By Jeree Thomas, Policy Director, and Tim Klipp, Juvenile Justice Fellow
August 12, 2017 is International Youth Day. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the day by resolution in December 1999. The adoption of the day occurred nearly a decade after the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Among the rights outlined in the Convention are the right of children to stay connected to their parents when they are separated by State action, the right of children to express their views and to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings, and the right to liberty in the criminal justice and juvenile justice context. Under Article 37 of the Convention, the use of “arrest, detention, or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time...” The United States has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is why International Youth Day is an important time to lift up the rights, voices, and needs of youth.
This year, the theme of the day is “Youth Building Peace.” The day is “dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.
This International Youth Day, the Campaign for Youth Justice lifts up the important work of youth across the country and around the world in making our communities more just.
For example, this week in Salinas, California, students from the Salinas Union High School District stepped up and spoke out against a proposal to give the local police department 3.5 million dollars for a new school resource officer program. The advocacy of these students, their parents, and supporters in the community resulted in the trustees of the Board voting unanimously against the school resource officer program.
Also this week, in Chesapeake, Virginia, RISE for Youth, a statewide non-partisan coalition and youth from Teens With A Purpose came together to speak out against building a new 112-bed youth prison in Chesapeake, Virginia. The youth prepared statements and presentations for the Chesapeake City Council. The City Council decided to delay the vote on the youth prison until November 2017.
On Thursday, August 10th, a crowd of youth, community members, and activists gathered outside the Bronx District Attorneys’ office to rally for Pedro Hernandez, a 17-year old honor student held in jail for over a year because his family could not pay his $250,000 bail. Advocacy around his case resulted in the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group posting bail for Pedro, but he still has significant charges against him which sparked the rally.
Across the country and around the world, youth are leading efforts to create more just communities for themselves, their peers, and their families. On August 12th, there will be a Children’s Rights Rally from 9 to noon at the Hilton Garden Inn- Greenbelt in honor of International Youth Day. Youth and families who are interested in participating can register for the rally. Elijah Coles-Brown, a 13-year old motivational speaker and CEO of Dreamers Imagine will be one of the featured speakers.