In 1990, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) came into effect. The most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world, it establishes a comprehensive set of rights for all children. The challenge is how to transform this document into a living reality for children through innovative research and capacity development that links Child rights policy and practice.
In 1994, a transformational conference was held in Victoria, British Columbia: Stronger Children Stronger Families. This was one of the first formal conferences in which young people were given a space to voice their views about their rights and breathe life into the CRC. It also highlighted the need for innovative approaches to implement the CRC, and provided the impetus for creating a centre focused on meaningful implementation of child rights based at the University of Victoria.
The Unit for Research and Education on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was founded under the direction of Dr. Philip Cook, an assistant professor within the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria. The Unit focused innovative research and education to translate the spirit of the CRC into reality for children and communities in Canada and around the world.
A central focus of this early work involved linking children’s rights principles to local cultural values, beliefs and practices. Partnerships with Indigenous peoples on Canada’s west coast and in Latin America were central to the Units’ evolving niche in grounding children’s human rights in age old tradition and practices supporting children. This learning was highlighted in the 1996 “Caring for Indigenous Children” Conference and lead to the creation of IICRD’s logo.
Dr. Cook relocated the Unit to the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria in 2000 in order to focus exclusively on its work. At this time, the Unit was renamed the Institute for Child Rights and Development (ICRD). In July, 2002 the International Institute for Child Rights and Development/Institut international pour les droits des enfants et le développement (IICRD) was incorporated as a federal non-share capital corporation and was granted charitable status in 2006.
IICRD is now a unique hybrid oganization based at the University of Victoria, that is:
- Part not for profit NGO to work in communities, accomplish social objectives, and learn from and pass on the benefits of grass-roots experience;
- Part university to draw upon and contribute to the best available research and scientific thinking, and to train professionals; and
- Part network to engage with the most productive knowledge and ideas for children from all around the world, disseminating what is learned to others, and helping shape local, national and international policies that can change the world through children.
The Institute continues to work to change the world through children. IICRD currently has initiatives to address some of the greatest global challenges in most regions of the world where they lead with children to devise locally driven and globally guided solutions that help protect and support children and families.