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Eightieth session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child opens in Geneva

Committee on the Rights of the Child 

14 January 2019

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its eightieth session at the Palais Wilson in Geneva, hearing from Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, during which it will review the reports of Bahrain, Belgium, Guinea, Italy, Japan and Syria under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the report of the Czech Republic under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

In her address to the Committee, Ms. Bachelet said that 2019 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by far the most widely ratified human rights treaty, which had driven significant progress in many countries.  However, many States were not yet on track to achieve essential aspects of the 2030 Agenda, including in reducing poverty and ensuring child survival, and in reducing vulnerability to trafficking and slavery, including sexual slavery and forced marriage.  The anniversary was an important opportunity to advocate greater emphasis of the Convention’s principles and goals, while the global review process of the 2030 Agenda was another powerful human rights platform that could have enormous benefit for children’s dignity and rights, the High Commissioner stressed.  

A representative of the Secretariat said that since the last session, the Committee had received five reports, bringing the number of reports pending consideration to 41.  All the received reports were under the Convention, namely the initial report of State of Palestine and the periodic reports of Cuba, Kuwait, Greece and Ukraine.  Two initial reports were overdue, those of Somalia and South Sudan.  The number of ratifications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child remained at 196.  There was one new ratification by South Sudan of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, whose number of ratifications stood at 168.  South Sudan had also ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which now had 175 States parties.  Ecuador, San Marino and Tunisia had ratified the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, bringing the total number of ratifications to 42.

Renate Winter, Committee Chairperson, in her opening remarks, underlined the precarious political situation in a number of countries which impacted negatively the situation of human rights, and children’s rights in particular, including the threat posed by a number of armed conflicts around the world, which were not abating.

The Committee then adopted its agenda and programme of work.

The Committee heard statements from representatives of the International Labour Organization, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Refugee Agency, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Health Organization, and Child Rights Connect.

The eightieth session of the Committee will run from 14 January to 2 February 2019.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to start its consideration of the combined third to sixth periodic report of Guinea under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/GIN/3-6).

Statements

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in her opening address, thanked the outgoing members of the Committee, namely Jorge Cardona, Bernard Gastaud, Hatem Kotrane and Kirsten Sandberg.  The year 2019 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by far the most widely ratified human rights treaty, which had driven significant progress in many countries.  Virtually every State party had passed laws to protect the rights of children, benefitting not only the children but all of the society, and there were more opportunities for children to raise their voices and help make mechanisms for children’s rights more effective.  And yet, such mechanisms did not always benefit all children without discrimination, not all States parties ensured the survival and development of all children to the maximum extent, and in almost every context, children were still viewed as passive recipients of care, their voices dismissed or ignored. 

States, High Commissioner Bachelet said, were not yet on track to achieve essential aspects of the 2030 Agenda, including in reducing poverty and ensuring child survival, and in reducing their vulnerability to trafficking and slavery, including the worst forms of forced labour, domestic slavery, sexual slavery and forced marriage.  More than 5.5 million children were victims of forced labour, one in three detected victims of trafficking in 2012 was a child, millions of girls became mothers while they were still children, and it was impossible to estimate the number of children forcibly recruited by armed groups as fighters or slaves.  Those numbers, Ms. Bachelet stressed, were a calamity – each stood for a precious individual, whose hopes and dreams were dashed. 

The thirtieth anniversary of the Convention was an important opportunity to advocate greater emphasis of its principles and goals, while the global review process of the 2030 Agenda was yet another powerful human rights platform that could have enormous benefit for children’s dignity and rights.  Her Office, the High Commissioner continued, would provide child rights inputs to the Agenda’s global review process at the annual High Level Political Forum in New York, which this year would focus on Goals of particular interest: education, inequality and climate change, and on specific targets of ending child labour and all forms of violence against children.  The treaty body review, to take place by April 2020, was an opportunity to strengthen the coordination between Committees, Ms. Bachelet said, welcoming the treaty bodies’ forthcoming pragmatic recommendations that would enhance the protection of rights and improve the accessibility, sustainability and impact of the treaty body system. 

The High Commissioner also welcomed the Committee’s decision to develop a general comment on the rights of the child in relation to digital media, which would grapple with normative and practical challenges, such as the important advantages and significant threats that digital media could bring.  In conclusion, Ms. Bachelet remarked that today’s children and young people faced enormous challenges linked to conflicts, the impact of climate change, economic instability, displacement, shirking space for civic involvement, globalization and changing labour markets, and stressed that also, those were the same young people who were a source of ideas, innovation and solutions.  Empowering them, respecting their dignity, and upholding their rights benefitted everyone.

RENATE WINTER, Committee Chairperson, in her opening remarks, underlined the precarious political situation in a number of countries which impacted negatively the situation of human rights, and children’s rights in particular, including the threat posed by a number of armed conflicts around the world, which were not abating.

International Labour Organization said that today, 152 million children worldwide were in child labour, accounting for almost one in 10 of all children worldwide; of those, 4.3 million were in worst forms of child labour.  At the current pace, the Sustainable Development Goal calling for the elimination of all forms of child labour by 2025 would not be met.  The “Ending child labour by 2025: A review of policies and practices” report issued in December 2018 showed that progress relied centrally on an active government policy response that addressed the array of factors that pushed or pulled children into child labour.  Economic growth alone was not sufficient, nor even necessary in some circumstances: policy choices mattered, and four policy interventions were key: investment in expanding inclusive and equitable education, extending social safety nets, improving the governance of labour markets and decent work for adults, and strengthening social dialogues and legal protections.  “We know what policies work, it is only a matter of applying them more widely”, stressed the speaker, and drew the Committee’s attention to what might be a new frontier in the fight against child labour: household chores in children’s own homes, as there were 54 million children aged five to 14 who performed household chores for at least 21 hours per week.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that the annual day meeting of the Human Rights Council on child rights on 4 March would focus on empowering children with disabilities, particularly through inclusive education.  The Council was also expected to adopt a resolution on child rights and environmental issues, a crucial theme for civil society and children themselves who were demanding changes and international action in this area, while its Social Forum this year would be devoted to the promotion of the rights of children and youth through education.  The Council had mandated the Office to provide annual child rights inputs to the High Level Political Forum’s review in July 2019 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which would focus on the goals related to education, inequality, climate change, economic growth, and peace, justice and strong institutions.  The Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty would be presented to the United Nations General Assembly this autumn, the speaker said, and urged the Committee to move forward the issue of the rights of the children born from surrogacy arrangements.

International Organization for Migration noted that since the 1990’s, there was a better understanding of the differences between migration, smuggling and trafficking, including in children, and said that as the United Nations Migration Agency, it was increasingly invested in working with children, their families and communities, and supporting Member States in ensuring a migration governance that complied with child rights.  Some examples of this work included research on child migration in specific contexts, such as the joint study with United Nations Children’s Fund “Harrowing Journeys”.  The Organization often supported States to review migration laws, and was increasingly looking at how the various legal dispositions, especially on entry and return, complied with the best interest of the child and family life.  For example, it was examining how firewalls could be introduced to ensure that irregular migrants could register the birth of a child, or how children could access education, health and other critical rights and services regardless of their immigrant status.

United Nations Refugee Agency said with concern that the situation for displaced and stateless children was critical, and that the sheer numbers of children fleeing violence and persecution, which continued to increase year on year, was cause enough for concern.  In 2017, children constituted 52 per cent of the total refugee population, up from 41 per cent in 2009.  Refugee and displaced children and youth were at a higher risk of violence and exploitation, children were also increasingly targets of violence and persecution in conflicts, including child recruitment and sexual abuse, and more and more children who were forced to flee were also deprived of the protection of their parents and families.  In the face of those challenges, the United Nations Refugee Agency applauded the work of the Committee, in particular the two joint general comments adopted in 2017 with the Committee on the Right of Migrant Workers, which reaffirmed many key provisions for the implementation of children’s rights in the context of displacement and migration, and provided important guidance for States and organizations.

United Nations Children’s Fund said that in 30 years, much had changed for children, and in another 30 years, this would continue to change in unforeseeable ways.  Global trends, such as technological advancements, environmental change, protracted conflict and mass migration were changing childhood rapidly.  Today’s children faced new threats to their rights, but also had new opportunities to realize their rights.  The year 2019 and the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention were an opportunity to reiterate the commitment to fulfil the rights of every child, now and for generations to come, and to advance the Sustainable Development Goals, as the realization of children’s rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda were inextricably linked.  In terms of the anniversary of the Convention, the United Nations Children’s Fund was partnering with Member States, United Nations agencies, young people and others to promote a future-focused action-oriented agenda, creating a platform to advocate for meaningful policy change and offering concrete solutions at global, regional and national levels to realize children’s rights everywhere.

World Health Organization in its statement focused on the most vulnerable of children, the newborns, noting the progress made in reducing global neonatal mortality rates, but considering that in 2017 more than 2.5 million children under the age of one month had died, many countries were still far from reaching the relevant Sustainable Development Goals.  Cost-effective solutions existed for the main causes of neonatal death and disability: innovation, people-centred care, locally designed technologies, financial protection, parent power and partnership, and crucially, the recruitment and retention of skilled nurses.  Two out of three neonatal deaths could be averted with an additional investment of US$ 0.20 per capita in low- and middle-income countries, saving 1.7 million newborns by 2030.  Laws and regulations had a critical role to play in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, therefore high quality care must be supported by equally high legal and regulatory frameworks.

Child Rights Connect remarked that the joint Day of General Discussion on the protection and empowerment of children human rights defenders held on 28 September 2018 was already having concrete positive impacts on children’s lives, and many child participants in the event had said that it was the most empowering experience they had ever had, and a milestone in the history of child participation, while States were saying that it had been an eye opener about the potential that children had to contribute constructively to international discussions with their views and experiences.  The thirtieth anniversary was a unique opportunity to further strengthen commitments to and practice of child participation, the speaker said, stressing that it was a high time to ensure that children’s right to be heard and participate was understood properly and realized effectively at all levels.  Child Rights Connect and its members were committed to putting child participation at the heart of the thirtieth anniversary celebration.

RENATE WINTER, Committee Chairperson, said that during the session, the Committee would continue the discussion on its methods of work, especially concerning the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, and on the follow-up to the treaty body strengthening process and the 2020 review.  Further, it would adopt the report and recommendations on its day of general discussion entitled “Protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders”, held on 28 September 2018, and continue to work on the revision of general comment N°10 (2007) on children’s rights in juvenile justice.  The Committee had decided that the topic of its next general comment, to be started at the next session, would be “Children’s rights and digital media”. 

The Committee then adopted its agenda and programme of work.

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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