High Commissioner opens the 92nd Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
16 January 2023
Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Committee on the Rights of the Child
Distinguished members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child,
Colleagues and Friends,
I am pleased to be here today to open this ninety-second session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the first treaty body I am addressing as High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“We are a priority, not a choice.”
These are the words of Maya-Nutuk, a climate activist from Greenland and child advisor for the Committee who we will have the opportunity to hear from today.
I believe that Maya’s words, and the voices of other children like her, can guide today’s discussion. Guide us to continue to make children’s rights a priority. Drive us to ensure their voices are not just heard, but listened to.
And urge us to respond, and to act.
To ensure that all children, everywhere, are afforded their rights and fundamental freedoms.
As you know, this year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that has paved the way for rights, dignity and equality for all.
I was a child myself when I first discovered the Declaration. It taught me many valuable lessons, one of which is that all children should know and understand their rights.
Knowledge brings empowerment. It brings children the capacity to stand up for their rights, and to claim them.
As we embark on a yearlong celebration of the Declaration, let us strive to ensure that children’s rights remain our collective priority.
Respect for children’s rights around the world is in sharp decline. Children bore the brunt of efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, notably impacting on their right to education. The reality of climate change is threatening their lives today, and their futures.
Child human rights defenders, especially girls and gender non-conforming children, have been facing increased repression in many countries.
Many children, in all regions of the world, continue to live in warzones or with dire humanitarian needs.
And in all crises, children are among the most affected.
The work of the Committee on the Rights of the Child is more vital than ever.
I was very pleased to learn that we will hear today from Maya-Nutuk and the Children’s Advisory Team as part of the drafting process of the Committee’s general comment on children’s rights and the environment, with a special focus on climate change. I thank all members of the team for their work.
Distinguished Members of the Committee,
My Office continues its work to support the strengthening of the treaty bodies, and is in the process of finalising an implementation plan for the June 2022 conclusions of the Chairs. I trust that this plan will facilitate your work, as well as of the other treaty bodies, including in introducing a predictable review calendar.
As you know, a predictable schedule of reviews can only be implemented in practice if we have available modern, state of the art digital tools to make your work more efficient. I stress that such tools need to be accessible to people with disabilities.
The work of my Office and the treaty bodies is mutually reinforcing, and we will continue to build on your substantive discussions, deliberations and outcomes. Your jurisprudence, general comments and concluding observations on country-specific situations constitutes essential guidance for the work of my Office and the UN system on human rights at large.
Turning now to financing, I am very much aware of the chronic under-funding of the treaty body system. I understand this has contributed to significant backlogs in State party reports and individual communications.
Advancing the full implementation of treaty-based human rights obligations requires sustainable funding from Member States. It also requires sufficient budgetary resources from my Office. While decisions on these matters remain in the hands of Member States, I am committed to doing my utmost in support of greater funding for the treaty body system during my tenure.
The momentum and energy of the UDHR 75 initiative in 2023 presents us with new opportunities. It gives us the chance to strengthen cooperation and engagement between international and regional human rights mechanisms. The Committee has enormous potential to engage with all 196 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child through dialogue on children’s issues as an entry point.
I look forward to hearing your suggestions in this regard.
The next annual full-day meeting of the Human Rights Council on the rights of the child is provisionally scheduled to take place on 10 March and includes the Committee’s participation. For the first time, children from different regions will join me for a panel discussion on challenges and opportunities they face in exercising their rights in the digital environment.
My upcoming report to the Council on the rights of the child will focus on inclusive social protection. This report will be accompanied by a child-friendly version, informed by the views and experiences of children.
With thanks to the Committee and its members for their valuable input, the inter-agency core group has also developed a draft system-wide Guidance Note on Child Rights Mainstreaming. It is now undergoing a final phase of consultation, and is expected to be consolidated and operational within the first quarter of this year.
The work of the human rights treaty bodies is central to the fulfilment of human rights, for everyone, everywhere. They are a critical complement to the work of my Office.
I look forward to our exchange today and to continuing our collaboration to advance the rights of children around the world.