Summary: This toolkit aims to explain how the complaints procedure for the Convention on the Rights of the Child works. The toolkit includes an annotated guide to the third Optional Protocol to the CRC and a comparative guide to the international communication procedures of the UN.
A children’s rights complaints mechanism at the UN has been a long time in the making. More than 20 years have passed since the Convention on the rights of the Child (CRC) entered into force, and almost every country in the world has now formally accepted its duty to respect and uphold children’s international human rights. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has, from the very beginning, had the authority to review how countries have met their children’s rights obligations. Yet unlike other UN human rights conventions, the Committee was powerless to provide child victims with redress when governments breached their rights.
A complaints mechanism for the CRC will come into force with its tenth ratification. Though it is not clear when this will be, the Committee on the Rights of the Child has finalised the Rules of Procedure that govern how communications can be filed. The time is right to consider how the procedure can be used to advance children’s rights. To this end, CRIN is launching a Toolkit designed to give advocates a better sense of the new complaints mechanism in the hope that they will be prepared and inspired to help children bring violations of their rights to international attention.
The Toolkit sets out the Who, What, When, Where and How of the CRC complaints mechanism. It is divided into three sections that correspond with the three ways that violations of children’s rights can be raised with the Committee: individual complaints, inquiries and inter-state communications.
Part I: Individual complaints
Individual complaints are the most direct form of complaint under the communications procedure, which allows for individuals, or groups of individuals to complain about a violation of their rights, either themselves or through their representatives. Filing a complaint with the CRC communications procedure gives child victims an opportunity to seek redress. Children face many barriers in accessing justice, and often have no way of bringing legal challenges, and the Committee can recognise the violations children have endured and provide recourse to a remedy where domestic courts fail.
Part II: Inquiries
Inquiries adopt a less judicial model, looking at serious or widespread violations of children’s rights across a country, rather than whether an individual’s rights have been violated. Inquiries will be initiated and carried out by the Committee on the basis of information submitted from a number of sources. The advantage of the inquiry process is that it allows for investigations into large scale abuses of children’s rights, but also that it allows for complaints that don’t directly involve a specific child. Inquiries also allow for greater anonymity for persons wishing to raise violations with the government responsible.
Part III: Inter-State communications
Inter-State communications allow States to lodge complaints against other governments that have failed to live up to their children’s rights obligations. This procedure offers the broadest scope to raise potential violations of children's rights: complaints need not identify individual child victims and they are not limited to serious or widespread rights violations. Inter-State communications also offer the greatest flexibility and simplicity in terms of review procedures, but have been little used by other Treaty Bodies, and risk being more about politics than children’s rights.
This procedure can only be used against a government that has specifically given the Committee permission to do so.
Download the text of the toolkit without annexes here.
Annex I: A plain language explanation of the Optional Protocol
As well as the toolkit itself, CRIN is publishing an annotated version of the Optional Protocol with plain English explanations of the adopted text, links with relevant provisions of the CRC and examples of how children have used existing international communications procedures.
Annex II: A comparative guide to UN Treaty Body complaints procedures
To put the CRC complaints mechanism in the wider human rights context, CRIN has also
produced a chart comparing all of the international communications procedures at the UN.
- For more information on the campaign for a complaints procedure to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, see CRIN's campaign page.