Youth Forum on the Right to Be Heard, Day 1: Children Meet Members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child

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This Wednesday, 13 September 2006, 33 children from countries around the world met in Geneva to participate in a forum to prepare to take part in the Day of General Discussion of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on Friday 15 September at Palais Wilson in Geneva.

This morning, from 9:00 - 10:00, two members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child gave a welcome message from members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Rosa Maria Ortiz and Norberto Liwski, who spoke of their work with the Committee.

Rosa Maria Ortiz 

Rosa Maria Ortiz began by explaining the Convention on the Rights of the Child. She said that the Convention is the first global treaty which codifies the rights of children and as such that it represents the accumulated achievement of everyone who is committed to human rights, including everyone here today. 

She said that despite disagreements and changes during its development, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been ratified more quickly and by more countries than any other Convention and in fact, there are only two countries which have not ratified it. She stressed that the implementation of the Convention is a dynamic, ongoing process, that it is not an invention of one culture or one part of the world, but an agreement which is global. 

She stressed that the Convention promoted a vision of children as protagonists, participating in social development and social change, and that to guarantee the fulfilment of the CRC, they must play a key role. Norberto Liwski went on to talk about what child participation implies in the CRC.

Norberto Liwski 

Mr Liwski began by asking: Do you think you can play football without a ball? Do you think you can harvest wheat without sewing it? Do you think you can have a Convention on the Rights of the Child without the active participation of children?

Mr Liwski said that children must be involved in the work of the Committee on the Right of the Child and must monitor its work to ensure that States implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee is keen to have a dialogue with children from all the countries which have ratified the Convention. He regretted the fact that children from the United States and Somalia which have not ratified the Convention (although for different reasons) cannot participate in this dialogue.

The Committee asks for contributions from NGOs and other civil society organisations. The Committee analyses all the contributions and drafts recommendations, which are made public. They are also useful for children, as they indicate what their country must do to uphold their rights. NGOs and other civil society organisations must also lobby their government to implement the Convention.

The Committee meets every three months when it examines the reports of different States on how they are implementing the Convention. The Committee also asks civil society organisations for their input and recommendations. The Committee then makes recommendations to these States. These recommendations are made public and cannot be ignored when States receive them. Civil society organisations must hold governments to account by asking them questions and helping to monitor their implementation of the Convention.

The Committee also organises one day per year to discuss a particular issue related to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As you know, this year revolves around the right of children to be heard. In many parts of the world there was a very positive response to this and you are a testimony to this. Indeed, on Friday, the Committee is expecting an unprecedented number of people to attend the Day of General Discussion.

The Committee is waiting to hear with particular interest the results of these two days. This gathering will also give you all the opportunity to get to know each other and learn about different languages, cultures, religions, customs. I hope you enjoy yourselves and get to know each other, but please remember that no one culture or opinion is superior or inferior to another, and that noone has more rights because they are from a rich country: we are all equal. Share ideas, defend your ideas but learn from others here too.

Questions

There was an opportunity for children to ask questions to the Committee members:

A boy from Colombia: Are their children on the Committee?

Norberto Liwski replied that there are no children on the Committee although the Convention does not say that there should not be. He expressed an interest in exploring this possibility.

A girl from the UK asked why only 33 children were allowed to participate in the youth forum when their participation was so fundamental to what was being discussed.

Liwski responded that the main reasons were practical and organisational, but that it is important to look at participation not only in relation to this week’s events but also other processes around the world where large numbers of children have participated.

A boy from India asked why the United States and Somalia have not ratified the Convention. Rosa Maria Ortiz said that Somalia does not currently have a government and that the US also does not have a government that can ratify the Convention, but that this is for political reasons. Liwski added that in many states in the United States the death penalty can still be applied for people over 16-years-old. He said there is a movement among civil society organisations and human rights activists working for changes in law to eliminate the death penalty for children. The Committee, he added, will continue to work for these changes which are an obstacle to the Convention. 

 

 

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