20 Years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child: Achievements and Challenges for its full Realisation
Wednesday 11 March 2009, 10:00 – 13:00 and 15:00 – 18:00, during the 10th session of the Human Rights Council.
Morning session - Promoting the implementation of the Convention at the international level
Ms. Navanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, began the opening statements. She said that although in some quarters children are no longer as the property of parents, or the passive recipients of goodwill, but as rights bearers, this view is not widespread and "there remains ample ground for serious concern."
She noted how the UN Study on Violence Against Children reported that 80 to 98 per cent of children reported some sort of violence in the home.
“We need to translate our commitment and work on children’s rights into a tangible reality to all of them,” she concluded.
Mr. Dainius Puras, Member of Committee on the Rights of the Child, said: “There is too much that hasn’t been achieved. Too much that remains to be done. Every state faces challenges, particularly in the context of the current economic crisis. “
Mr Puras also spoke of the challenges facing the Committee's work, including the backlog of reports to be considered, and the fact that they had not received outstanding reports from some States. He also noted that, as the Committee's workload had grown, the secretariat which supports the Committee had in fact shrunk.
Mr. Philip O'Brien - Director Private Fundraising and Partnerships, UNICEF Geneva followed, arguing that “partnerships are key” to the realisation of children's rights. He noted the Committee’s “staggering” workload, and the important role of the NGO Group for the CRC in helping to realise the rights of children. He maintained that, public/private partnerships are proving increasingly effective at addressing some of the problems children face.
He further highlighted the importance of rights-based programming, rather than just focusing on fulfilling the immediate needs of children. For more about rights-based programming, and its importance, visit our special page here
Mr O'Brien also emphasised the need for children to have access to information which would enable them to fulfil their rights.
Ms Asma Jahangir, Chair of the Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures, noted a number of mandates concerned children. But there is much overlap, she added, and children’s rights may be vicariously addressed through almost all the mandates. As Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion, she has reported on the issue of children accused of witchcraft, for example.
Bureaucracy and violence against children
Ms Jahangir said she looked forward to the appointment of a Special Representative to the Secretary General on Violence Against Children, "as we believe this will help the intergration of the issue of violence across all Special Procedures". As a committee, she said they had discussed and identified the need to consider the rights of children in all areas of their work. They also plan more coordination with the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and also more consultation with children themselves. She also plans to elaborate further on children and their religious freedom, notwithstanding the rights of parents to offer advice on religious directions.
“It is wrong to assume that by addressing a human rights situation in general, we also consider children,” she concluded.
Find out about upcoming visits of Special Procedures here
Learn more about Special Procedures and children’s rights.
Child rights and the UPR
Mr. Alan Kikuchi-White, NGO Group for the Convention of the Rights of the Child, talked about the role of the Universal Periodic Review (what is this?) in promoting the rights of the child. He said that "work remains to be done, by Stakeholders and the Council alike, to ensure questions about certain overlooked clusters of rights, for example, civil rights and freedoms, family environment and alternative care, and, not least of all, the principle of child participation in all spheres of social life, are appropriately represented during the review process."
He went on to draw attention to the evolution of a clearer and more explicit “language of recommendations” in the interactive dialogue. "Whilst we can point to the non-specific nature of some recommendations, we also note occasions when important questions and observations on child rights made during earlier dialogues were not finalised in the listed recommendations, simply based on the language used," he said.
You can read all of Alan's statement here
Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary-General of Council of Europe asked: "How many miles have we travelled, and how many promises have we kept?” She added that the "starting point for our work is that children are not mini-persons with mini-rights."
She said that people will systematically talk about the rights of the child, when in fact they are talking about their rights over the child. "It is my belief that corporal punishment sends a message to children that violence is an acceptable way to solve conflict," she added. Read her full statement (pdf format).
From the floor
The Czech Republic stated that the removal of reservations could have a significant effect on the realisation of the rights of the child.
The delegate said that the EU is committed to mainstreaming the rights of the child into all aspects of its internal and external work. He asked the panel: Could an assessment already be made on how the HRC mechanisms deal with the rights of the child into their mandates? What are the Committee's concrete suggestions beyond 2010 to get out of the difficult situations of backlogs or reporting delays?
Finally, he also asked about the delayed appointment of the SRSG on Violence, and to be provided with an update on the process?
The Chilean delegate also reported that GRULAG was extremely concerned there has still been no appointment of an SRSG, and very little information about the appointment process. He went on to ask: What do pannelists think are the main gaps in the UN for dealing with children’s rights? And what about the recommendations of the UPR? How can we ensure the establishment of better recommendations?
Note: For a more comprehensive account of the day's discussions, and all of the State interventions, visit the International Service for Human Rights.
Slovakia bemoaned the lack of a communications procedure to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The delegate said that even where national remedies exist, his country was convinced an international procedure could bring an improvement to the fulfilment of children’s rights.
The Polish children's ombudsman added that the Committee should be able to consider complaints from individuals who claim to be a victim of the violation of the rights of the child. The Commtitee is the treaty without such a process. "If we want to treat children’s rights seriously, this should be created in the near future", he concluded.
A representative from the Commission of Human Rights, Philippines said she was concerned the global economic crisis is forcing governments to adopt austerity programmes. “We hope governments will continue, if not scale up, programmes for children,” she said. She also urged ASEAN to create a commission on women and children, and said she supported a communications procedure to the CRC, and the swift appointment of an SRSG on Violence.
A statement from the Save Children Alliance reflected on how it has been two years since the conclusion of the UN Study on Violence Against Children - and an SRSG had still not been appointed. "This prompts an unjustifiable loss of momentum for prompt actions", he insisted. Read the full statement here
The urgent need for a communications procedure for the Convention on the Rights of the Child was emphasised in a statement from the NGO Group for CRC Complaints Mechanism Working Group.
It said: "Children should not have to wait any longer for this necessary component of the promotion and safeguarding of their rights." Read the full statement
Mr Danius Puras responded to some of the questions asked. He said long term solutions to addressing the Committee’s workload was required, as the current two-chamber solution needed to be added to. He said more coordination between all parties was needed to ensure better implementation. Regarding the Communications Procedure, he reinforced the fact that the Committee supports its establishment.
Mr O’Brien said the state of national reform was an important area to focus on in the next year or two.
Mr Kickuchi-White pointed to two overlooked categories of rights not considered significantly in the UPR process. As such, he suggested civil rights and freedoms could be an appropriate topic for next year.
He further noted the gaps in the protection of children in alternative care, and the lack of children’s participation at the Human Rights Council.
He added a communications procedure to the CRC could complete the institutional framework for addressing the full realisation of children’s rights.
Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said the origins of the lack of success in this area was the fact that most still do not recognise children as rights-bearers. She said there was a need for full strategies for children’s rights at a national level, which means policy as well as legislation, and that there needs to be coordination between all the different mechanisms for implementation.
A delegate from Norway highlighted the importance of child participation, and its centrality as a cross-cutting issue. She said: "The international community can’t deal with issues of our time if children aren’t engaged."
She recommended that the theme should be considered as a possible theme for subsequent annual days, and highlighted that "momentum is being lost" due to the delay in the appointment of an SRSG on violence on children.
The National Human Rights Commission of South Korea endorsed the establishment of a complaints mechanism to the CRC. Among the benefits, the delegate said that the procedure will encourage state parties to develop national mechanisms for remedying violations. The CRC is a unique instrument which should have a complaints mechanism of its own, monitored by child rights experts, she argued.
A representative from OMCT encouraged the coordination between Special Procedures on child rights issues. In relation to the UPR, she encouraged the improvement of the quality of child rights addressed during the process.
The International Humanist and Ethical Union raised the issue of child marriage and child execution, calling the latter “the ultimate barbarity”.
Mr Puras said the committee was developing a general comment on participation, which he hoped would be finalised in the next session. He also mentioned the event the Committee will be organising to commemorate the 20th anniversary.
Mr Kikuchi-White responded to questions on the mainstreaming of children’s rights. He said the issue goes way beyond the UPR, and recognised the challenges in addressing this. He advocated going beyond merely mentioning children as part of a number of vulnerable groups.
He also recommended a resolution from the GA or HRC on a moratorium on the corporal punishment of children, and suggested “no reservations by 20 November” as a good target for implementation of the Convention. He suggested a special session on violence against children to determine progress made since the conclusion of the UN Study, as well as the swift conclusion of the appointments process for an SRSG.
He noted how time and funding where required for the implementation of initiatives on child participation, and encouraged States to come forward.
Finally, he remarked on the use of the phrase “children are the future”, and instead suggested that the rights of children must be based on the notion that children are human beings today.
OHCHR responded to questions about the SRSG. The delegate said, simply, that they look forward to the appointment and hope it will come about as quickly as possible.
Jane Connors, Head of Treaty Bodies at OHCHR said her office was very supportive of any initiative that would accelerate implementation of the CRC, including a communications procedure or other.
She further said that they had supported the initiative for a SRSG for follow up to the UN Study on Violence Against Children since the beginning and are seeking to having that appointment come about as soon as possible.
Afternoon session - Panel on National Implementation and Monitoring
Ms Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner of OHCHR, introduced the subject of national implementation, and outlined some of the issues concerned. You can read her whole statement, as well as the statements of other speakers on the panel during the day-long event, via the HRC Extranet. Username: hrc extranet - Password: 1session
Mr. Anders B. Johnsson, Secretary-General IPU, said we are constantly reminded of the abuse of children’s rights globally. “The single challenge presented to all of us is indifference.” He said that we only ever hear of the negative stories of, for example, abhorrent violence, and this can desensitise us.
A World Vision statement addressed the issue of children’s right to health, and called on donor governments to increase aid for primary health care, on States to ensure health is accessible to all without discrimination and that cost is not a barrier. The statement also highlighted the need for access to safe drinking water, and the connection that effective education has for children’s health.
A statement from Defence for Children International raised the issues of juvenile justice and children’s participation. Read the statement
In the responses to the questions raised during the dialogue, Mr Johnsson responded to the question about prioritising child rights issues, asked by some delegates. He said it varied from region to region, but that if one issue came up again and again, it was violence against children.
He said the CRC transforms children from passive subjects to active rights holders, and we must grant them access to parliaments, for instance, by inviting them to testify when there are laws or other issues that impact children that are being discussed.
Mr Freyre emphasised the need for political will, and the necessity of bringing policy in line with needs. He said it was important there was consistent child rights monitoring, rather than periodic monitoring for the purpose of reports.
Previous Publication (general) items
- 10/03/2009: MEDIA: Another Perspective - How journalists can promote children's human rights and equality
- 10/03/2009: It’s About Ability: Learning Guide on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- 09/03/2009: Child-Friendly Laws in Africa
- 06/03/2009: SOUTH AFRICA: Raising the Bar - A review of the restructuring of the police service's family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit
- 05/03/2009: UNITED STATES: A Violent Education
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Last updated 12/03/2009 11:59:43