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COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD OPENS ITS SIXTY-THIRD SESSION
Committee Elects New Bureau with Kirsten Sandberg as its Chairperson
27 May 2013

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its sixty-third session, hearing an address by Wan-Hea Lee, Chief of the Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Committee also adopted its agenda, elected a new bureau with Kirsten Sandberg of Norway as its new Chairperson, and heard the solemn declaration of seven newly elected members.

In her statement, Ms. Lee congratulated the Committee on the adoption of new rules of procedure, which reflected the guiding principles on the independence and impartiality of the members of treaty bodies.  Addressing the challenges of the treaty bodies system was not a cost-reduction or cost-neutral exercise and there was an emerging understanding that additional budgetary resources would need to address problems structurally and not just reduce the backlog.  Ms. Lee spoke about developments in the Human Rights Council related to the rights of the child, namely the adoption of resolutions on the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health, on the human rights of children of parents sentenced to death penalty or executed, and on birth registration.  Ms. Lee also noted that a clearer focus on human rights was being called for across the eleven global thematic consultations regarding the post-2015 development agenda, all of which were relevant for children’s rights.  

The Committee elected Kirsten Sandberg of Norway as its new Chairperson and appointed Aseil Al-Shehail of Saudi Arabia, Benyam Dawit Mezmur of Ethiopia, Sara De Jesús Oviedo Fierro of Ecuador and Hiranthi Wijimanne of Sri Lanka as Vice-Chairpersons.  Maria Herzog of Hungary was elected as Rapporteur.

The following seven new Committee members took the solemn declaration this morning: Amal Aldoseri of Bahrain, Sara De Jesús Oviedo Fierro of Ecuador, Olga Khazova of the Russian Federation, Benyam Dawit Mezmur of Ethiopia, Yasmeen Muhamad Shariff of Malaysia, Wanderlino Nogueira Neto of Brazil and Renate Winter of Austria.  An eighth new member, Maria Rita Parsi of Italy, will make her solemn declaration next week.

Kirsten Sandberg, the Committee’s Chairperson, said that during the current session the Committee would examine 12 reports: six country reports under the main Convention on the Rights of the Child (Armenia, Rwanda, Israel, Uzbekistan, Slovenia and Guinea Bissau); three under its Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (Armenia, Rwanda and Uzbekistan); and three reports under its Optional Protocol on children involved in armed conflict (Armenia, Rwanda and Uzbekistan). 

Concerning the status of country reports, the Committee was informed that since its last session seven reports under the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been received, bringing the number of reports pending examination to 112.  The initial reports of Nauru and Tonga, under the Convention, were overdue.  As of May 2013, 151 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict; 163 States had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and 37 States had signed and four had ratified the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 29 May, at 10 a.m. to begin its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic report of Armenia on the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/ARM/3-4) and Armenia’s initial reports under the two Optional Protocols, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (CRC/C/ARM/OPSC/1), and on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC/C/ARM/OPAC/1).

Opening Remarks

WAN-HEA LEE, Chief of the Groups in Focus Section, Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, congratulated the Committee on the adoption of new rules of procedure which reflected the guiding principles on the independence and impartiality of the members of treaty bodies and on the adoption of four General Comments during its last session.  The co-facilitators of the intergovernmental process on the strengthening of the treaty bodies system had conducted a series of informal consultations with a view to ending the process in June.  The Chairpersons of treaty bodies had held their annual meeting in New York last week, during which they discussed documentation and conference services; the simplified reporting procedure; webcasting and videoconferencing; and the nomination and election process.  Addressing the challenges of the treaty bodies system was not a cost-reduction or cost-neutral exercise and additional budgetary resources would need to be invested to address the problems structurally and not just reduce the backlog.  The proposal for a Comprehensive Reporting Calendar remained the subject of greatest attention and apprehension; and several counter-proposals were now in circulation.  The challenge was to reconcile these proposals without compromising on the basic principle of regular reviews of States parties through full compliance with their reporting obligation.

Ms. Lee updated the Committee about developments in the Human Rights Council related to the rights of the child, including the adoption by consensus of resolution 22/32 on the right of the child to the highest attainable standard of health, of resolution 22/11 on the human rights of children of parents sentenced to death penalty or executed, and of resolution 22/7 on birth registration.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would liaise with the Committee on these initiatives.  Ms. Lee stressed that the post-2015 agenda was surrounded by a great debate and a clearer focus on human rights had been called for across the eleven global thematic consultations, all of which were relevant for children’s rights.  The United Nations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were facing budgetary constraints and a system-wide cut of 100 million US dollars in the regular budget of the United Nations Secretariat was anticipated for the 2014-2014 biennium.  Fortunately, the staffing of the Committee’s Secretariat would not be affected at this point in time.  Finally, Ms. Lee expressed appreciation for the work of the outgoing Bureau of the Committee and its Chairperson, Jean Zermatten, under whose leadership the Committee had made great advances in many areas.

Agenda and Organizational Matters

The Committee Secretariat updated members regarding the status of country reports. Since its last session the Committee had received seven reports, bringing the number of reports pending examination to 112.  Five reports had been received under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and two initial reports under the Convention were overdue, those of Nauru and Tonga.  Cameroon had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, bringing the number of ratifications to 151.  Lichtenstein had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, bringing the number of ratifications to 163.  One country had signed the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure since the last session and two countries, Bolivia and Germany, had ratified it, bringing the total number of ratifications to four.  The Committee had also received two initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, those of Germany and Latvia.

KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Chairperson, noted that during this session Armenia would be presenting its third and fourth periodic report under the Convention and its initial reports under the two Optional Protocols, on the sale of the children and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  Rwanda would be presenting its third and fourth periodic report under the convention and its initial reports under the two Optional Protocols, on the sale of the children and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  Israel was presenting its second to fourth periodic report under the Convention, while Uzbekistan would be presenting its third and fourth report under the convention and its initial reports under the two Optional Protocols, on the sale of the children and on the involvement of children in armed conflict.  Further under the Convention, Slovenia was presenting its third and fourth periodic report and Guinea Bissau its second to fourth periodic report.

During this session the Committee would continue to discuss the organization of future work; the procedure for the consideration of country reports; its methods of work, including the format and content of concluding observations; and the strengthening of treaty bodies.  The Committee would also work on a draft joint General Comment on harmful practices with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

The Committee then adopted its agenda.


For use of the information media; not an official record

CRC13/133E