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COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD HEARS REPORTS OF UNITED STATES ON SALE OF CHILDREN AND INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN IN ARMED CONFLICT
16 January 2013

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the second periodic report of the United States on its implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the second periodic report on the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Betty King, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the United States cared deeply about the particular aspect of human rights that was the focus of this Committee: the protection of children and their rights.  As the most vulnerable members of societies, children deserved protection from all forms of abuse and exploitation.   

Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser, Department of State of the United States, said that the numerous protections for children were enshrined in the United States laws and policies and that the non-ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United States should not be confused with a lack of commitment to protecting children.  The United States went to great lengths to ensure its compliance with its obligations under the Optional Protocols and was a great supporter of the treaty bodies review process.

Luis CdeBaca, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State of the United States, underlined the primary responsibility of the Government in combating the phenomenon of trafficking in persons and the importance of partnerships with key organizations and institutions in this regard.  The United States was working on developing an action plan to support victims of trafficking.  The major component of this plan would be the training of officials coming in contact with the victims to better equip them to recognize the crime and appropriately support the victims.

In the discussion on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Committee Experts acknowledged the progress made by the United States since the examination of the initial report in 2008, and raised a number of issues, including the plans for a better definition of crimes of trafficking in persons and the entry into force of the 2011 Refugee Protection Law and the Law on Safe Haven.  The Committee was concerned about the legislation and practices of international adoption, some of which created space for the sale of children; about determination of the best interest of the child for unaccompanied children and children asylum seekers, and the very limited capacity of specialized facilities providing rehabilitation and support to children victims of trafficking.

On the involvement of children in armed conflict, the Committee Experts noted that the United States had made significant progress in preventing the recruitment of child soldiers and had adopted adequate legislation in this regard.  The delegation was asked about the voluntary recruitment of children and raising of the minimum age of recruitment, access for military recruiters to schools receiving funding from the No Child Left Behind Act, illegibility for asylum of children associated with non-State armed groups, most of which the United States considered terrorist organizations, and about the regulation of the conduct of private security companies operating abroad with regard to the recruitment of children.  The Committee also wished to hear more about precautionary measures undertaken to prevent the deaths of hundreds of children in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and how those responsible for deaths of children were sanctioned.

In concluding remarks, Marta Mauras, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, noted the remaining issues of concern such as the clarification of key terms, data collection and analysis, developing a focused and operational National Strategy, and providing basic protection services to victims, while ensuring they were not re-victimized and that they again became fully-fledged members of the society.

Yanghee Lee, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, expressed hope that the Committee’s concluding observations would be disseminated among the public and that the United States should find ways and means to include peace education and the Optional Protocols in the national curriculum in the future. 

Also in concluding remarks, Harold Hongju Koh, Legal Adviser, Department of State of the United States, thanked the Committee for clarifying the scope of challenges facing the United States and said that the country was aware of the need to apply the principle of the best interest of the child.  President Obama had tried to use the federal resources to spur the coordination efforts.  He had ordered federal agencies to make data more available and useful and had worked on the issues on international adoption, all with the desire to make more concerted efforts. 

Luis CdeBaca, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State of the United States, said that data collection was crucial and in the federal context also challenging, but this often offered an opportunity to innovate and then replicate in other states.  Collaboration and coordination were crucial to this end.    

Jean Zermatten, the Committee Chairperson, in closing remarks said that by sharing views and opinions, everyone became more aware of the reality and where the gaps were. 

The delegation of the United States consisted of representatives of the Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Interior, District of Columbia, State of New Mexico, State of Nevada, and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The next public meeting of the Committee will be on Thursday, 17 January at 10 a.m. when it will begin its consideration of the second periodic report of Malta under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/MLT/2).

Reports

The second periodic report of the United States under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography can be read here: (CRC/C/OPSC/USA/2), and the second periodic report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict here: (CRC/C/OPAC/USA/2).

Statements by the Delegation

BETTY KING, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the participation of the United States in the dialogue with the Committee was consistent with the Obama’s Administration commitment to engage with the United Nations to advance the ideals upon which the United Nations had been founded.  The United States cared deeply about the particular aspect of human rights that was the focus of this Committee: the protection of children and their rights.  Children, as the most vulnerable members of societies, deserved protection from all forms of abuse and exploitation.   

HAROLD HONGJU KOH, Legal Adviser, Department of State of the United States, said that the United States was considering how to redouble efforts to protect children in the country, noting that the obligations under the Optional Protocols were not just paper commitments.  The numerous protections for children were enshrined in the United States laws and policies and the extensive network of Constitutional, federal, state and local laws created a framework to protect children from all forms of exploitation, while programmes at all levels worked together to create a nurturing environment where children could grow and develop.  The broad and comprehensive legal framework to implement the Optional Protocols described in the initial reports five years ago remained in place.  The United States had signed but was not yet party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the current Administration supported the treaty’s goals and intended to review how it could finally move towards ratification.  Still, the non-ratification should not be confused with a lack of commitment to protecting children and the United States took the attitude of compliance before ratification.  The approach to combating trafficking focused on punishing perpetrators, protecting victims, preventing patterns of trafficking and partnership with state and local Government and Indian tribes and civil society.  The United States did not send children to fight and no individual under the age of 18 could take part in hostilities.  It went to great lengths to ensure compliance with its obligations under the Protocol and was a great supporter of the Optional Protocols and the process of treaty review.

Examination of the Report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

Presentation of the Report

LUIS CDEBACA, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State of the United States, said that the United States was working to develop an action plan to support the victims of trafficking, regardless of their nationality.  A major component of this plan would be the training of officials who came in contact with the victims, better equipping them to recognize the crime and appropriately supporting the victims.  The Government was primarily responsible for the response to trafficking and the United States was aware of the importance of partnerships.  It was working with key non-governmental organizations and major foundations to launch a $ 6 million innovation award programme, and with a major university and foundation to promote research focused on the prevention of child sex trafficking and the treatment of survivors.  Partnerships were so important because the partners were the women and men on the front line of this struggle, people who understood the needs of survivors and they knew what worked best.  The United States would continue to press forward with what it knew worked and would look to its partners inside and outside of the Government to develop new practices and innovations.

Questions by Experts

MARTA MAURAS, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of the United States under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said that since the examination of the initial report in 2008 the United States had made substantial progress, such as reauthorization of the William Wilberforce Law which recognized children as separate victims of trafficking.  Further, advances in the compilation and collation of data were evident, but there was still room to improve on the system of collection and analysis that would allow for a comprehensive understanding of the law and practice.  The many federal programmes that were in place did not really concretely express the national strategy for the prevention and prohibition of child exploitation.  The child protection programmes by the federal Government fell under the anti-trafficking framework, but a pending issue under the Optional Protocol was whether the sale of children constituted a crime under the current United States legislation.  Despite the better legal definitions, there was a tendency and impression among those working with victims that children were somehow responsible for their own situation, particularly in the case of child prostitution. 

The Country Rapporteur asked the delegation when a better definition of crimes of trafficking in persons could be expected that would continue to clarify the distinction between children and adults, when entry into force of the 2011 Refugee Protection Law might happen, and about the Law on Safe Haven to ensure that child victims were not victimized.  There was a need to determine the best interest of the child for unaccompanied children and children asylum seekers and Ms. Mauras asked what the United States was doing in this regard.  The facilities to receive children victims of sale and prostitution were reduced in size and many children needed to be detained in order to “protect” them.  The Committee was concerned about sexual slavery which sometimes emerged after years of sexual abuse by priests and clerics, which seemed to be rather spread and covered up in the United States.  In 2011, the International Labour Organization had expressed concern about the hazardous work carried out by children under the age of 18; what measures were being taken to address this issue, particularly in the farming industry?  Despite the entry into force of the Law on International Adoptions in 2002, there still existed some practices such as excessive payments to families, pre-adoption payments, and use of unauthorized agents and others, which created space for the sale of children. 

Another Expert took up the issue of illegal adoptions and asked about the practice of prenatal payments to mothers and the adoption from countries which were not party to the Hague Convention.  On rehabilitation and support to victims of trafficking, a Committee Expert noted the very limited space in specialized centres and said that the lack of services compelled authorities in some states to detain the children victims of trafficking, which meant that children remained in the criminal justice system rather than being referred to child protection services.

Turning to the issue of an independent human rights institution, a Committee Expert said that it would be advisable to have a federal institution which would be in charge of coordination of the implementation of the Optional Protocol and asked whether any progress had been made in this direction.

The delegation was further asked to comment on the accession of the United States to a number of international instruments, including to the Rome Statute, about the adoption of a broader definition in the law of child pornography, and whether the Optional Protocol was considered sufficient as a basis for the extradition of offenders to the requesting country.  An Expert asked how training and awareness raising on the provisions of the Optional Protocol was being done and what was the role of non-governmental organizations in those activities?  What measures were being taken to avoid sex tourism?  Another Expert asked whether there was a database on child victims of sexual and commercial exploitation and about preventative programmes in favour of vulnerable children such as migrant or poor children.

Jean Zermatten, Committee Chairperson, asked about the status of victims during court proceedings and if guidelines on children that might take part in criminal proceedings had been adopted.  Such participation of child victims might be extremely traumatic.  Was cyber bullying criminalized in the United States and did the Government intend to look into the Lanzarote Convention? 

Response by Delegation

In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said the United States focused on coordinated and nation wide programmes in relation to the sale of children; it also focused on partnering, prevention, prohibition and prosecution, and protection of victims, particularly migrants.  This was done in connection with international assistance programmes and in cooperation with other interested nations.  Concerning questions on the national human rights institution, the United States did not address issues through a singe institution, but though a number of institutions working together in a coordinated manner.  The Administration hoped to achieve 67 Senate votes in order to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the delegation emphasized that the lack of ratification did not mean a lack of compliance with the provisions of the Convention.  On extraditions, the United States required double criminality to extradite individuals for offences under the Optional Protocol. 

The United States recognized that the ethos of child protection and fighting the crimes of sale and exploitation needed to spread through federal, state and local law enforcement.  Concerning the definition of trafficking in persons, the delegation said the United States defined it as per the Palermo Protocol on trafficking in persons was addressed and under which movement was not required to show a human trafficking offence.  Much of the discourse of child pornography and exploitation was focused on women and girls, but the United States had a gender neutral policy and strategy and was looking into protecting both boys and girls.  Because of the federal system, and the fact that more and more cases were dealt with at the state level, there were challenges with the data collection and analysis, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation would start producing a federal snapshot this year.  Up to ten states had passed safe harbour laws for children in prostitution and more states were looking into those laws.  The United States had up to 1,500 beds in facilities and specialized centres, which was not sufficient. 

In the follow-up questions, the Committee Experts asked about the characterization of crimes under the Optional Protocol and noted that it required criminalization of the sale of children, and also how the coordination of specific institutions and mechanisms on different levels in the country was done to ensure a coherent approach to the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol.

Responding, the delegation said that the United States was in full compliance with the Palermo Protocol and the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  As far as coordination was concerned, the United States had brought in a large delegation which could explain how coordination was being done.  The project Safe Childhood aimed at combating online child exploitation since 2006 and had increased international cooperation in this regard, including starting up global initiatives and providing international training.  The Department of Justice undertook coordination of investigators at federal and state levels and enabled working hand in hand with federal specialized agencies to ensure comprehensive efforts in investigating and prosecuting the crimes and addressing the needs of victims.  Possession and trafficking of child pornography was illegal at federal and state levels, and the purpose of the Department was to facilitate which system – state or federal - was best suited to deal with the perpetrators and the victims.  The Committee was right when saying that the federal definition of child pornography was visual in nature.  Unfortunately there were more and more videos of child pornography that contained sound and they were illegal when combined with images; sound alone and the stories depicting pornography were prosecuted as obscenity.  There were several federal laws addressing cyber bullying, while organ trafficking was prohibited by laws.

Through the Blue Campaign to combat trafficking in persons, the Department of the Homeland Security collaborated with a number of institutions and stakeholders.  The Department also provided immigration relief to eligible trafficking victims, including children and was in a unique position to detect trafficking on borders and points of entry.  The Department shared the responsibility with the Department for Health and Human Services for unaccompanied children and focused efforts on their training activities to properly interview the children and provide best support services.  Each unaccompanied child in the United States was screened for trafficking and the Department was vigilant in detecting all the cases of trafficking.  The delegation shared the concern of the Committee about migrant workers engaged in agricultural work, particularly children, and noted the wide range of relief actions available to migrant workers victims of trafficking, including children.  Recently, the new directive on international adoption had been signed by the President and covered all countries regardless of their being party to the Hague Convention.  Any petition for adoption which indicated a possibility of sale of children was denied and the Government ensured that any payments to birth mothers covered only reasonable expenses related to the birth of the child.  The practice of child buying or child selling was not practiced by the United States and was prohibited by its laws. 

The key to ending the exploitation of children was cooperation and collaboration and in the state of Nevada the issue was being addressed through prevention and awareness, legislation and collaboration with the private sector, religious organizations and communities.  The Omnibus Bill under preparation would increase penalties for crimes of any type of sex exploitation for minors, which would go up to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.  The key component of the Bill was appropriation of money from pimps and putting those resources into the provision of services for child victims.  Nevada did not have enough residential facilities and considered it important to bring in the private sector into treatment provision.  On the prevention side, there were ombudsmen who visited schools and talked to children about internet safety, cyber bullying and sexting.  Children who were victims always came through the door of the juvenile justice system, but it was preferable to have them come through the child protection doors and see them as protection victims, rather than criminal victims.

Examination of the Report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

Questions by Experts

YANGHEE LEE, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of the United States under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said that many of the previous Committee’s concluding observations had been implemented, while others had not received sufficient attention of the State Party.  Did the current Administration forward the Convention on the Right of the Child to the Senate for approval?  The United States had made significant progress in preventing the recruitment of child soldiers and had adopted adequate legislation in this regard.  Although the United States had not placed any reservations on the Optional Protocol, it had placed understandings and the Committee Rapporteur asked whether those would be withdrawn.  The United States maintained that Article 2 of the Optional Protocol did not require criminalization of forced recruitment.  Concerning the death of hundreds of children during attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Committee asked what precautionary measures had been undertaken to avoid those deaths and how those responsible for these deaths had been dealt with.  Turning to the issue of treatment of former child soldiers seeking asylum, Ms. Lee asked what system was in place to consider them on a case by case basis and how their best interest was ensured.

Other Experts asked the delegation about the efforts undertaken by the Government to inform relevant groups about the provisions of the Optional Protocol; voluntary recruitment of children and raising of minimum age; access for military recruiters to schools receiving funding from the No Child Left Behind Act; illegibility for asylum of children associated with non-State armed groups, most of which the United States considered terrorist organizations; and about the laws regulating the conduct of private security companies operating abroad concerning the recruitment of children.

As per provisions of the Optional Protocol, non-state actors were not supposed to recruit children under any circumstances and the United States had demonstrated its commitment to this article through international cooperation; what measures were in place in special areas under its jurisdiction to prohibit the recruitment of children by non-State actors?  Had the United States been in any negotiations with non-State actors to convince them not to recruit children? 

In zones of armed conflict where the United States troops were present, was there a mechanism in place to receive complaints by children and how was compensation for children caught in cross fire handled?  About 200 children were currently being detained in Afghanistan and the responsibility for those children was now transferred to Afghani authority; did the United States maintain any degree of responsibility for those children, what laws were they being treated under, what legal recourses were open to them and were they receiving visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross?

Response by Delegation

Responding to those questions and comments and others, the delegation said those detained in Afghanistan were being transferred to Afghani authorities; this issue was being dealt with through diplomatic channels.  The United States armed force was an entirely voluntary one and the recruitment process would be explained by the delegation in the afternoon.   The United States did not recruit anyone under the age of 17.

The United States was a strong supporter of the Optional Protocol and supported the underlying goal of protecting children from involvement in armed conflict; it worked closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict, promulgated legislation to protect children and was active in efforts to bring to justice those recruiting and using children in armed conflict.  The United States did not believe that the understandings entered during accession to the Optional Protocol amounted to reservations.  The armed groups mentioned in Article 4 of the Optional Protocol did not exist in the United States but the legislation existed on insurgent groups.

The Child Soldiers Accountability Act of 2008 provided jurisdiction over United States citizens and for acts committed elsewhere, and as such had an extraterritorial dimension.  The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 was an invaluable tool used by United States diplomats around the world to eradicate the involvement of children in armed conflict.  Turning to the issue of the forced recruitment of children, the delegation said that it was important not only to address its accountability aspect, but also to address the supply side and eliminate the recruitment of children by the armed forces; keeping children in school was seen as one of the ways to reduce the vulnerability of children to forced recruitment.  The United States was one of the most active members of the United Nations Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict and actively supported the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict; it also worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross on the issue of engagement with non-State actors. 

With regard to private security companies, the United States with the United Kingdom and other Governments had launched the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.  There was a domestic law regulating all firms regulating the employment of children; the hard aspect was ensuring the respect of the law by those firms operating in hardship local conditions often characterized by lack of reliable birth certificates.  There was a range of programmes to educate law enforcement officials on the protection of children and the National Department of Education provided guidance on how to set up curricula for the subjects at hand.  The tool used by the Government at all levels to disseminate and educate the public on human rights was through the protection of freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The United States did not have a draft force but an all-voluntary force and found the high school graduation age suitable for the youth to decide whether to continue their education or enter the world of work.  The law authorised the same access to high schools for the United States military as for any other employers.  Military training took about one year to complete and in most case those entering military at the age of 17 finished their training at the age of 18.  The recruiters were held accountable by higher standards and underwent periodic revision of their conduct.  In addition, the recruitment process had safeguards built in to ensure it was voluntary and that there was a good understanding of duties, obligations and expectations and that parental consent was granted for applicants aged 17 unless they were married.  The age consideration was not based on the need for soldiers and no parent wanted their child to be involved in hostilities; recruitment gave them additional education and character building opportunities. 

United States soldiers took seriously their obligations to children; participation in hostilities made them witness the disastrous impact of armed conflict on children and many came to regard themselves as their protectors.  The delegation underlined that there were no juveniles in Guantanamo and that the United States did not detain juveniles where possible; they were detained only when absolutely necessary, in which case tremendous efforts were made to promote their recovery and social reintegration within a productive society.  Special efforts were made to release juveniles as soon as possible, but not into environments that were dangerous for them.  Juvenile detainees in Afghanistan were processed under the Afghan law and all had access to the necessary counselling; the United States continued to cooperate closely with the Afghani juvenile justice officers.  There were in the past foreign juveniles in detention and the United States had done its utmost to negotiate their safe return and safe reintegration into their societies.  The International Committee of the Red Cross had access to all detained juveniles and it would specifically discuss each of them after the visits. 

The United States took great pains to reduce the number of civilian casualties and in Afghanistan it was at the lowest rate ever, half of what it had been several years ago.  The case of sergeant Bales who had murdered 16 individuals in Afghanistan was being treated as a criminal matter and there had been hundreds of convictions in the courts related to the armed conflict.

The United States provided safe refuge for thousands of children fleeing conflict with their families and the Government recognized that former child soldiers might face exclusion from asylum and refugee protection for their association with armed groups and terrorist activities.  There were broad group based exemptions that could be applied to child soldiers and the administration was now in the process of developing specific criteria which would remove exclusion for former child soldiers acting under duress.  This was an area where discretion was required and while child soldiers were victims, there were among them also those responsible for numerous deaths and bad acts and this needed to be factored in asylum considerations.

Concerning child sex tourism, the Government invested prosecutorial efforts in detecting such activities at home and abroad and it worked hard to identify perpetrators.  It also issued warnings to those travelling to certain destinations and publications to raise the awareness of victims about sex tourism.

In a series of follow-up questions, Committee Experts noted the recent legislation allowing United States officials to prosecute persons committing sex tourism and said that many unaccompanied minors were often exploited in labour rather than in other terms.  What was being done to ensure that children exploited for labour did not have to prove that they were coerced; in other words were there any intentions to equate labour exploitation and sexual exploitation in terms of burden of proof?  How was the screening of detained migrant children carried out?

Responding, the delegation said that the burden of proof was the same, but what needed to be shown in court was indeed different.  The sex trafficking statute did not require demonstration of coercion by a pimp, merely holding the children was sufficient; on the other hand, in labour exploitation cases, there was a need to demonstrate coercion and that the child was held in servitude.  Children encountered on the border or points of entry were screened and some of them ended up in custody of Health and Human Services where additional screening was undertaken by health and social staff.  For those children ending up at Immigration Courts, judges received special training to recognize those children that were trafficked. 

The Committee Chairperson took up the issue of the best interest of the child, and said that the principal question was what prevailed: the interest of the child or the interest of public safety and security?  One had the impression that in the United States, public interest and security prevailed.

The delegation then turned to outstanding questions asked by the Committee in the context of the Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and said that national coordination and cooperation on trafficking in persons was difficult because of the diversity of actors: federal, states and over 500 tribal nations, all of which exercised a certain degree of sovereignty.  Sex crimes were very difficult cases, and each had a victim advocate who would ensure that children’s interests were heard. 

A Committee Expert asked for more information about the mechanism to guarantee the best interest of the child victims in all states and among indigenous peoples.

The delegation said that many were part of the coordination effort as attested by the size and the composition of the delegation and that the United States would not have ratified the Optional Protocol if it could not fulfil its provisions.

The Child Exploitation Investigation Unit at the Cyber Crimes Centre, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, was using the same technology that perpetrators used and had offices all over the country; this was the second largest law enforcement agency, after the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Centre was a clearinghouse for cyber crimes against children and was also managing tips on child exploitation, abuse, molestation and solicitation in cyber space.  In 2012, 77 per cent of all cyber tips came from countries other than the United States.  The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement was a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child abuse.
 
The issue of religious communities and sexual exploitation involved criminal prosecution and civil cases and the issue was how the laws were applied on particular facts.  It was often automatically assumed that demands for child prostitution and child pornography came from men, and the upcoming data collection method by the Federal Bureau of Investigation would offer a better understanding of who were the clients that fuelled the offer of those services. 

Concluding Remarks

MARTA MAURAS, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of the United States under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, noted remaining issues of concern such as the improvement of legal definitions and clarification of key terms related to the Optional Protocol, data collection and analysis for the better view of reality, the need to involve academe and non-governmental organizations in qualitative research to understand underlying causes and behaviours of people, and to understand the grassroots and what parents and children thought and felt.  Developing a focused and operational National Strategy was another major step forward, as were the efforts to provide basic protection services to victims, while ensuring they were not re-victimized and that they became fully-fledged members of the society again.

YANGHEE LEE, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the Report of the United States under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, said that the dialogue today contributed to closing the gap in understanding the provisions of the Optional Protocol that existed between the Committee and the delegation, and expressed hope that the Committee’s concluding observations would be disseminated among the public.  The United States should find ways and means to include peace education and the Optional Protocols in the national curriculum in the future, and should accord necessary importance to the best interest of the child at the national and international levels.

HAROLD HONGJU KOH, Legal Adviser, Department of State of the United States, thanked the Committee Rapporteurs for their thoughtful comments which clarified the scope of challenges facing the United States.  There were many challenges ahead and the United States was aware of the need to apply the principle of the best interest of the child.  President Obama had tried to use the federal resources to spur the coordination efforts; he had ordered federal agencies to make data more available and useful and had worked on the issues on international adoption, all with the desire to make more concerted efforts.  Educational institutions certainly had a role to play in understanding underlying causes.

LUIS CDEBACA, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State of the United States, said that data collection was crucial and in the federal context also challenging, but this often offered an opportunity to innovate and then replicate in other states.  Collaboration and coordination were crucial to this end.    
 
JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and said that by sharing the views and opinions, everyone became more aware of the reality and where the gaps were. 


For use of the information media; not an official record

CRC13/004E