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Committee on the rights of the child opens online limited eighty-fifth session

14 September 2020

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today opened its online limited eighty-fifth session.

Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna, Chairperson of the Committee, emphasised the exceptional nature of this limited online session due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19, which had impacted all lives. There was also the financial crisis that all treaty bodies were experiencing and that had made it very difficult for them to fulfil their mandates. Despite the crisis, the Committee had continued to work, including 24 work days spent discussing the general comment 85. The petitions group had addressed all the concerns to ensure there would be no lag in considering the cases before them. All of this work had been carried out without any official interpretation, and while dealing with different time zones and colleagues using their own resources to carry out this duty.

Mr. Pedernera Reyna expressed concern about the online working system that had been chosen, interprefy, which had limitations and did not promote interactivity, which had a negative impact on the Committee’s dialogue. He also expressed concern about the financial crisis of the treaty bodies, as well as the lack of certainty for 2021. This was a severe situation and he requested the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General to address the Committee’s concerns and to find solutions quickly to ensure that the main independent oversight bodies could continue to fulfil their mandates with the necessary tools and conditions. It was essential for the Committee continue its mandate so that no child was left behind.

Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, congratulated the Committee and its partners for a very successful eighty-fourth extraordinary session held in Samoa last March, which was the first time a treaty body had held a regional session outside of Geneva or New York to review multiple countries. Since March, the world had changed dramatically as the COVID-19 pandemic had transformed the way of living and working and continued to have negative repercussions on everybody, in all age groups, including children. As the Committee highlighted in its statement last April, States should respect the rights of the child when taking measures to tackle the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro highlighted the importance of the Committee’s continued monitoring of children’s rights worldwide, and recognized the significant work it did remotely, in the current challenging circumstances, to continue to implement its mandate and to make sure that children worldwide were not left behind. This included working on individual communications, adopting lists of issues and advancing work on a draft general comment on children’s rights and the digital environment, which was shared with States and other stakeholders in a public consultation. Updating the Committee on the 2020 review of the General Assembly’s resolution 68/268 on treaty body strengthening, he said all looked forward to an outcome of this process that led to a greater recognition of the work of the treaty bodies, including through the allocation of sufficient human and financial resources.

Concluding, Mr. Cissé-Gouro said this would be a particularly challenging session for the Committee, also in view of the different time zones for the members of this Committee, spanning from Samoa to Venezuela. He sincerely appreciated the flexibility and receptiveness that Committee Experts were demonstrating in these exceptional circumstances, as well as the extraordinary efforts they were displaying to uphold their important mandate.

The Secretary of the Committee, Allegra Franchetti, said reports under the Convention had been received from 12 Member States since the last session, held in March 2020 in Samoa, bringing the number of reports pending consideration to 63. The total number of ratifications of the Convention remained at 196. The number of ratifications to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict remained at 170 ; to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography at 176 ; and to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure at 46. Two reports had been received under the first Optional Protocol and two under the second.

Mr. Pedernera Reyna said the Committee had been scheduled to examine the reports of Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cyprus, Eswatini, Czech Republic and Tunisia at this session but it would defer this until a future session of the Committee as for this session, limited online and no in-person meetings would be held due to the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19. The Committee would continue its discussion on issues related to its working methods. The Committee would also continue its discussion on the follow-up to the treaty body strengthening process and on the 2020 review. It would examine any communication and information it received in relation to the Optional Protocol on individual communications. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the next day of general discussion on the rights of children and adolescents at risk of being fostered or living in the context of alternative care was tentatively postponed until September 2021.

Mr. Pedernera Reyna said the Committee would continue to work on its new general comment on the rights of the child in the digital environment. The next session of the Committee would be held from 18 January to 12 February 2021.

The Committee then adopted its agenda.

Also speaking in the meeting were representatives of Child Rights Connect and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The Committee will meet in private for the rest of the eighty-fifth session. It will publicly close the session on Thursday, 1 October at 5 p.m.


For use of the information media; not an official record