The Year Ahead
In this issue:
To read this CRINMAIL online, click here
Reflecting on 2011
Last year proved to be a busy year at the Human Rights Council, with the adoption of a new complaints mechanism for children, the completion of the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, and a host of other developments concerning children's rights.
This CRINMAIL briefly reflects on 2011 and looks ahead to the coming year.
Parity at last
In June, after a four-year NGO campaign, the Human Rights Council adopted the Optional Protocol for a complaints mechanism under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It was then passed to the UN General Assembly and unanimously adopted in December.
The complaints mechanism places children's rights on an equal footing with other human rights as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has until now been the only international human rights treaty with a mandatory reporting procedure without a complaints mechanism.
A signing ceremony is due to take place in March, from which point the Optional Protocol will be open to ratification by States.
UPR: The jury's still out
All States have now had their human rights records examined under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). However States and NGOs alike agree that the success of the new mechanism depends on the implementation of recommendations. Despite all States participating in the review process, CRIN's “The Status of Children's Rights in the UPR” report reveals that they are avoiding more controversial issues, such as juvenile justice and corporal punishment.
The focus of the 2nd cycle, beginning with the 13th session in May, will be on how States are implementing recommendations they have accepted, as well as any developments in the human rights situation in the country. Visit CRIN's page on information and advocacy opportunities.
Countries under the spotlight
Throughout 2011, major uprisings swept across the Middle East and North Africa only to be met with violent State repression. In response, the Council held Special Sessions on Libya and Syria. In the case of Syria, an Independent Commission of Inquiry found that children had been killed, detained and tortured. A Special Rapporteur on Syria was established to start work once the Commission closes. Meanwhile, the Council also adopted a resolution to create a Special Rapporteur on Iran. Read about other mandates created and extended here.
Over the course of the year, 55 Special Procedure country and thematic visits took place. Read general press releases by UN Experts and find out more about how to engage with Special Procedures here.
CRIN's Children's Rights Wiki
In September, CRIN launched a "Children's Rights Wiki" to bring all information about children's rights together in one place by country. Each country page includes extracts of children's rights in the reports of all UN and regional human rights mechanisms as well as national and campaigns pages which organisations can contribute to.
The aim of the Wiki is to highlight persistent violations of children's rights and to identify gaps in which children's rights are not being addressed as a basis for advocacy.
Business and Human Rights: what about children?
In June, the Council endorsed a new set of Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights, designed to provide - for the first time - a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.
NGOs criticised the Principles saying they lacked substance and maintained the status-quo. Furthermore, CRIN lamented the lack of focus on children, despite the mandate of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Transnational Corporations and other Business Enterprises calling for 'special' attention to be paid to children.
A UN Working Group, established to promote and disseminate the Guiding Principles as well as ensuring they are effectively implemented by both governments and business, will hold its inaugural meeting in January.
Street children under the spotlight
The 2011 Annual Day on the Rights of the Child - focusing on children living and / or working on the street - led to a resolution in which the Council strongly condemned violations of street children's rights. Further to the discussions and a subsequent expert meeting, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is compiling a report and will present its findings to the Council's 19th session.
In September, the Council adopted a resolution on the Administration of Justice, in particular juvenile justice, which addresses a number of issues, notably the age of criminal responsibility, capital punishment and life imprisonment for offences committed by persons under 18. The following month, CRIN launched its campaign to end inhuman sentencing of children, defined to include sentences of death, life imprisonment and corporal punishment. Read about the campaign here.
A further resolution on the death penalty, with special attention to juveniles, requested the Secretary-General to continue to submit a yearly supplement to his report on capital punishment, paying special attention to the imposition of the death penalty on persons younger than 18 years of age at the time of the offence.
Looking ahead, the 2012 Annual Day on Rights of Child (March 8) will address the "rights of children and the administration of justice."
Council finally addresses sexual orientation!
In June, the first ever resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity was passed at the Council. November saw the launch of a report, commissioned by the resolution, which documented widespread discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people around the world.
The report highlights the duty of governments to implement their commitments and obligations under international law and calls for the decriminalisation of same-sex relations between consenting adults, and the granting of asylum to LGBT individuals at risk. A panel discussion on the issue will take place during the 19th session.
Missed opportunity for reform
Despite the potential for reforming the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council, the 2011 HRC Review drew to a close with NGOs lamenting the lack of progress made. In a closing statement, Geneva for Human Rights said: "the process was diluted to a mere fine-tuning exercise more than a thorough review." Read about the implications for NGOs here.
Other major developments
In a round-up of other news at the UN, a resolution was passed at the HRC on freedom of expression and the internet, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted a landmark Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict used her annual report to launch a publication on children and justice (read our "Children and Armed Conflict" CRINMAIL). For a round-up of news from the Committee on the Rights of the Child, read our CRC CRINMAILS (or subscribe here).
The coming year
In the course of 2012, CRIN - together with partners - will be exploring new ways of advancing children's rights in all parts of the UN system, not only those with a specific focus on children. We will keep you posted.
In the meantime, below is an overview of key events taking place at the Human Rights Council this year. For a full list of events taking place within the UN system, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child and other Treaty Bodies, the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, visit our events calendar.
Key events in 2012
N.B Special Procedure visits have only been announced for January and February. You can keep informed of new visits here.
The year starts with the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (16 - 20 January) . This is a closed session, however there will be an NGO introductory exchange on 20 January.
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women visits Italy from 15 - 26 January. Find out more about Special Rapporteurs and how to engage with them here.
February / March
Three Special Procedure visits are scheduled for February, to El Salvador, Georgia and Uruguay. Read more about the visits and see the full list for 2012 here.
The 19th Session of the Human Rights Council opens on 27 February (and runs until 23 March). Please note the deadline for submitting NGO reports is Monday 13 February.
Children's rights are set to feature in a number of discussions, most notably the Annual Day on the Rights of the Child, with the theme: "rights of children and the administration of justice." Other child-specific discussions see the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography presenting their annual reports.
May / June
The Council's 20th session will take place from May 30 - 17 June. More details to be announced nearer the time.
The second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) opens this year, with the 13th session taking place from 21 May - 4 June. Amongst the 14 States due to be examined, is the United Kingdom. Find out how to engage with the UPR and read about NGO experiences.
The final regular session of the Council - the 21st session - will run from 12 - 30 September. More details nearer the time.
The UPR's 14th session will run from 22 October - 5 November. Find out which States are due to be examined for the second time.
CRIN's 2011 Survey findings revealed an increasing appetite for information and guidance on how to do conduct advocacy at the UN. We recently revamped our UN pages to help users navigate the UN system and see the different ways to approach individual mechanisms.
Visit CRIN's pages:
- Children's rights and the United Nations
- How individuals can use mechanisms of the UN to submit complaints
Working Group on the UN
Read about the Working Group for the Human Rights Council (a subgroup of the NGO Group for the CRC), including contact details here.