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The Special Rapporteur, Mrs Najat M’jid Maalla, issued the following press statement on 18 October 2009.

Mrs Najat M’jid Maalla shares the following preliminary observations on the occasion of her country visit to the United Arab Emirates from 12-18 October 2009. The objectives of the visit were to assess the situation of sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, examine initiatives undertaken in the area of child protection, prevention and promotion of the rights of the child, and to follow up on the CRC Concluding Observations and recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review of the UAE.

The Special Rapporteur visited Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and held meetings and undertook visits with the Federal National Council, various Ministries, the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, Police, Courts (Dubai and Sharjah); social service departments; associations and foundations. She thanks the Government of UAE for its cooperation and hospitality in facilitating the visit.  

The Special Rapporteur received a low number of reported cases of sale of children, and child trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation. She received no reported cases of child trafficking for use as camel jockeys as a result of strong efforts to finance rehabilitation, reintegration and reparation of victims on the issue, which she welcomes. Nevertheless, the Special Rapporteur notes the lack of an information system for gathering data on these phenomena, analysis, recording, sharing information, and reporting. The Special Rapporteur appreciated that the UAE recognized the need for such a system, that it is in the process of establishing one, and encouraged UAE to keep her informed of developments in this regard.

Regarding legislation, UAE has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1997), ILO Convention No. 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (2002) and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Protocol). The Special Rapporteur welcomes information that the UAE is in the process of ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Regarding national legislation, the Special Rapporteur welcomes Federal Law No. 51 on Combating Human Trafficking. She also encourages the adoption and promulgation of the law on Child Protection. Regarding harmonization of national legislation with international standards with regard to juvenile justice, she notes that the age of criminal responsibility (7) is too low.  All children under 18 years of age who are sexually exploited should be considered as victims and not as delinquents. They should not be put in jail. The State should also ensure that such victims have access to adequate care, protection, rehabilitation, reintegration and reparation.

The Special Rapporteur was encouraged by the existence of special spaces for children in order to guarantee confidentiality and protection to children in certain courts. She also encourages UAE to ensure continuous training of judges, prosecutors, police in the rights of the child (including preventing and combating cybercrime), and calls on UAE to continue raising awareness of the Child Rights Convention and of national laws on the rights of the child (of all relevant personnel working with children, children themselves, families and communities). Such measures must be guaranteed across the country.

Regarding child protection strategies and programs, the Special Rapporteur observes and welcomes the many programs and centres run by various actors at the national and local level (care centres / shelters for victims of child abuse, neglect, victims of sexual exploitation, trafficking, disabled, counselling and support programs for families, a hotline, clubs and youth centres, awareness-raising tools (TV/radio programs) and child and youth councils. The challenge for UAE is to ensure an effective integrated coordination mechanism at the national and local level, and between the Emirates.

In this regard, the Special Rapporteur insists on the need for an integrated Child Protection National Strategy, based on the best interest of the child, ensuring accessibility of all children, in the whole country, to complaint mechanisms and child protection systems.

The Special Rapporteur also insists on stronger prevention efforts, with a focus on the protection of vulnerable children (stateless/bidoon, migrants, unknown parents, orphans, without parental care). She encourages UAE to instil a real process of child participation (information, consultation, taking due account of their views and opinions in elaboration of strategies, policies, programs/activities related to the rights of the child). Partnerships with the private sector (especially, tourism, ISPs, telecom, bank companies) and civil society must also be reinforced.

The Special Rapporteur welcomes information about the foreseen establishment of a Child Rights Monitoring Mechanism and called on UAE to ensure that it is accessible to children, with the task of monitoring and evaluating progress in implementation of child rights and of receiving and addressing child complaints.

Regarding international cooperation, efforts such as 8 bilateral agreements to combat trafficking and financial support for repatriation and rehabilitation of child trafficking victims were welcomed. The Special Rapporteur was informed that UNICEF will undertake a child rights situation assessment and will assist the Higher Council of Motherhood/Childhood, which she learned is in the process of becoming functional, in the elaboration of the National child protection Strategy.

The Special Rapporteur welcomes efforts regarding inter-State cooperation in combating trafficking in persons. In this regard, she calls for strengthened cooperation between police (sharing information, detecting criminals, protection and follow up of victims); and increased cooperation with UN Agencies: ILO, OHCHR, UNICEF (technical assistance, guidelines and principles on human rights).

In conclusion, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the political commitment on the part of the Government regarding the rights of the child, numerous efforts undertaken, particularly in the area of combating trafficking in persons (eg. camel jockeys). This must be continued to prevent resurgence or new forms. The Special Rapporteur appreciated several programs and centres she met with and visited, and insists on the need for a real integrated national child protection strategy, with child protection systems accessible to all children across the country, particularly vulnerable children. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the upcoming ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. She further insists on the need to harmonize juvenile justice issues with international standards and to accelerate the promulgation of the law on child protection. She appreciates that the UAE recognized the need for establishing an information system and database for the rights of the child and of a Child Rights Monitoring Mechanism, and encourages UAE to keep her informed of developments in this regard.