Menu: What is it / Why such a mechanism / Background to the campaign / Challenges and objections: Q & A / Supporters / what can you do / links & further reading / petition / Lobby your government
A group of agencies initiated the campaign for the United Nations to establish a communications/complaints mechanism to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) back in 2007. This procedure will provide a mechanism that would ensure the availability of legal remedies for children at the international level.
What is it?
A complaints or communications procedure allows individuals, groups or their representatives who claim that their rights have been violated by a State that is a party to a convention or covenant to bring a complaint before the relevant committee, provided that the State has recognised the competence of the committee to receive such complaints.
Why such a mechanism?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child was, until recently, the only international human rights treaty with a mandatory reporting procedure which dic not have, in addition, an existing or draft communications procedure. This was a serious matter of discrimination against children. [See existing complaints mechanisms]
While children and their representatives can use the mechanisms established under other international instruments to pursue many of their rights, those instruments do not cover, separately or together, the full range and detail of rights in the CRC.
Furthermore, communications or complaints made on behalf of children to the other bodies will not be considered by a Committee with special expertise on children’s rights. Similar persuasive arguments were made for the adoption of the communications’ mechanisms under CEDAW and under the new Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
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- September 2012: First ratifications of the complaints mechanism
- February 2012: Optional Protocol opens for signature in Geneva
- 19 December 2011: UN GA Adopts Complaints Mechanism
- December 2011: UN Adopts Complaints Mechanism for Children
- November 2011: Third Committee adopts Optional Protocol by consensus
- June 2011: Optional Protocol adopted by Human Rights Council
- May 2011: Chair's Report; Revised text of Optional Protocol
- February 2011: Final meeting of the Working Group
- December 2010: Second meeting of the Working Group
- September 2010: Proposal for a draft Optional Protocol
- January 2010: Final report of the UN Working Group Meeting
- December 2009: Update and next steps
- December 2009: New Advocacy Toolkit
- December 2009: First meeting of the Working Group
- October 2009: Side event during CRC anniversary event
- May 2009: Update from Geneva and Next Steps
- May 2009: Updated Advocacy Paper
- March 2009: Statement to the 10th Session of the Human Rights Council
February 2009: Write to your Ministries before the HRC session in March
December 2008: GA Adopts the OP to the ICESCR
- June 2008: Go ahead for ICESCR signals green light for CRC
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Challenges and objections: Questions and Answers
Answering arguments put forward against a communications procedure for the CRC
“It would duplicate existing mechanisms”:
Given the universality and inter-dependence of human rights there is of course overlap among the various instruments. However the CRC provides distinctive and in some cases additional rights for children and its Committee has special expertise on children. None of the other relevant mechanisms have been designed with the special status of children in mind. Provisions in the Protocol would avoid duplication.
“It would be preferable to establish a joint procedure for considering communications/complaints under all the major international instruments”
This proposal, made in the context of proposals for a single standing treaty body, has never had the support of the Committee nor of the wider children’s rights community because of the dangerous risk of a loss of focus on children’s rights. It would undermine the purpose and power for children of the CRC. And if there is, in time, some centralising of response to communications, children’s position will be relatively weak if there is no procedure linked to the CRC.
“It would not be effective, its decisions would be non-binding”
This is a defeatist argument against all the other established procedures. While some States have not complied with some decisions on individual communications (just as some States ignore Concluding Observations), there are very positive examples of changes in law and practice following decisions. Communications procedures are complementary to the reporting process; they reinforce each other.
“It is better for the Committee to focus on persuading States to improve national remedies for breaches of children’s rights”
This is not an alternative; of course States need to develop effective remedies for breaches of all children’s rights. Children and their representatives also need to be able to appeal beyond the State when rights are breached and national remedies do not exist; having international remedies available in fact encourages the development of national remedies.
“The CRC covers economic, social and cultural rights, which are not justiciable like civil and political rights”
In its General Comment No. 5 on general measures of implementation, the Committee emphasises, echoing other Treaty Bodies, “that economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, must be regarded as justiciable”. Regional complaints mechanisms already consider economic, social and cultural rights and an OP to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is currently being drafted.
“The Committee does not have the capacity to deal with communications on top of its very demanding reporting process”
The Committee and the Secretariat have risen to the challenge of the massive workload of reporting under the CRC and the two existing Optional Protocols, removing the backlog through the temporary two-chamber system, supported by additional resources. Similarly, with appropriate specialisation and additional resources, it could - like other Committees - process communications.
“The Committee would be swamped with complaints, undermining its credibility”
Other procedures have not been swamped. All have reasonable gate-keeping devices which could be incorporated.
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Who is supporting the campaign?
A core group of agencies is supporting the establishment of a communications procedure for the CRC, including: World Vision International, Save the Children UK, Save the Children Sweden, Save the Children Norway, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, CRIN, Kindernothilfe, the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), SOS-Kinderdorf International and the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) and Plan International.
What can you do?
Following adoption by the UN General Assembly of the new complaints mechanism, the group of NGOs that campaigned for the treaty since 2007 reformed as an International Coalition for the Ratification of the OP CRC. Find out more about how to join the campaign here: http://www.ratifyop3crc.org/
- Analysis of Children's use of existing complaints mechanisms
- Comparative table of all other existing complaints mechanisms
Children as Strong as Nations , Kindernothilfe
Existing complaint/communication procedures for international Instruments
Five of the human rights treaty bodies can, under certain circumstances, consider individual complaints or communications from individuals:
Human Rights Committee, under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): states must have ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination, under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: states must have made the necessary declaration under article 14 of the Convention.
Committee against Torture, under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: states must have made the necessary declaration under article 22 of the Convention.
Committee to End Discrimination against Women, under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women: states must have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
Detailed information on these procedures, which states have accepted them and on how to use them is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/complaints.htm
Three newer Conventions include individual complaints/communications procedures which will come into force once they have been accepted by a sufficient number of states:
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: not yet in force (September 2007);
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: not yet in force (September 2007).
In addition, drafting has started on an Optional Protocol to provide a communications procedure for the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.