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COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD EXAMINES REPORT OF CÔTE D’IVOIRE

21 May 2019

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Côte d'Ivoire on measures taken to implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
 
Introducing the report, Assane Thiam, Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Women, Families and Children of Côte d'Ivoire, said that the Government had decided to fully shoulder its legal and political responsibilities through a dynamic inter-ministerial approach to fully implement the Convention. It was committed to instilling a sense of moral responsibility in every citizen and all communities through a meaningful public debate.  Progress was achieved thanks to the President of the country, Alassane Ouattara, who had made the promotion and protection of the rights of the child a priority.  This vision had been translated into a series of reforms relating to the security field, the Presidential Emergency Programme, the National Crisis Recovery Programme, the Mandatory Schooling Policy, the Resocialization of Socially Dislocated Children Programme, the Extended Vaccination Programme, and the National Nutrition Programme. The Government had adopted and enacted various legal instruments aiming to strengthen the protection of children’s rights.  In that regard, the adoption of a new penal code, as well as bills on the status of minors, filiation and marriage were upcoming.  The report that had been submitted did not seek to be perfect, but rather assess the situation and outline ongoing efforts, he added.

At the beginning of the dialogue, Committee Experts said it was pleasure to resume the dialogue with the State party, which had been put on hold since the submission of its first report more than 17 years ago. On birth registration, they stressed that 2.8 million children had not been registered.  Regarding the free registration that was offered to address that issue, an Expert asked if measures had been put in place to ensure that everyone knew that birth registration was offered free of charge. Turning to the Youth Parliament, they said its make-up seemed elitist.  Did it have a budget?  If so, of what magnitude?  What ability did it have to make an impact?  Turning to the principle of non-discrimination, an Expert pointed out that the report outlined a series of steps taken by the Government. What concrete measures had been taken to address the de facto discrimination, such as discrimination against children with albinism and so-called “parasitic” children? It was alarming that an Ivorian child could be referred to as a parasite. This practice was corrosive.  To what degree did the State react to this phenomenon and had it sought to address it?  Children living with albinism were still being subjected to ritual crimes.  What was the Government doing to combat this practice?  Were there shelters for children who had been victims of sexual abuse or exploitation? 

In her concluding remarks, Suzanne Aho Assouma, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, underscored that, while a number of laws had been adopted, implementation decrees were still pending, and appropriate budgets had not been allocated. There was sluggishness when it came to implementation, she stated.  She thanked the delegation for its assistance. 
 
Mr. Thiam thanked Committee members and said the report resulted from efforts undertaken by the Government to improve the human rights situation in the country, notably that of children, through policies, programmes and projects. The Government faced social and cultural difficulties and constraints, and it had limited financial and human resources.  And yet, significant progress had been noted thanks to its efforts and the technical and financial support provided by bilateral and multilateral partners. Mr. Thiam reiterated that the Government was doing its utmost to meet its international obligations. 
 
Luis Ernesto Perdernera Reyna, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its willingness to engage in the dialogue; the Committee had appreciated its readiness. The Committee would work hard to come up with a robust document of concluding observations geared towards the best interest of the child.  He sent the Committee’s warmest greetings to the children of Côte d’Ivoire.

The delegation of Côte d'Ivoire consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Women, Families and Children, and the Permanent Mission of Côte d'Ivoire to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
 
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.
 
The Committee will next meet in public this afternoon at 3 p.m. to review Sri Lanka’s initial report under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/LKA/1).

Report
 
The Committee has before it the second periodic report of Côte d'Ivoire (CRC/CIV/2).
 
Presentation of the Report
 
ASSANE THIAM, Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Women, Families and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, said Côte d’Ivoire was convinced of the importance of protecting children’s rights, and had therefore ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and submitted a report outlining the status of their protection, in keeping with its international obligations. In order to implement this Convention, the Government had decided to fully shoulder its legal and political responsibilities through a dynamic inter-ministerial approach.  It was committed to instilling a sense of moral responsibility in every citizen and all communities through a meaningful public debate.

The progress made was achieved thanks to the President of the country, Alassane Ouattara, who had made the promotion and protection of the rights of the child a priority. This vision had been translated into a series of reforms relating to the security field, the Presidential Emergency Programme, the National Crisis Recovery Programme, the Mandatory Schooling Policy, the Resocialization of Socially Dislocated Children Programme, the Extended Vaccination Programme, and the National Nutrition Programme. The Government had adopted and enacted various legal instruments aiming to strengthen the protection of children’s rights.  In that regard, the adoption of a new penal code, as well as bills on the status of minors, filiation and marriage were upcoming. 

Generally speaking, the guidelines of the Constitution stipulated that all Ivorians were born equal in privileges and rights. This principle was geared towards the protection of all persons, including children, on the basis of non-discrimination.  While acknowledging that children born out of wedlock were subject to discrimination regarding filiation, as they could only be recognized with the consent of the legal spouse, he said that a draft bill on inheritance that was before parliament would put all children on an equal footing, regardless of their status. Turning to violence against children, he recalled that a national policy on the protection of children had been adopted in 2014.  A hotline had been set up in order to direct victims towards support services.  Community-based mechanisms had also been implemented as part of an initiative seeking to foster the collection of information, by the community, on cases of violence against children. 

On education, the Government had built various infrastructures and recruited staff, he added.  While fully shouldering the responsibility of the State, Côte d’Ivoire acknowledged and valued the contribution of non-State actors, such as non-governmental organizations.  They were encouraged to take part in the implementation of actions that protected children through advocacy, awareness-raising and mobilization activities, as well as the provision of support to children who had been victimized. The report that had been submitted did not seek to be perfect, but rather assess the situation and outline ongoing efforts.
 
Questions by the Committee Experts

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, said it was pleasure to resume the dialogue with the State party, which had been put on hold since the submission of its first report more than 17 years ago. Thanking Côte d’Ivoire for the responses it had submitted, she asked what was being done to honour its commitment to submit reports relating to the Optional Protocols on children in armed conflict, and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Much had been achieved in the area of legislation and new legislation was being adopted, she noted.  What concrete and specific information could the delegation provide on the adoption of the code of the child? 

Regarding coordination efforts to implement the Convention, she enquired about the persons and entities in charge. What resources were put at their disposal?  She asked for more information on the role of the permanent framework and the Global Strategic Policy. What was the state of play and the budgetary resources that had been earmarked for this policy?  Given that Côte d’Ivoire had had high levels of growth, how could the challenges related to poverty be explained, she asked. What measures were envisaged to increase the resources allocated to the social sectors to address this issue and ensure the protection of the rights of the child? 

On data collection, the Co-Rapporteur enquired about the steps envisaged to put in place a system that disaggregated the data, and therefore allowed the proper implementation of the policies outlined by the delegation, in a way that benefitted the children and met their needs. Could the national human rights commission initiate investigations on its own?  Were the children who filed a complaint with it guaranteed confidentiality?  There was a great lack of knowledge of the Convention on the part of children and people who worked with them in the country, she noted, enquiring about the efforts by the Government to disseminate the Convention on an ongoing basis and translate it into all the country’s languages.

Turning to the principle of non-discrimination, she pointed out that the report outlined a series of steps taken by the Government. What concrete measures had been taken to address the de facto discrimination, such as discrimination against children with albinism and so-called “parasitic” children? While acknowledging that there were many venues of expression for children in Côte d’Ivoire, she pointed out that their right in that regard was not positively recognized. The Youth Parliament set aside children that did not perform well in school or did not attend school, she added.

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, observed that there was only one woman in the delegation. On birth registration, she noted that 2.8 million children had not been registered. Regarding the free registration that was offered to address that issue, she asked if measures had been put in place to ensure that everyone knew that birth registration was offered free of charge. If so, what had the outcome been?  On the laws that were cited by the delegation, she asked for specific information on their enactment, and the budget that had been allocated by the Government in that context.

Turning to the matter of citizenship, she underscored that only widows were allowed to pass along citizenship to their children and asked if there were measures in place to ensure that all women may be able to do it. Children living with albinism were still being subjected to ritual crimes.  What was the Government doing to combat this practice?  Were there shelters for children who had been victims of sexual abuse or exploitation?  Could these children be compensated and how? Did the State have enough, sufficiently and properly trained officials to provide support to these children?
 
PHILIP JAFFE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, said that the Youth Parliament attested to children’s free speech according to the State party’s report. Yet its make-up seemed elitist.  Did the Youth Parliament have a budget?  If so, of what magnitude?  What ability did it have to make an impact? He asked about the State’s efforts to ensure that all children had access to information.  It was alarming that an Ivorian child could be referred to as a parasite. This practice was corrosive.  To what degree did the State react to this phenomenon and had it sought to address it? 

The State’s programmes on corporal punishment were not put together with a lot of verve, he stated. Regarding the hotline, how many calls were received?  What percentage of callers were girls?  What kind of follow-up was provided to these calls? He enquired about preventive measures.  While there were initiatives on corporal punishment, such as its ban from school, it seemed to be an endemic problem. How were teachers trained in non-violence?  How did the State address the worrying statistics on corporal punishment?  He requested clarifications on the new definition of rape that was to be included in the penal code. Would it include marital rape?  Would it apply to both boys and girls?  On sexual exploitation of children, he underscored the lack of data.

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation assured that there was coordination among various Government entities to collect data on child protection. The Government also coordinated with non-governmental organizations.  An inter-ministerial coordinating committee was established in March 2019 to give impetus to the Government’s vision on child protection.
 
On the ability to invoke the Convention before the courts, the delegation said that while the courts only drew on national legislation, judges were regularly trained on all aspects pertaining to the Convention. In addition, another framework was put in place whereby training workshops had been held for judges and legal practitioners, which contributed to raise awareness on the Convention.

There were various mechanisms in place to ensure the protection of children, and they met regularly under the aegis of the Ministry of Women, Families and Children to provide valuable information to all stakeholders. The Ministry of Women, Families and Children took the lead and brought together protection mechanisms of other ministries, both at the national and local levels.  Turning to the budgetary issues, delegates said it was difficult to have a specific nomenclature regarding funds allocated to the protection of children, as it was a cross-cutting issue on which various governmental organizations were working.

The Government understood that there was a cultural dimension to the birth registration issue. The 2018 legislation was aimed at having a real impact, and additional information on its outcome would be provided to the Committee at a later time. Children could be registered in maternity wards, and birth certificates could even be issued before they left the premises.  Efforts had been deployed to facilitate the registration of children in rural areas. After having experimented with various pilot programmes, the Government had established a three-month deadline for birth registration.  It was considering a new timeframe, however, as three months might be long.

Communication was key to tackle violence against children, and the Government had produced flyers and various materials to improve the population’s understanding and awareness of children’s rights. Local radio stations as well as national television channels disseminated information on the protection of children, the delegation assured.  Turning to child marriage, a delegate said a campaign was launched in December 2017 through the Ministry of Women, Families and Children. In that context, a national coalition of stakeholders was created to fight against child marriage. 

Any child could call the hotline; it was free and accessible through all the country’s mobile phone operators. Both children and adults could use it to report abuses.  What was more, freedom of thought or opinion had no exception in Côte d’Ivoire. Youth Parliament participants were chosen on the basis of a set of criteria - they had to be model children, and priority was given to their education performance in that regard. Morality was also a criterion.  However, the selection process that took place in 2018 sought to ensure greater representation, and the next parliament would include a representative of children living on the street and a representative of children living with a disability.

Corporal punishment still seemed to be the most appropriate way to change a child in the eyes of the community. The Government had sought to break the perceived link between success and corporal punishment, but this had been a difficult issue to tackle.

On “parasitic children,” the delegation pointed out that it was a pejorative term used to refer to socially dislocated children, that the children themselves used. As part of the resocialization programme, the Government had issued a degree which used the term “children marked by social dislocation.”  A specific budget was allocated to address this issue, helping these children by fostering their autonomy.

The new text on the new Council for Human Rights ensured that the body could follow up on complaints and bring them to court, the delegation assured. On sexual exploitation, the Government had ensured that instances of this crime had always been met with a response.  A national strategy to combat gender-based violence covered both women and girls, and, at the local and regional levels, platforms were set up to group all actors that sought to provide protection, so that no matter through which avenue a case was referred, the victim was provided with support, throughout the process, right up to the legal proceeding.

Questions by the Committee Experts

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, asked when the hotline was launched and who managed the Youth Parliament’s budget. She requested additional information on the timeline that stretched between the moment when a child was born and the picking-up of his birth certificate. Did unaccompanied children have access to Ivorian nationality? 

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, said that it was known that corruption was endemic in Côte d’Ivoire. While acknowledging that the State party’s situation in that regard had improved, she stressed that public funds could be squandered if appropriate measures were not in place. What decisions was the Government taking to combat the scourge of corruption?

PHILIP JAFFE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, noted the good practice of radio and audio-visual broadcasts. On the Youth Parliament, he requested specific examples of things it had done. Was the Government in a position to address the situation of so-called “parasitic” children", he asked. The Ministry of Women, Families and Children seemed to do a lot, he noted.  Could the delegation provide more information on its budget and the power held by its Minister?

Response by the Delegation

The delegation responded that Côte d’Ivoire had laws forbidding female genital mutilation, rape and sexual violence — they were all criminal offences. The hotline was put in place in 2016.   Efforts had been made recently to equip agents of the hotline with motorbikes so that they could reach victims quickly.

Questions by the Committee Experts

In the next round of questions, HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, asked about the Government’s efforts to combat stereotypes and ensure that, inside families, men did not always hold decision-making power. On placements in institutions, she requested details about the “transitory” measures mentioned in the report.  Drawing the delegation’s attention to the situation of children who were with their mothers in detention centres, she asked for data on this phenomenon. How did the Government ensure that these children’s needs were met?

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, enquired about the state of play as regards psychosocial disabilities and orthopaedics. Were there awareness campaigns to combat discrimination related to health issues?  She asked about the outcome of vaccination campaigns and measures taken to reach the most remote areas in that context. On HIV/AIDS, what was the Government doing?  Given that Côte d’Ivoire had faced flooding, she asked if the victims had been cared for.

Another Committee Expert asked about measures taken to improve access to schools and the quality of education.

PHILIP JAFFE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, said the new criminal code’s provisions should contribute to the protection of children. However, the age of criminal responsibility should be increased as much as possible in the Committee’s opinion. Parents were not always informed with great celerity when their children were involved in criminal proceedings, such as interrogations. Minor detention seemed to be frequent.  Could the delegation provide clarification about, or confirm, that statement and the related data?  Could the delegation provide information on the Government’s efforts to foster extrajudicial alternatives to detention, if there were any?

Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that 700 social workers, 70 media professionals and prefecture officials were trained in a programme on the needs of children, including the most vulnerable ones, and risk factors as well protection mechanisms. The hotline had received 4,000 calls in 2017, and over 10,000 calls in 2018.  These calls were related to various issues, including abuse, forced marriage, physical violence and economic exploitation.

The Government had initiated projects to allow the population to benefit from the fruits of national economic growth, such as the provision of prenatal care to pregnant women, and healthcare services for children. Other programmes were also created to facilitate access to decent housing, water and electricity.  Children benefited from these programmes.  Working together with Save the Children, the Government had given out grants to nine civil society organizations working with children affected by social dislocation. There were some 4,000 children in social dislocation situations and living on the streets, the delegation added.

Regarding de facto discrimination that affected children with disabilities and albinism, a platform for specialized education had been put in place for these children.  Their families also received support. A partnership with Spain would allow the provision of better services in specialized centres that offered support to children with disabilities. 

Turning to the Youth Parliament, the delegation explained that the children had to have a grade point average of at least 12/20 and good morals as well as be between the age of 12 and 15 to be chosen. These criteria were put in place to ensure that the children had all the capacities required to participate in the Youth Parliament.  All children that lived in Côte d’Ivoire were eligible.  The Youth Parliament had contact with Côte d’Ivoire’s parliament. While children were not directly involved in the drafting of legislation that affected them, their opinions were taken into consideration.

Child marriage was one of Côte d’Ivoire’s priority areas. A reform process was underway to establish the age of marriage at 18 for both girls and boys. The Government was also preparing a national plan on this issue, in collaboration with civil society.  Furthermore, the criminal code that was being adopted included a definition of rape that covered non-consensual vaginal or anal penetration as well as vaginal or anal penetration committed on minors under 15, with or without their consent. Turning to corporal punishment, the delegation said that, while a national charter had been established to ban it from schools, there were still instances of this practice.  The Government encouraged all actors to speak out against it.   

Schooling was obligatory for children aged 6 to 16, and a strategy to reintegrate children through catch-up classes had been implemented. Pregnant girls could go back to school after having given birth.  Some of them did not go back because they feared that they would be criticized for having had a child, the delegation said.

Child labour was a hot topic in Côte d’Ivoire. Various plans of action had accelerated efforts to combat it in the cocoa industry, and another policy would be introduced in the near future.  Turning to juvenile justice, the delegation explained that guidelines had established judicial protection for children in all Ivorian courts. There were two categories of minors deprived of liberty: those on provisional detention and those detained as per a mandate.  The latter were placed in the same facilities as adults, but in separate buildings.  As part of the justice reform, the Government was trying to ensure that children could enjoy a dedicated centre without contact with adult detainees.

The situation of children with albinism had long been shrouded in silence, but civil society organizations were conducting various activities and awareness-raising campaigns, along with the Government, that had led to the improvement of these children’s situation. These children were systematically included in schools, where systems were in place to support them.  In step with the Government’s plan of action on malaria, mosquito nets and insecticides were distributed to Ivorians.  The Government also offered comprehensive care for diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria, and sought to ensure that proper data on malaria was integrated in its information systems.

Mental health care for children was not merely provided in psychiatric hospitals, which often served as entry points; there were also mental health care centres that provided services to children. The Government had undertaken efforts to fight against mental health medication that was traded in the streets.  From April to May, seizures were conducted in markets, and the medication seized had later been destroyed by public authorities.

Questions by the Committee Experts

LUIS ERNESTO PERDERNERA REYNA, Committee Chairperson, enquired about awareness-raising efforts on abortion and sexual health. Were children separated from adults in mental health care centres?

Another Committee Expert asked about children with disabilities’ access to primary and secondary education that was inclusive. Was it free of charge?  What measures was the Government taking to combat prejudices that may affect these children?

SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, asked how the Government made sure that the insecticides and nets that were distributed were properly and effectively used. Some people fished with the nets, or made scarecrows out of them, she said.  On the detention of children, she pointed out that decisions on the dedicated centres had been made a long time ago by the Government.  And yet, they had yet to translate them into concrete results. Even though children were put in separate buildings, they were still held in the same institutions as adults, she stressed.

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, said that if children with disabilities were put in the same classes as other children, this hardly amounted to inclusive education. Inclusive education entailed adapting the education, she stressed.  Furthermore, medical certificates should be given free of charge to victims of abuse. How was the Government ensuring that children who were victims of corporal punishment could speak up and did not face reprisal if they did?  Turning to migration, she recalled that Côte d’Ivoire had been on migration routes since 2015, and asked about the Government’s efforts to meet the needs of migrant children that might have faced abuse or violence.

PHILIP JAFFE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, asked about the Government’s plans to ensure that prison inspections were conducted on a more regular basis. It was surprising that in some cases legal proceedings continued even though the parties had come to an extrajudicial agreement. Could the delegation provide more information on this?

Other Experts asked about the impact of the teachers’ strikes on the school year. Were there clear legal provisions on child pornography and child prostitution in Côte d’Ivoire?

LUIS ERNESTO PERDERNERA REYNA, Committee Chairperson, asked if there was any State policy promoting children as human rights defenders.

Response by the Delegation and Questions by the Experts

On children with disabilities, the delegation said a system had been put in place to create specialized classes in regular schools. The Government was open to implementing other strategies as well.  The Government had also trained teachers in Braille and sign language so that all the children in a given class could receive the same education, whether they had disabilities or not. Such programmes were offered in many schools in the country.  Furthermore, specialized education centres worked with these children, providing them with psycho-social support.  There was also a centre for autism in Côte d’Ivoire, the delegation added. 

The Government had spoken to the population to explain the advantages of submitting the request for a birth certificate within the three-month deadline which allowed them to obtain it free of charge. On the Youth Parliament, its budget was in the Ministry of Women, Families and Children.  The Youth Parliament also had offices at the Ministry. 

Responding to the Committee’s comments on corporal punishment, the delegation reiterated that it was prohibited by the Constitution and banned in schools. The Government received the support of civil society organizations in its efforts to combat this practice.  The Ministry had documented the issue of abductions of children with albinism, and the Government believed that awareness-raising was key to address this problem.

PHILIP JAFFE, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, said a complete and specific prohibition of corporal punishment was necessary. This was the standard promoted by the Committee.

The delegation responded that it took note of that standard and Côte d’Ivoire would meet it.

Migration was an issue of priority for the Government. As per a programme for the voluntary return of migrants, children on the move were reintegrated into schools. Assistance and support were provided to them.

As for prison inspections, they were systematic, the delegation assured. They were notably conducted by the Ministry of Justice.

HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, asked for data on children that had been in the migratory flows.

The delegation said that a circular stipulated that the prosecution of a crime could continue even if families had reached an extrajudicial agreement. When the prosecutors had knowledge of malfeasance, they could launch investigations ex-officio. 

Data on migrant children would be submitted in writing within 48 hours.

Turning to human trafficking, Côte d’Ivoire was both a country of departure and a transit country, the delegation said. Children were recruited with the promises of an El Dorado, but ended up in prostitution in Mali and Algeria. The Government would continue to do its utmost to address this situation. 

On the teachers’ strikes, the delegation pointed out that they had taken place across the region. In Côte d’Ivoire, teaching had resumed, and end of year examinations had been postponed.

Concluding Remarks
 
SUZANNE AHO ASSOUMA, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Côte d'Ivoire, underscored that, while a number of laws had been adopted, implementation decrees were still pending, and appropriate budgets had not been allocated. There was sluggishness when it came to implementation, she stated.  She thanked the delegation for its assistance.

ASSANE THIAM, Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Women, Families and Children of Côte d’Ivoire, thanked Committee members and said the report resulted from efforts undertaken by the Government to improve the human rights situation in the country, notably that of children, through policies, programmes and projects. The Government faced social and cultural difficulties and constraints, and it had limited financial and human resources.  And yet, significant progress had been noted thanks to its efforts and the technical and financial support provided by bilateral and multilateral partners. Mr. Thiam reiterated that the Government was doing its utmost to meet its international obligations. 
 
LUIS ERNESTO PERDERNERA REYNA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its willingness to engage in dialogue; the Committee had appreciated its readiness. It would work hard to come up with a robust document of concluding observations geared towards the best interest of the child. The Committee was sending his warmest greetings to the children of Côte d’Ivoire, he concluded.



For use of the information media; not an official record

CRC/19/15E