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Committee on the Rights of the Child holds on informal meeting with States

Committee on the Rights of the Child

 30 January 2019

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this afternoon held its eleventh informal meeting with States, during which it discussed a range of issues, including the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 2020 treaty bodies review process, and the Committee’s work on General Comments.

In her welcoming remarks, Committee Chairperson Renate Winter said that since its last meeting with States, the Committee had reviewed 27 reports and that the backlog stood at a still manageable 35 reports, with 17 new reports received since January 2018.  The slow pace of ratification of the three Optional Protocols was a concern, she said, adding that the first reports under the simplified reporting procedure would be received in July 2019.  The Chair recalled the very successful Day of General Discussion held on 28 September 2018 dedicated to empowering and protecting children as human rights defenders, in which more than 21 children human rights defenders from all regions of the world had taken part.

Amal Aldoseri, Committee Expert, briefed the States on the events and initiatives to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would include the United Nations Children’s Fund’s event at the General Assembly in September in New York, a global virtual event on 20 November, and the development of a child-friendly version of the Convention with Child Rights Connect; a year-long celebration to make children’s rights more visible in Geneva, including through an online platform Child Rights Hub by association Trente Ans de droits de l’Enfant, a collaboration of the University of Geneva, and the City and Canton of Geneva; and a production of a global report on the status of children’s rights in 17 countries by Child Rights Now, a joint initiative of six organizations.

Other Committee Experts briefed the States on the progress on the revision of General Comment N°10 on children’s rights in the administration of justice of 2007, the formal reading of which was expected during the current session; the guidelines on the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which aimed to assist the States parties in the interpretation and implementation of the instrument, particularly given the rapid development and spread of information and communication technologies; and communications and interim measures guidelines.  Experts also spoke about the Day of General Discussion held in September 2018, and the 2020 treaty bodies review, stressing that the Committee was seriously considering how to increase the efficiency of it work and its visibility.  The Committee’s next General Comment would address the theme of children’s rights in the digital environment, and would balance the right of the child to access digital technologies and enjoy their benefits, and the right to be protected from harm and risks associated with the digital environment.

Taking floor in the discussions were Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Romania, South Africa, Egypt, Panama, Japan, Canada, Mauritius, Belgium, Australia, Ecuador and Monaco.

All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 1 February at 3 p.m. to officially close its eightieth session.

Statements

RENATE WINTER, Committee Chairperson, in her opening statement, informed that since the last meeting with States, the Committee had reviewed and adopted concluding observations on 27 States parties’ reports under the Convention and its two Optional Protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on children involved in armed conflict.  The backlog stood at a still manageable 35 reports, with 17 new reports received since January 2018.  The Committee was concerned about the slow pace of ratification of the Optional Protocols: in 2018, only a few new States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and there had been five new ratifications of the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure. 

In July 2019, the Committee would receive the first reports under the simplified reporting procedure, and the webpage would be updated to assist States parties in understanding how the procedure worked.  The Chair recalled the very successful Day of General Discussion held on 28 September dedicated to empowering and protecting children as human rights defenders, in which more than 21 children human rights defenders from all regions of the world had taken part.

AMAL ALDOSERI, Committee Expert, said that 2019 marked the thirtieth anniversary of putting the rights of children at the forefront of States’ priorities and recognizing them as rights bearers.  As part of its celebration, the Committee would double its efforts to reach the absolute universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the universal ratification of its Optional Protocols.  The Committee partners had proposed a robust list of initiatives to commemorate the anniversary, said Ms. Aldoseri.  The United Nations Children’s Fund was engaging with national and local governments to mobilize action with and for children around the common theme of the “Future of Childhood”, and would also hold an event at the General Assembly in September in New York, and a global virtual event on 20 November.  In collaboration with Child Rights Connect, a child-friendly version of the Convention was being developed.  This organization would also take stock of the challenges and achievements of civil society child rights advocacy and the engagement with the Committee. 

The association Trente Ans de droits de l’Enfant, a collaboration of the University of Geneva, and the City and Canton of Geneva, was hosting a year-long celebration to make children’s rights more visible in Geneva, including through an online platform Child Rights Hub that would later be transformed into a resource centre on children’s rights.  It would also implement the Child Reporters initiative in cooperation with schools, and a three-day commemorative conference at the Palais from 18 to 20 November.  Other activities to mark the anniversary would be implemented by Child Rights Now, a joint initiative of six organizations, which planned to, inter alia, produce a global report on the status of children’s rights in 17 countries; Save the Children; and Mission 89, a Geneva-based organization that would organize an awareness raising campaign on combatting trafficking children in sports.  The European Union was also planning a year-long campaign on the thirtieth anniversary, with various events on children’s right and a main event on 20 November.

ANN SKELTON, Committee Expert, briefed States on the progress of the revision of its General Comment N°10 on children’s rights in the administration of justice of 2007, with the view of replacing it with General Comment N°24.  After its October 2018 session, the Committee had issued a draft of the revised version and had invited comments on the minimum age of criminal responsibility, criminal majority, legal assistance, minimum age of deprivation of liberty, and new issues to be included in the General Comment.  The Committee had received 67 submissions to date, and the formal reading of the draft revised General Comment would hopefully take place during the current session.

VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert, informed on the guidelines on the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which would not replace the guidance on reporting under the Optional Protocol, but aimed to assist States parties in their interpretation and implementation of the Optional Protocol.  Its purpose was to aid the interpretation that reflected today’s realities – the rapid development and spread of information and communication technologies in particular, and ensure that States’ actions were up to date with current and evolving practices.  The draft guidelines would be approved on 31 January and opened for public consultations. 

CLARENCE NELSON, Committee Expert and outgoing coordinator of the Committee’s Working Group on the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, said that four cases – three from Spain and one from Belgium - had been submitted to the Committee for its consideration during the current session.

BENYAM MEZMUR, Committee Expert and incoming coordinator of the Committee’s Working Group on the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, invited States parties to this Optional Protocol to engage with the Committee.

JORGE CARDONA, Committee Expert, said that the Committee had discussed guidelines on interim measures, which the Committee would soon approve and publish.

LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert, spoke about a very successful Day of General Discussion held in September 2018 focused on protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders.  The event had been organized in close coordination with human rights special procedures, including the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.  The Day of General Discussion was already having a positive impact on the lives of children.

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Expert, addressed the issue of the 2020 treaty bodies review, stressing that the Committee was seriously considering how to increase the efficiency of it work, including by setting up a Working Group on simplified reporting procedures, and a Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals, which was tasked with learning from good practices of other treaty bodies.  The Committee was also making progress in making its own work more visible and accessible to the public, for example by publishing it decisions and guidelines on its website, and had aligned its consultation process on General Comments with other treaty bodies.  The Committee had appointed two focal persons on the 2020 review who would engage with other treaty bodies in defining a joint position.

OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Vice-Chair, briefed the participants on the Committee’s next General Comment which would address the theme of children’s rights in the digital environment, which would represent a continuation of the Committee’s work in this area and the Day of General Discussion on the issue held in 2014.  The work on this General Comment N°25 would commence as soon as the General Comment N°24 was adopted.  Explaining the rationale for the next General Comment, Ms. Khazova said that the rapidly evolving digital environment impacted children’s rights in positive and negative ways, and that the General Comment would balance the right of the child to access digital technologies and enjoy their benefits, and the right of the child to be protected from harm and risks associated with the digital environment.

Statements by States

Bulgaria said that the rights of the child were its priority and it was working actively with partners to strengthen policies for children.  A coherence between various global, regional and local mechanisms and instruments was critical to the protection of the rights of the child, while the 2030 Agenda was essential to advancing children’s rights on a global scale, all the while following the principles enshrined in the Convention.  Bulgaria was aiming for long-term and sustainable changes for children, while building on immediate improvements in the field of social services, health and education, including inclusive education.

Costa Rica recognized the Committee’s support in strengthening national legislation and policies for children, and said that States must continue to address challenges, including guaranteeing the protection of children against economic and sexual exploitation and ensuring access to health and education, above all to girls.  Costa Rica remarked on the increased number of communications that the Committee had received and asked how the Committee would deal with its additional workload related to the communication procedure and the thirtieth anniversary celebrations.

Romania said that the rights of the child were Romania’s priority during its Presidency of the European Union, and asked for the Committee’s suggestions on how to put in place holistic measures that specific groups of children, for example children in conflict with the law, needed.

South Africa said that fighting violence against children was one of its highest priorities, and it demanded concerted action from all.  In the context of the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, South Africa stressed that all children across the globe must have equal opportunities to pursue their dreams without fear.

Egypt said it had been a strong supporter of the adoption of the Convention and one of its first signatories, while the rights of the child had been prioritized and mainstreamed in the national development programme.  Egypt asked about the work of the Committee in the area of the rights of migrant children and against bullying.

Panama stressed the utmost importance it accorded to children’s rights that must be applied to all children, and pleaded for the upholding of the rights of refugee and migrant children.

Japan emphasized that the voice of Geneva must be heard in the 2020 treaty bodies review process and noted with concern that some aspects of resolution 68/268 were not being adequately implemented, particularly in relation to the alignment of working processes.  New resources for the work of the treaty bodies would be very hard to find, therefore focus must be on efficiency.

Canada said it had made a submission to the revised General Comment N°10 and inquired about the time-frame for the General Comment on children in the digital environment.  Canada commended the many initiatives to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention.

Mauritius commended the Committee for its simplified reporting procedure, which was very useful for small island developing States.

Belgium was looking forward to the Committee’s concluding observations on its review of Belgium and urged the Committee to harmonize working methods with other treaty bodies.  Belgium asked about concrete actions that the Committee undertook to fight reprisals.

Australia welcomed the Committee’s effort directed at the treaty bodies review process and asked whether it would consult and collaborate with other treaty bodies on the upcoming General Comment on children’s rights in the digital environment.

Ecuador expressed support for the thirtieth anniversary celebration and commended the Committee for its interaction with other treaty bodies, particularly in the context of the 2020 review of the treaty bodies system.

Monaco took good note of the work on the upcoming General Comment on children’s rights in the digital environment and the guidelines on the interpretation of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Comments and Replies by Committee Experts

Responding to States’ questions and comments, Committee Experts said that the 2020 treaty bodies review was an opportunity for the Committee to assess its working methods in light of the additional workload, especially those related to the communication procedure.  The Committee had appointed two focal persons for the process and a meeting of all treaty bodies focal persons would be held in February.  In order to ensure short and precise concluding observations, the Committee had reduced the word count of its recommendations by one third since the adoption of resolution 62/268, and was now focusing on six most urgent areas.

In terms of policies for vulnerable groups of children such as juveniles in conflict with the law, Experts said that the revised General Comment N°10 focused on a holistic approach incorporating prevention and early intervention, which could help States parties achieve the promise of the Convention.  A Working Group had been set up with the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to bring the two conventions closer, and it was paying particular attention to fighting discrimination against children with disabilities.  The cooperation with the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers on children in migratory situations had resulted in a joint General Comment which provided detailed guidance on how to provide safeguards for migrating children, whether alone or with their parents.  Additionally, the Committee always raised the question of migrant children in its dialogues with States.

The Committee had close cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children and it commented on bullying in many of its concluding observations, which often called for the participation of children in the formulation of anti-bullying policies and programmes. 

RENATE WINTER, Committee Chairperson, said that to date the Committee had not been asked to act on a case of reprisals against anyone working on children’s rights.  Other Experts added that the treaty bodies had held a workshop on reprisals to discuss the operationalization of the San José Guidelines and the Committee would soon include a page on reprisals on its website.

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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