Committee on the Rights of the Child opens its eighty-eighth session
The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its eighty-eighth session in Geneva. The Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, during which it will review the reports of the Czech Republic, Eswatini, Poland, and Switzerland under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In his address to the Committee, Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that he was opening the session with a heavy heart, as Afghanistan's report was due to be considered at this session. He noted that the Office received credible reports of serious violations of the international humanitarian law and children's rights in Afghanistan, including the recruitment of child soldiers, expressing hope that the new Afghan Government would resume dialogue with the Committee soon. The pandemic further increased the vulnerability of children: in 2020 alone, more than 26,000 serious violations of children's rights had been recorded, the most numerous being cases of recruitment of children in armed conflicts.
The Committee then heard statements from representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Children’s Fund, Child Rights Connect, and the Committee Secretariat.
The eighty-eighth session of the Committee will run from 6 to 24 September 2021. 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 here.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today to start its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of the Czech Republic under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/CZE/5-6).
MAHAMANE CISSÉ-GOURO, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, was glad that this session could be held in a face-to-face format after three online sessions. He recognized and appreciated the hard work of the experts despite the difficult context linked to the pandemic. Mr. Cissé-Gouro went on to say that he opened this session with a heavy heart, as Afghanistan's report was due to be considered at this session. He noted that the Office had received credible reports of serious violations of the international humanitarian law and children's rights in Afghanistan, including the recruitment of child soldiers, expressing hope that the new Afghan Government would resume dialogue with the Committee soon. The pandemic had further increased the vulnerability of children: in 2020 alone, more than 26,000 serious violations of children's rights had been recorded, the most numerous being cases of recruitment of children in armed conflicts. Girls had suffered sexual violence while boys had been recruited, kidnapped and killed in armed conflict, he explained. States had to meet their obligations during armed conflict and, for those that had not yet done so, become party to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Mr. Cissé-Gouro also welcomed the decision of the Committee to consider its next general comment on the theme of the right to the environment, with a focus on climate change, noting the timeliness of the decision. Climate change had negative consequences on children's rights to life, health, housing, and the right to development.
The meeting of the chairpersons of the treaty bodies had taken place in June, informed Mr. Cissé-Gouro. The speakers had been able to discuss key issues such as adopting a predictable timetable for the review of States parties to increase synergies between the treaty bodies; harmonization of work procedures; and the digital transition to enhance the efficiency and accessibility of the treaty bodies. Those subjects had been dealt with in depth and action should be taken, he insisted. Next year’s resolution in the Human Rights Council, the thematic focus of the High Commissioner, and the 2022 Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child would all focus on family reunification.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that an informal advisory meeting of experts had been held in July in coordination with all stakeholders; the Committee’s early input to the meeting was invaluable. The formal consultation call for inputs to the High Commissioner’s report was being launched, as the Office was continuing to engage with the group of experts on specific issues. On 15 July, the Office had participated in a side event at a High-Level Political Forum on Children and Sustainable Development Goals. Imma Guerras-Delgado, speaking on behalf of the Office, highlighted the importance of investing in children to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In February 2019, the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, and Lancet Commission on children at the centre of the Sustainable Development Goals had launched its report entitled “A Future for the World's Children”. The report had found that children across the world faced an uncertain future due to a rapidly changing climate, mass commercial marketing of harmful products like sugar, fast food, tobacco and alcohol, polluted environments, poverty, pervasive inequalities, migration and conflict, and from the failure of all sectors to integrate children's needs into their policies.
United Nations Children’s Fund noted that in July it had organized a High-Level Political Forum side event on the issue of children’s rights to access justice and to seek effective remedies for violations of their rights. Organized together with the Committee and Child Rights Connect, the event had been well attended and reflected the Fund’s continued belief that it would be important to collectively better reflect this issue in the reporting process. This fall, the Fund would continue to disseminate the findings of the report Realizing Rights, Changing Lives, prepared together with the Universal Rights Group, that demonstrated how engagement with human rights mechanisms, including the Committee, brought measurable results and positive change in children’s lives. The Fund was also preparing a partnership with the University of Leiden to provide guidance on how best to carry out child rights legislative reform – in terms of both substance and process – using and updating existing guidance, making it more accessible and user-friendly and adding good practice examples. Finally, the Fund was preparing internal guidance on how to support and protect children who were exercising their right to peaceful assembly.
Child Rights Connect welcomed the efforts made to hold a higher number of State reviews as compared to the previous session. This was an important step in addressing the worrying backlog, a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis, and it was hoped that there would be a much greater number of State reviews from January 2022 onwards. Child Rights Connect also welcomed the Committee's decision to develop a General Comment on the environment with a special focus on climate change. This was a key issue for Child Rights Connect and its Children's Advisory Team. The organization was looking forward to collaborating with the Committee and was hoping to see joint efforts to advance the standards and practice on child participation in General Comments, including through the development of specific working methods. Child Rights Connect informed that it was empowering civil society and children in Moldova on how to use the Implementation Guide on the rights of Child Human Rights Defenders for monitoring, advocacy and reporting. The organization had supported the submission of the first ever report to the Universal Periodic Review focusing on Child Human Rights Defenders and were currently preparing children from Moldova to participate in the Universal Periodic Review pre-session.