary
Our work is modelled on the open source movement which, despite beginning life as a technical term to describe open access to software source code, now describes a movement dedicated to open participation and sharing. Some of the ways we practice this in our work include making all the materials we publish - and that of others, where they agree - freely available online, in accordance with the Creative Commons licensing for non-commercial use. We also share the process behind how we do our work to spark ideas, including by publishing our research methodologies and guides to conducting similar research, as well as toolkits so others can replicate or build on what we do.
Think ethically, be ethical
We try to practice what we preach. While we believe in misbehaving and challenging the status quo, we are deeply committed to working ethically. This is about how we run our own organisation: from adopting and regularly reviewing workplace policies, decision making, flexible working for staff, to non discrimination and how to respond when a problem occurs. It is also about acting ethically outside the boundaries of our organisation, and outside the issues we focus on. This means that companies or partners we engage with must share our values, including donors and service providers. For this reason we also bank with a not-for-profit bank.
Our commitment to children’s rights means that we have a commitment to safeguard children, especially those we are in contact with or who use our services. Consequently, we demand that our staff and representatives, including Board Members, apply the highest standards of behaviour towards children both within their professional and private lives. And we expect all of our partners to adopt similar safeguarding policies.