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13 September 2016

The Committee on the Rights of the Child opened its seventy-third session at the Palais Wilson in Geneva this morning, hearing an address by Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Mr. Salama opened the meeting by acknowledging that the Committee would have a very active session, during which it would consider reports by States parties, adopt another draft general comment, hold a public day of general discussion dedicated to the children’s rights and the environment, and launch the General Comment adopted at the previous session.  Noting that children had been directly and actively involved in the development of the General Comments, Mr. Salama remarked that children would also deliver introductory statements during the day of general discussion. The common message was that children wanted to be more visible and to have their views and opinions taken into account. Children did not want to be left behind. “Leaving No One Behind” had been the theme of the 2016 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development held in July 2016, during which all treaty bodies had emphasized the importance of that principle. In that regard, children in situations of migration were among those worse off, the situation further worsened by the Mediterranean refugee crisis.  Thousands of unaccompanied children disappeared from care-centres after being registered, provoking the adoption of “Recommended Principles to Guide Actions Concerning Children on the Move and Other Children Affected by Migration” in order to guide stakeholders in this respect. The number of child refugees had grown by seventy-five percent in five years, to eight million. How was that possible and what scars would it leave to future generations?

Mr. Salama further reported on the status of the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on the treaty body system, and shared the key ingredients of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ two new publications on the Practical Guide to Effective State Engagement with International Human Rights Mechanisms. The latter encouraged treaty bodies to systematically include a recommendation on reporting and follow-up mechanisms in their concluding observations addressed to States parties. Mr. Salama also updated the Committee on the status of the Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, which had been under discussion since December 2014, and for which a funding appeal to States would be sent.  The Secretariat for the Study would be hosted at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, while Switzerland would support a position to work on the Secretariat.  In view of that, a number of short term staff were expected to start working soon and an Independent Expert to lead the study would be shortly appointed.

Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Committee Chairperson, in his introductory remarks, noted that, twenty-six years into the Convention of the Rights of the Child, there were daily reminders and crises that affected children’s rights. Children continued to be affected by sexual abuse, and poverty was a root cause of the abuse of children’s rights. The 2016 Development Agenda emphasized that tackling inequality was the key to ensuring the rights of children.

The Secretariat of the Committee informed that six reports had been received since the seventy-second session, thus bringing the number of reports pending consideration to forty-nine.  With regards to the status of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the total number of ratifications remained at 196.  Five new reports had been received under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, namely the combined second and third periodic reports of the Solomon Islands, the combined third and fourth periodic reports of the Marshall Islands, and combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Panama, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka. Two initial reports were overdue, namely those of Tonga and the State of Palestine.  With reference to the status of ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention, two new countries had ratified the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, namely Brunei Darussalam and Samoa, bringing the total number of ratifications to 165.  There were no new ratifications of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; thus the total number of ratifications remained at 173. With reference to the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure, one more country had ratified it, namely Ukraine, bringing the total number of ratifications to 28.  Only one initial report had been received, that of Estonia, under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Turning to the Committee’s seventy-third session, Mr. Mezmur said the Committee would, inter alia, review reports of the following six countries: Nauru, Sierra Leone, New Zealand, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Suriname. He welcomed the valuable contributions of specialized agencies, United Nations bodies, and other competent bodies including the National Human Rights Institutions as well as non-governmental organisations and children. Under the item of methods of work and treaty body strengthening, the Committee would continue its discussion of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure, as well as its discussion on the follow-up to the strengthening of the treaty body process. Mr. Memzur informed that on Friday, 23 September, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m, and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m, a discussion dedicated to theme of children’s rights and the environment would be held in Room 19 of the Palais des Nations, followed by a children’s exhibition.

The Committee would continue to work on three General Comments:  the implementation of the rights of the child during adolescence; children in street situations; and a joint General Comment on children in the context of migration, to be prepared and issued jointly with the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The agenda was then adopted.

Comprehensive meeting coverage of all public meetings to be held this session, including the country reviews, can be found here.  The country reviews can also be watched via live webcast at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today, to consider the combined initial to sixth periodic reports of Nauru (CRC/C/NRU/1-6).

For use of the information media; not an official record