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Committee on the Rights of the Child opens its sixty-second session

14 January 2013

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its sixty-second session, adopting its agenda and hearing an address by Ibrahim Salama, Director of the Human Rights Treaty Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In his address, Mr. Salama recognized that the almost universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child meant a very high workload for the Committee and agreed that a sustainable solution needed to be found to address the significant backlog of this and other Committees. He noted the belief in the treaty bodies system expressed by the General Assembly and the States during the discussions on the treaty bodies strengthening process, as evidenced by the establishment of a working group to negotiate a new international instrument on the protection of the elderly. Mr. Salama welcomed the openness of the Committee in adopting new technologies and updating its working methods to allow for the meaningful participation of States, particularly small and remote ones, and recognized the Committee’s ambitious plans for this session, which included the drafting of four general comments and the issuing of the report on the day of general discussion on the rights of children in the context of international migration.

Jean Zermatten, the Committee Chairperson, said that during this session the Committee would examine eight State party reports: four on the main Convention (Guyana, Malta, Guinea and Niue) and four under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on children involved in armed conflict (United States, Burkina Faso, Philippines and Slovakia). The Committee intended to complete drafting and adopt its general comments on the best interest of the child, the right to play, the right to health and the impact of the business sector on children’s rights. Work on a draft joint general comment with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on harmful traditional practices would also continue.

In an update on country reports received, the Committee was informed that since the last session, 18 reports under the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been received, bringing the number of reports pending examination to 110; two initial reports under the Convention were overdue, those of Nauru and Tonga. As of January 2013, 150 States had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, 162 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and 36 States had signed the Optional Protocol on a Communication Procedure.

The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 15 January at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the combined second to fourth periodic report of Guyana (CRC/C/GUY/2-4) under the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Statements

JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, noted that several Committee members would be leaving the Committee at the end of this session and that eight new members would be joining the Committee in May 2013. In addition to the normal agenda for the session, the Committee had also set aside the time for the discussion and adoption of a significant number of general comments which were pending. Mr. Zermatten then expressed hope that 2013 would be the year in which all States would ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Optional Protocols. The economic crisis affecting many countries of the world had highlighted several areas of concern that the Committee should be carefully monitoring.

IBRAHIM SALAMA, Director of the Human Rights Treaty Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted that the almost universal ratification of the Convention meant a very high workload for the Committee, which was one of the most dynamic and flexible Committees. The discussions with the General Assembly concerning the treaty bodies strengthening process that had been taking place last year and would continue this year had demonstrated a clear belief in the treaty bodies system and the respect of States for human rights and related obligations. This belief in the treaty bodies was evident in the establishment by the General Assembly of a working group to negotiate a new international instrument on the protection of the elderly. Mr. Salama noted that 36 States had signed the Third Optional Protocol and another two had ratified it and expressed hope that other countries would follow the suite and recognize children as right holders. Hopefully, 2013 would see eight additional ratifications that would mean the entry into force of this important international instrument.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights shared the view of the Committee that a sustainable solution needed to be found to address the significant backlog of this and other Committees, which grew with every additional ratification. He welcomed the openness of the Committee in adopting new technologies and updating its working methods to allow for the meaningful participation of States, particularly small and remote ones, which was in line with the comments and remarks repeatedly made by States in the discussions on treaty bodies strengthening. Further, Mr. Salama recognized the Committee’s ambitious plans to continue its work on the general comments during this session and to issue the report on the day of general discussion on the right of children in the context of international migration, which would represent an important contribution to the improvement of their rights. In closing, Mr. Salama expressed appreciation and gratitude to the eight members of the Committee who would be leaving at the end of session.

The Committee Secretariat updated members on reports received. Since the last session, 18 reports had been received, bringing the number of reports pending examination to 110. Two initial reports under the Convention on the Rights of the Child were overdue, those of Nauru and Tonga. Three countries had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Indonesia, Nigeria and Swaziland, thus bringing the number of ratifications to 150. Four States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, bringing the number of ratifications to 162; the States that had recently ratified this Optional Protocol were Central African Republic, Indonesia, Seychelles and Swaziland. Ten countries had signed the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure since the last session and two countries had ratified it.

JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee would examine the initial periodic report of Niue using the modern teleconferencing technologies, and would also review the reports submitted under the Convention on the Rights of the Child by Guyana, Malta and Guinea. Further, the Committee would examine the second periodic reports of the United States under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Burkina Faso and Slovakia were presenting their initial reports under the two Optional Protocols, and the Philippines was presenting its initial report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Committee would also continue its discussions about the treaty bodies strengthening process, how it would affect its working methods and would continue the review of the guidelines on the impartiality and independence of the members of the Committee it had adopted during its last session.

Mr. Zermatten said the theme of the day of general discussion to be held in September 2013 would be media, social networks and the rights of the child. The next day of general discussion would be held in 2015. The Committee would focus on drafting four general comments during this session, notably on the best interest of the child, on the right to play, leisure activities and cultural activities, on the right to health and on the impact of the business sector on children’s rights. It would also continue its work on the draft joint general comment that it had been carrying out with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on harmful traditional practices.

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