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Grounded in international treaties, legislation related to fundamental rights is national (or regional in federal structures). Its implementation, however, binds all levels of government. This requires effective coordination mechanisms.
Agreement between the Swedish Government and the Swedish Association of municipalities (SALAR) regarding the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Child rights are a concern for society as a whole. Each part of society needs to cooperate to fulfil obligations in the CRC. In order to implement the CRC, cooperation needs to take place both within and between municipalities, county councils and regions.
In 2010, the Swedish government and SALAR concluded an agreement to pursue three joint actions:
- A study to show the needs of the local and regional governments to be able to implement the CRC;
- A plan of action based on the results of the study;
- Implementation of the plan of action.
The purpose of the agreement, from the government’s point of view, is to intensify and develop the implementation of child rights in municipalities, county councils and regions. It concluded the agreement with SALAR as a member organisation of all local and regional governments in Sweden. From SALAR’s point of view, the agreement made it possible to strengthen the local and regional work that had already begun, or was about to begin.
The agreement has resulted in many positive actions at the local and regional level. SALAR has arranged a regional interdisciplinary course called "The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in theory and Swedish practice" for staff from municipalities, county councils and regions. As a result, in the Skåne region (south of Sweden) a group of "Child Rights Strategists" was founded and "Child Rights Forum Skåne" (Barnrättsforum Skåne) was created.
Roles and responsibilities
Cooperation can be codified in an agreement or memorandum to define the responsibilities of the different levels of government.
Colleagues from other departments or government levels may have very different levels of awareness and knowledge of fundamental rights. It is important to set aside time to explain fundamental rights concepts and address differences in knowledge and awareness.
Consulting frontline staff, community-based organisations and individuals provides important feedback on how fundamental rights are being implemented and their impact on the ground. People working at the grassroots level may have different experiences that need to be addressed in coordination meetings.
Review meetings should be held regularly to ensure activities are implemented and objectives achieved. The partners may have very different experiences in implementing fundamental rights activities. It is important to set aside time to review any problems and to ensure that the importance of fundamental rights remains clear to all parties involved.