Costa Rica: Monitoring of Child Rights, 1997

A system for monitoring child rights in Costa Rica was set up through a three-way agreement involving the Costa Rican Ombudsman (Defensoría de los Habitantes), UNICEF and CIETinternational. The purpose was to develop a prototype national scheme for active monitoring of child rights, involving children and adults in a way that promotes increased recognition of, and dialogue about, rights. In the pilot exercise in Puriscal, a rural area not far from the capital city, some 60 children aged 6-16 years were drawn from ten representative communities. The children were divided into three age groups and spent five days discussing which of their rights adults should begin to address first. Outcomes generally varied by age groups but in all three age groups protection from sexual abuse was listed in third place. The key findings were discussed with focus groups to formulate solutions and devise ways to present these results to the authorities, to teachers and to parents. A premise of the active monitoring initiative is that the actual process of inquiry can help to change sensitivities at the local level, increasing community awareness and confidence in dealing with the problems.