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Address by Mr. Ibrahim Salama, Director Human Rights Treaties Division, for the 62nd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child

14 January 2013

Mr. Chairperson,

Distinguished Members of the Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the 62nd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee), on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Let me begin by wishing all those present a very happy, productive and rewarding new year. 2012 heralded numerous significant developments for the Committee which will serve as a firm foundation for further bolstering the work of the Committee in 2013.

Marking a strong boost to the ability of the Committee to respond to violations of child rights, the third Optional Protocol to the Convention was opened for signature in February 2012. When it comes into force, the Optional Protocol will empower the Committee to receive and consider complaints from children, as well as organise visits to countries where there are systematic and serious violations of child rights.

To date, it has been signed by 36 States and ratified by two, Gabon and Thailand, who have carved their space in history as the forerunners in the ratification of this important instrument. I hope that other States will follow quickly and confirm their willingness to fully recognize children as subjects of rights, with concrete channels for claiming and enforcing them through this esteemed body. With 8 further ratifications required for the entry into force of the third Optional Protocol, we are cautiously optimistic that it enters into force within 2013. In this context, I am also gratified to hear that the rules of procedure for the Optional Protocol have already undergone two readings by the Committee, and are now scheduled for adoption during the present session of the Committee.

In accordance with Resolution 66/141 of the General Assembly, 2012 also saw the Committee conducting its first interactive dialogue with the Third Committee of the General Assembly. This increased interaction with States provides important and strengthened accessibility and visibility on the work carried out by this Committee.

As the year was drawing to a close, the Committee successfully obtained from the General Assembly’s 67th session the authorisation to meet in parallel chambers for five working days of one of its three pre-sessional working group meetings in 2014, and 13 working days during one of its three regular sessions in 2015. This will allow the Committee some highly needed additional capacity to address the backlog of more than 100 reports submitted by States parties under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols. Although your request was for a permanent double-chamber session each year, which was for most States simply not possible to grant under the current financial climate, your point that a sustainable solution needs to be found was clearly heard. The granting of this one double-chamber session and a corresponding double-chamber pre-sessional working group was the result of an intensive effort by the co-sponsors to fight against the prevailing tide to reject all requests for additional resources.

Our Office shares the view that a continuation of limited and temporary solutions will only postpone but not resolve the situation of the Committee, which is becoming more serious with each new ratification. As you know, the High Commissioner places great importance in finding a sustainable solution, as reflected in her report on treaty body strengthening released last year. I am encouraged by the continuous support of your Committee to this process and by the adoption in October 2012 of the Guiding Principles on the independence and impartiality of the members of the treaty bodies.

I have also observed with great satisfaction the Committee’s openness to new approaches and new technologies. For example, I have noted your use of teleconferencing in situations where it facilitates dialogue between a State party and the Committee, as you will do next Tuesday, 22 January, with Niue. By so doing, the Committee will be saving the delegation from flying over 60 hours round-trip to engage in a 3-hour dialogue with the Committee. The characteristic reasonableness of this Committee, your flexibility and adaptability demonstrate that the Committee is ready to meet the challenges of the times, for times like this call for new approaches. Indeed, as the States have reminded us at every event in the treaty body strengthening process, no treaty body today can afford to cling to its traditions and working methods simply because “this is the way we’ve always done it.” If action is taken this year as planned on the proposals to strengthen the treaty bodies, then this could be a momentous year when a sustainable and comprehensive solution is put into effect for the first time.

Continuing with the highlights of this session, I note the Committee’s ambitious plans to continue its work on five General Comments (GC), namely on: the best interests of the child; the right to health; State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on child rights; the right to leisure, play and culture; and, a joint General Comment on harmful practices with CEDAW. When adopted, these General Comments, in addition to the thirteen already issued, will add substantial clarity to the implementation of the Convention.

The Committee will also be issuing its report of its 2012 Day of General Discussion which focussed on the rights of all children in the context of international migration. The event benefitted from rich discussions and written submissions of over 250 participants from a wide range of stakeholders, including States, civil society actors, UN agencies and migrant children. Drawing from this, the Committee’s report will make an important contribution towards improving the rights of all children in the context of international migration.

In addition to the review of some 11reports submitted under the Convention and its Optional Protocols taking place in the next three weeks, the Committee has a very intense session ahead.

Prior to closing, I wish to emphasise the deep and heartfelt gratitude that we have for the eight Committee members who will be concluding their terms during this session: Ms. Hadeel Al-Asmar; Mr. Sanphasit Koompraphant; Ms. Yanghee Lee; Ms. Marta Mauras; Ms. Pilar Nores; Mr. Awich Pollar; Ms. Kamla Devi Varmah; and, Mr. Jean Zermatten. Each of you has made major contributions to the work of the Committee and to the cause of child rights. While you will undoubtedly continue to be active in the latter, you will be truly missed by the Committee and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights alike.

With that, allow me to conclude by saying that we look forward to seeing a most successful and productive 62nd session of the Committee unfold. As usual, our Office will do its utmost to support it.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.