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Committee on Rights of Child opens fifty-third session

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The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened it fifty-third session, hearing an address by Mercedes Morales, Officer-in-Charge of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Ms. Morales, drawing attention to a number of important new developments since the Committee's last session in October 2009, as well as upcoming events related to the Committee's work, observed that the Open-ended Working Group on an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure had met from 14 to 18 December 2010. The report of the Working Group was currently being finalized.

Ms. Morales was also very pleased to recall that the Guidelines for Alternative Care of Children, submitted to the General Assembly by the Human Rights Council, originating from the Committee's day of discussion held in 2005, had been adopted on 20 November (2009). Also, the Council had incorporated into its work an annual full-day meeting to discuss specific issues related to the rights of the child, the second such meeting, and it would be held at the thirteenth session of the Council and would focus on the issue of sexual violence against children. The modalities of the Committee's contribution to that meeting were still to be determined.

The overall success of the human rights protection system, marked by the increase in the number of human rights instruments and corresponding monitoring bodies, together with greater compliance by States parties with reporting obligations, posed greater demands on the treaty bodies. While the success was most welcome and encouraging, Ms. Morales recalled that last September at the Human Rights Council's twelfth session, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had launched an appeal to States and all relevant stakeholders to initiate a process of reflection on how to streamline and strengthen the treaty body system to achieve better coherence and effectiveness. In that connection, an informal meeting of a range of previous and current members of the treaty body system had taken place in Dublin in November to reflect on the future of the treaty bodies and to propose a possible framework for reform. The Declaration which had been adopted at the end of the meeting had been circulated to all treaty bodies and it was hoped that it would find the Committee's support.

Turning to the work of the Committee during this session, Ms. Morales noted that there was a heavy agenda as members met in two parallel chambers to consider a high number of reports. They would have 18 reports from 12 States parties, including reports on the implementation of the Convention itself, as well as its two Optional Protocols. They would also be discussing their working methods and have meetings with United Nations system entities as well as non-governmental organizations. Finally, while sessions in double chambers could be resorted to as a temporary measure, the Committee was encouraged to reflect on possible future modalities to handle reviews of the very high number of State party reports the Committee was facing.

Yanghee Lee, the Committee Chairperson, also in some opening remarks on the work of the session, noted that the Committee would be adopting its report on the twentieth anniversary of the Convention, which had been held in lieu of a discussion day. There would not be a Day of General Discussion this year, as the Committee would devote all its time to consideration of pending reports. At this session, the Committee would also discuss development of general comments on the best interests of the child and on abuse and neglect of children, among others.

Ms. Lee also highlighted that the first joint Working Group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women would convene on the morning of Saturday, 23 January, with the support of the United Nations Children's Fund.

At the end of the meeting, Committee Secretary Maja Andrijasevic-Boko announced that, since the Committee's last session, 13 reports had been received - 8 under the Convention and 5 under the Optional Protocols. Second periodic reports had been received from Guinea Bissau and Namibia, and combined second, third and fourth periodic reports had been received from Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada and Myanmar. To date, the Committee had received a total of 576 reports, and had considered 419. There were five outstanding initial reports: from the Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Tonga and Tuvalu. Reports on the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict had been received from Slovakia and Thailand, and Belarus, Slovakia and Thailand had submitted their reports under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

When the Committee next reconvenes in public, at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 January, it will begin its review of reports by States parties in two parallel chambers. In Chamber A, Mongolia will present its combined third and fourth periodic reports, as well as initial reports under the two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/MNG/3-4; CRC/C/OPAC/MNG/1; and CRC/C/OPSC/MNG/1). In Chamber B, Paraguay will introduce its third periodic report (CRC/C/PRY/3).

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