Photo: Al Tamimi & Company
Guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of children and young people is of paramount importance to every nation. The UAE Federal Law No. (3) of 2016 (the ‘Child Rights Law’) embodies this basic principle. Even though the Child Rights Law includes provisions that were already regulated by former existing UAE laws, it is still considered a major development in this area. On the second anniversary of its enactment, the UAE Cabinet issued the Executive Regulations (the ‘Regulations’) to provide the framework for its application and in effect, strengthen the provisions of the Child Rights Law. It asserts the importance of preventing all kinds of harm to children in educational institutions, as well as preserving their various rights.
Most importantly, the Regulations clarify the competencies of the special Child Protection Units (the ‘CPUs’) and also stipulate the powers and necessary conditions of Child Protection Specialists (the ‘CPS’).
Child Protection Units
Pursuant to the Child Rights Law and the Regulations, the federal authorities concerned with child affairs, shall establish the special CPUs. These organisational units have exclusive authority to implement child protection mechanisms and measures.
Under Article 7, the Regulations empower the CPUs with a wide range of authority, including but not limited to:
The Regulations provide further guidance with regards to violations committed in educational institutions. These institutions naturally fall under the remit of the Ministry of Education (the ‘MOE’), therefore, their personnel are required to work closely with and report to the MOE’s Child Protection Unit.
In the event of a child being abused in an educational institution, Article (6) provides a procedure whereby the CPU is empowered to:
inform the police in cases that constitute a crime punishable by an applicable statute;
hospitalise the child for treatment;
refer the abused child to rehabilitation programmes at competent facilities if necessary; and
set out an improvement plan to remove the causes and effects of the violation of the child’s rights, in co-ordination with the child’s custodian or guardian.
Child Protection Specialists
The Child Rights Law states that any private or public entity that has a remit involving children shall appoint a CPS. This official role is equipped with sweeping power as they are assigned to preserve and protect a child’s rights and welfare. Any individuals wishing to apply are required to meet certain criteria to qualify for the position.
The Regulations provide an expanded list of requirements that must be met before a person can hold this position. Article 9 states that a CPS shall:
Furthermore, the CPS working for the Ministry of Interior is specifically required to be a holder of a university degree in law or police sciences or a diploma with at least three years of experience in the field of child protection.
A CPS is also responsible for: (i) taking preventative measures to minimise the risk of child abuse; and (ii) take the necessary protective measures if there is an actual threat to the child’s safety or physical, psychological, moral or mental health.
According to the Regulations, and subject to the approval of the superior body concerned, the CPS will instruct and enlighten children about the risks they may face when visiting some places or carrying out certain activities. They will also teach children how to face challenges they may encounter. In addition, a CPS, through workshops and courses, must be capable of educating and equipping children and their families with the skills necessary for tackling potential welfare problems.
The Executive Regulations which clarify the roles of CPUs and CPS, are welcomed as they highlight the continuous efforts in the UAE to safeguard the interests and welfare of children.