Committee on the Rights of the Child opens its forty-ninth session

Committee on the Rights of the Child
MORNING

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its forty-ninth session, hearing an address by Navanethem Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda.

In opening remarks, Ms. Pillay said that, having taken office two weeks ago, she appreciated the opportunity to engage with the treaty bodies, and with this Committee in particular, at this early stage in her mandate. She valued hearing the views, comments and suggestions of the Committee and pledged the support of her Office in the Committee's activities. The Committee was the custodian of human rights norms, and nothing gave her more satisfaction than supporting the Committee in that task, as well as in the progressive development of human rights norms and standards. The work of the Committees was one of the main pillars of the human rights system, and in her opening address to the Human Rights Council's ninth regular session, she had highlighted the important role the Committees' work played in the efforts to create a global culture of human rights.

This Committee was unique in many ways, Ms. Pillay observed. It monitored a Convention that encompassed a broad spectrum of rights and enjoyed almost universal acceptance. The Committee also monitored the implementation of two substantive Optional Protocols to the Convention, and had a privileged relationship with United Nations partners, notably the United Nations Children's Fund, as well as the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The reporting obligations under the three treaties [i.e. the Convention and its Protocols] had created a workload which had not been dealt with in the meeting time allotted, and for that reason the Committee had sought to meet in two parallel chambers once again. It was hoped that States recognized the magnitude of the work before the Committee and approved the Committees requests. She also urged the Committee to consider more long-term solutions, including in the context of the harmonization of working methods of treaty bodies, and welcomed the ideas of the Committee in that regard.

Maya Andrijasevic-Boko, Secretary of the Committee, said, since the Committee's last session, 18 reports had been received - 9 under the Convention; 4 under the Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution, and chid pornography; and 5 under the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. During its present session, the Committee would consider the periodic reports of Bhutan, Djibouti, and the United Kingdom, as well as initial reports on the Convention's Optional Protocols from Austria, Lithuania, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. On 19 September 2008, the Committee would hold a Day of General Discussion on Education in Emergency Situations.

Near the end of the meting, a representative of the High Commissioner's Office read an oral statement of the programme budget implications of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to request to meet in two parallel chambers, to be approved by the General Assembly.

When the Committee reconvenes this afternoon, at 3 p.m., it is scheduled to take up the initial report of Austria under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/AUT/1).

Statements

NAVANTHEM PILLAY, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that, having taken office two weeks ago, she appreciated the opportunity to engage with the treaty bodies, and this Committee in particular, at this early stage in her mandate. She valued hearing the views, comments and suggestions of the Committee. She highlighted the importance given to the work of the treaty bodies and pledged the support of her Office for the Committees' activities. In her previous capacity as a judge, she had applied treaty body jurisprudence, and she would continue to rely on that jurisprudence as High Commissioner. The Committee was the custodian of human rights norms, and nothing gave her more satisfaction than supporting the Committee in that task, as well as in the progressive development of human rights norms and standards. The work of the Committee was one of the main pillars of the human rights system. On 8 September 2008, she had addressed the ninth regular session of the Human Rights Council and highlighted the important role the Committees' work played in the efforts to create a global culture of human rights. She also noted the importance of using the influence of her Office to promote implementation of human rights treaties at the national level, as well as to encourage universal ratification of those treaties.

This Committee was unique in many ways, Ms. Pillay observed. It monitored a Convention that encompassed a broad spectrum of rights, and enjoyed almost universal acceptance. The Committee also monitored the implementation of two substantive Optional Protocols to the Convention, and had a privileged relationship with United Nations partners, notably the United Nations Children's Fund, and as well as the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The reporting obligations under the three treaties [i.e. the two Optional Protocols and the Convention itself] had created a workload which had not been dealt with in the meeting time allotted, and it was noted that the Committee sought to meet in two parallel chambers once again. It was hoped that States recognized the magnitude of the work before the Committee and approved the Committees requests. She also urged the Committee to consider more long-term solutions, including in the context of the harmonization of working methods of treaty bodies, and welcomed the ideas of the Committee in that regard. She had yet to familiarize herself fully with that process and, in that context, would ensure to maintain a dialogue with treaty body experts and valued their comments.

Drawing on personal experience, Ms. Pillay noted interest in learning more about the Committee's reviews in general and under the Optional Protocols in particular. As a former international judge, she was particularly interested in the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which represented a novel combination of human rights law, humanitarian law and international criminal law. The interplay between those branches of law was of utmost importance. She also looked forward to gaining more knowledge of how the Committee interacted with other entities which shared the same concerns as the Committee, among them the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict and the International Criminal Court. The Court had raised charges in cases regarding the war crime of using children under the age of 15 years to participate actively in hostilities, some of which was relevant for States that were to be reviewed by the Committee in the near future.

Furthermore, Ms. Pillay strongly affirmed the importance of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The serious nature of the violations of that Protocol and the secrecy in which they were often conducted indicated the importance of targeting such crimes. The Committee had been involved in the Third World Congress on Commercial Sexual Exploitation, which had taken place in Brazil in November 2008. Both Protocols underscored the importance of protecting the most vulnerable of all victims, namely children. In addition, both Protocols required legislative amendments in order to break the pervasive cycle of impunity, and she strongly endorsed the work of the Committee in promoting that through its recommendations in its concluding observations.

MAYA ANDRIJASEVIC-BOKO, Secretary of the Committee, said that, since the Committee's last session, 18 reports had been received. Of the reports received, nine were under the Convention; four under the Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and chid pornography; and five under the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict. Under the Convention, reports received included Granada, Angola, Burundi, Spain, Tunisia, Sudan and Belgium, Nicaragua and Denmark. Under the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Sudan and Bosnia and Herzegovina had submitted reports. Under the Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Nicaragua, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Colombia and Bosnia and Herzegovina had submitted reports. A total of 379 reports remained to be considered as of the current session of the Committee, with initial reports overdue for Afghanistan, Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Tonga and Tuvalu. Turning to the status of the Optional Protocols, it was noted that, as of 1 September 2008, 122 Member States had ratified the Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and 126 had ratified the Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. On 19 September 2008, the Committee on the Rights of the Child would hold a day of General Debate on education in emergency situations.

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