GENEVA (31 January 2017) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child this afternoon held its ninth informal meeting with States, during which it discussed, inter alia, the global study on the situation of children deprived of liberty, the simplified reporting procedure, the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, and concluding observations.
Opening the informal meeting, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Committee Chairperson, said that this was an opportunity for the Committee to discuss its working methods and other issues and deepen the engagement of States. Mr. Mezmur briefed the States on the appointment of Manfred Novak as the Independent Expert to conduct a global study on incarcerated children, and urged States to support this study as much as possible.
Kirsten Sandberg, Rapporteur of the Committee, underlined that States were free to opt into the simplified reporting procedure, and said that in November 2016, the Committee had offered simplified reporting procedures to the first group of States, namely Russia, Luxembourg, Croatia, Indonesia, Hungary and Kyrgyzstan. The next group of States to receive the invitation would be Poland, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic and Timor-Leste, due to report in 2018.
With regard to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, Renate Winter, Committee Vice-Chairperson, said that to date, the Committee had received 55 un-registered (non-acceptable) communications, and 9 registered communications. This demonstrated that the communications first had to meet the acceptance threshold before the Committee could enter into the matter. The threshold for acceptance of an inquiry procedure was even higher than was the case for individual communications.
On concluding observations, Jorge Cardona Llorens, Committee Expert, informed the States that, in line with the resolution 68/268 and in case of States appearing before the Committee for the third or any consecutive time, the Committee had decided to focus on a maximum of six topics which were most urgent, most grave, or most structural.
In the ensuing discussion, States inquired about the integration of the Sustainable Development Goals into the work of the Committee, and about the possible themes for general comments. Speakers suggested some measures that the Committee could adopt to strike a better balance between the time allocated to questions and to answers during the consideration of State reports.
Speaking in the discussion were Russia, Chile, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Colombia, Ecuador, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
The Committee will next meet in public at 5 p.m. on Friday, 3 February to close its seventy-fourth session.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, said that informal meetings with States were an opportunity to discuss its working methods and other issues and deepen the engagement of States, and in which Experts would provide clarifications and responses to issues that the States would raise. The number of States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child stood at 196, with only one State failing to ratify. Furthermore, 166 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, 173 had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and 31 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure.
In 2016, the Committee had adopted two general comments, on public budgeting and children’s rights and on the realization of the rights of adolescents. It had also sent out a questionnaire to States in preparation of its general comment on children in street situations, and had continued to work on the general comment on children’s rights in the context of international migration, with the Committee on the Rights of All Migrant Workers. Manfred Novak had been appointed as an Independent Expert to conduct a global study on incarcerated children, and Mr. Mezmur urged States to support this study as much as possible.
Russia asked about the cooperation of the Committee in the context of the study on children deprived of liberty, and the interaction with the Independent Expert Mr. Novak. How would the Committee participate in the conducting of the study? The study had a significant budget, and important resources might be saved by using the information already available on this subject.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, said that it was the Committee that had proposed the global study, mainly because of the shortage of information to better understand the situation of children deprived of their liberty. The Committee served on the global study coordination task force and was involved in a number of its activities, including information exchange and resource mobilization. Mr. Mezmur stressed that rational use of resources and the use of existing data and research was a cross-cutting theme in the working of the task force. He reiterated the need for the support by States for this global study.
Chile commended the Committee for its long-standing practice of consulting with States, civil society organizations and national human rights institutions, and for using the talent of its Experts to collect information and best practices in the current climate of resource constraints. How did the Committee incorporate the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals in its day-to-day work, dialogue with State parties, and its concluding observations?
On informal consultations with States, BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, said that the formal meeting of States parties in June 2016 had been focused on elections, while other substantive discussions, for example on working methods, rarely took place.
Another Expert said that the Committee was busy incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals in its dialogue with States, while specific references to specific goals were being systematically included in the concluding observations. An upcoming side-event would discuss the linkages between the Convention and the Sustainable Development Goals, with the participation of other United Nations agencies and bodies, and civil society organizations.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, remarked that the Committee, as the global body responsible for the realization of children’s rights, benefited from the Millennium Development Goals, and would also benefit from the Sustainable Development Goals. It was important to keep in mind, however, that the Committee was not a body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Mr. Mezmur also said that the next annual day of discussion would be dedicated to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Simplified Reporting Procedure
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Rapporteur of the Committee, said that, in accordance with the General Assembly resolution 68/268, the Committee had offered the simplified reporting procedure in November 2016 to the first group of States parties, namely Russia, Luxembourg, Croatia, Indonesia, Hungary and Kyrgyzstan. The new procedure reduced two reporting steps to a single one, as States parties were no longer required to submit their written report and then reply to the list of issues prior to reporting. States were free to opt into the simplified reporting procedure, said Ms. Sandberg. The next group of States to receive the invitation to use the new procedure would be Poland, Tanzania, the Dominican Republic and Timor-Leste, which were due to report in 2018.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Chairperson of the Committee, invited States to comment on the simplified reporting procedure.
Belgium drew attention to the statement by a group of 30 States during the discussions in the Third Committee on the implementation of human rights instruments, in which human rights treaty bodies were encouraged to continue with the harmonization process.
Ethiopia noted that there were still issues to be clarified in the simplified reporting procedure and asked how the Committee interpreted the silence of States which had received the offer to opt into the procedure.
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Rapporteur of the Committee, said that the conversation between Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies was ongoing. The silence of the States which had received the offer would be interpreted as refusal, and the Committee would then continue to apply the old reporting procedure. The Committee did not want to impose the simplified reporting procedure on States which did not decide to opt in on their own will.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Chairperson of the Committee, remarked that there was a need to continue to align working methods between human rights treaty bodies, including on the simplified reporting procedure. This issue might be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Chairs of treaty bodies.
The Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure
RENATE WINTER, Committee Vice-Chairperson, recalled that there were 31 States parties to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure and said that to date, the Committee had received 64 communications, of which 55 were un-registered, meaning non-acceptable, and 9 were registered. This data demonstrated that the communications first had to meet the acceptance threshold before the Committee could enter into the matter. Ms. Winter said that communications by children were not examined with the same rigour, so a child who addressed the Committee in a language which was not an official language of the Committee for example, would receive an answer nevertheless. With regard to the inquiry procedure, Ms. Winter said that the threshold for acceptance was even higher than was the case for individual communications. Furthermore, treaty bodies had met to harmonize the terminology used in this connection, and also harmonize the working methods.
Germany said that it had ratified the Optional Protocol very early, and said that it had facilitated the participation of children. Germany urged other States to ratify the instrument.
Spain noted that Spanish was one of the official languages of the Committee and that it would be useful for petitioners to use Spanish. This would facilitate communication, but was also evidence of the value of multilingualism.
RENATE WINTER, Committee Vice-Chairperson, remarked that the Committee did not always have the necessary resources to provide the translation to the language of the State party in question.
Colombia stressed the importance of the work on the issue of the recruitment of children in armed conflict and asked about issues that the Committee might focus on in the future in its general comments.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, said that the Committee was focused on finalizing the general comments which were in the pipeline, namely on children in street situations and on the rights of children in the context of international migration. The Committee had adopted guidelines on the selection of themes for general comments, but the discussion on which themes had not yet taken place.
Other Experts said that the recruitment of children was very prominent in the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict which requested all States parties to criminalize the recruitment of children by non-State actors in domestic law.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, remarked that there were 25 States that had signed but not yet ratified the third Optional Protocol. Mr. Mezmur urged those States to share their experiences and good practices in the ratification, and to seek any necessary clarifications from the Committee.
Committee’s Concluding Observations
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert, said that, in order to streamline and shorten the concluding observations, and acting in line with resolution 68/268, the Committee had decided to focus on a maximum of six topics which were most urgent, most grave, or most structural. This would be applicable to States which had already appeared at least twice before the Committee, said Mr. Cardona Llorens, adding that the application of this decision started during the seventy-third session in relation to the consideration of reports by New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and Surname.
Ecuador asked whether the Committee would focus on six priority areas only in concluding observations, or in the list of issues as well.
United Kingdom reiterated its strong support of the work of the Committee and said that the United Kingdom had been impressed by the very professional exchange with the Experts during the United Kingdom’s last review and made several recommendations for further improvement, notably to strike a better balance between the time allotted for questions and the time allotted for answers.
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert, said that the focus on six priority areas would apply to concluding observations, after the dialogue, while the list of issues focused on the information missing from the State party’s report. It was not easy to find a balance between time for questions and time for answers, particularly in the case of the United Kingdom which was actually composed of three jurisdictions.
Other Experts concurred that the review of the United Kingdom could have been improved and said that, because of the complexity involved in reviewing a State with several jurisdictions, it was not an easy task to start with. Additionally, the Convention was the most comprehensive of all human rights conventions; six hours allocated for the review was not sufficient; and there was often the need to follow-up questions as replies by delegations often repeated the information contained in the report and the list of issues, which the Experts studied carefully.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, stressed that the prioritized issues addressed in concluding observations meant that those were flagged for the immediate and urgent action by the State in question. The aim was to focus the attention of States to issues of serious concern.
Germany expressed satisfaction about the annual day of discussion which had focused on children and the environment and commended the Committee for possibly considering the topic as an issue to be addressed in its next general comment.
Switzerland announced that Switzerland had decided in December 2016 to accede to the Optional Protocol on a communication procedure and said that, in accordance with the Constitution, the final decision would be taken by the people in a referendum, which would take place by 7 April.
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Rapporteur of the Committee, encouraged the States which had been given the option to accept the simplified reporting procedure to respond by 10 March.
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert, encouraged States to send their comments on the proposal to focus on five or six priority topics in the concluding observations.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Chairperson, confirmed that the Committee would continue the practice of holding informal meetings with States, and recognized the time and resources that States allocated to preparing for their reviews. Mr. Mezmur encouraged States to keep communications with the Experts open, formally and informally, and to keep proposing areas of improvement, as creating a world fit for children required the contribution of all. Finally, Mr. Mezmur thanked the five outgoing members of the Committee for all their hard work and contributions: Peter Gurán, Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff, Wanderlino Nogueira Neto, Sara De Jesús Oviedo Fierro, and Maria Rita Parsi.
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