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Committee on the Rights of the Child opens seventy-fourth session in Geneva

GENEVA (16 January 2017) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child opened its seventy-fourth session at the Palais Wilson this morning, hearing from Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Ms. Gilmore recalled the Committee’s achievements in 2016, including the reduction in the backlog of pending reports from more than 80 to the current average of 40; the adoption of two General Comments, on public budgeting for the realization of children’s rights, and on the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence; and the holding of a very successful Day of General Discussion dedicated to children’s rights and the environment with the wide participation of children and adolescents, both as panellists and participants. The Committee had demonstrable power to positively impact the lived reality of children in all corners of the world, said the Deputy High Commissioner, who stressed the disturbing background of ongoing violations of the rights of children, including child poverty, violence against children in all its forms, and discrimination against girls, children born outside of wedlock, children with disabilities, and migrant, asylum seeking, stateless and refugee children. Persisting insufficient integration of a child rights-based approach into the planning and implementation of child health policies and programmes and repressive laws in the field of juvenile justice impeded progress that otherwise was within the reach of countries the world over.

The worsening of the global migration and refugee crisis had wrought a devastating impact on the rights of millions children worldwide: one in every eight migrants was a child, and one in 200 children was a refugee; 26 million children today were displaced by conflict. A Rohingya toddler, lying dead in the mud, just as did Aylan whose body had been washed up on a Turkish beach, was a tragic evidence of the failure of the world to fulfil its obligation to the world’s children, said Ms. Gilmore. In August 2016, the Secretary-General in his first biennial report on the status of the treaty body system had advised that the measures taken in resolution 62/268 had indeed allowed the treaty body system to address some of its most pressing challenges and had concluded with directions for further progress. Later this year, the General Assembly would consider its position of resources for the amended 2018-2019 meeting schedule resulting from changes in the system’s workload, which would confirm a quasi-automatic mechanism for the funding of the treaty body system, based on the objective criteria of incoming reports and communications. For the Committee on the Rights of the Child, this would mean going back to its original meeting time of twelve weeks every year in the next biennium.

In October 2016, the Secretary-General had welcomed the appointment of Manfred Novak to lead the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty; a meeting of States had been held in Geneva in November and another one would be held in New York in January 2017, while a meeting on methodology for the study would take place in March in Venice. Ms. Gilmore stressed that the voluntary contributions by Member States for the study were inadequate so far, with the exception of Switzerland. In conclusion, Ms. Gilmore stressed that every individual child was entitled to a common human dignity. The largest generation of adolescents that the world had ever known was an unprecedented opportunity for investment and precious responsibility for protection. They were an inbuilt global succession plan, and the sustainable development generation, not the least because they were today concentrated in places of greatest deprivation, gravest violence and deepest discrimination. The work of this Committee would never be of greater strategic importance than it would be in this coming and immediate future sessions.

Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Committee Chairperson, in his opening remarks, recalled that 2016 was a milestone year for children: on 20 November, celebrating the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Convention, the Committee had joined hands with other child rights experts to urge Governments in all regions to spare no efforts to ensure universal implementation of the most widely ratified human rights issues, especially for children in vulnerable situations, such as girls, children with disabilities, children living in poverty, children belonging to minorities and indigenous groups, and children victims of violence, conflict and crime.

The year 2016 had marked the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, and the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Study on Violence against Children, he said, noting that this had shown how the Convention on the Rights of the Child could help shape an action-oriented policy agenda, ignite policy commitments, and mobilize global advocacy and support to prevent and address serious violations of children’s rights. The United Nations was now embarking on the development of a third landmark initiative: an in-depth Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

The number of children living in conflicts was staggering – some 220 million, including in countries whose situation was already on the agenda of the Security Council. In most of those conflicts, grave breaches of children’s rights occurred, including killing and maiming, child recruitment, sexual violence, attacks on schools, and others. The ongoing migration and refugee crisis had uprooted nearly 50 million children worldwide, leaving them vulnerable to violence and exploitation, and it was of particular concern that a number of initiatives and measures to address this crisis were not implemented with the Convention at its centre, including the agreements signed between the European Union and some African countries. Finally, Mr. Mezmur thanked four outgoing Committee Members for their dedication and service: Wanderlino Nogueira Neto, Sara De Jesús Oviedo Fierro, Maria Rita Parsi, and Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff.

The Secretariat of the Committee informed that since the last session, eight reports had been received, bringing the number of reports pending consideration to 52. Six reports had been received on the Convention, from Lesotho, Montenegro, Mauritania, Argentina, Norway and Angola; and two on the Optional Protocols, both from Tajikistan. Two initial reports were overdue on the Convention, the reports from Tonga and from the State of Palestine. Turning to ratifications, a representative of the Secretariat said that the total number of ratifications of the Convention remained at 186, and the number of ratifications of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography at 173. One new country – Pakistan – had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, bringing the number of ratifications to 166, while Georgia had ratified the Optional Protocol on Communications Procedures, which now had 29 ratifications and 50 signatures.

The Committee then adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Comprehensive meeting coverage of all public meetings to be held this session, including the country reviews, can be found here. The country reviews can also be watched via live webcast at webtv.un.org/live/

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 17 January to consider the second periodic report of Barbados in Chamber A (CRC/C/BRB/2) and the combined second to firth periodic report of Estonia (CRC/C/EST/2-4) in Chamber B.

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For use of the information media; not an official record