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Committee on the Rights of the Child opens fifty-ninth session

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16 January 2012

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning opened its fifty-ninth session, hearing an address by Kyung-wha Kang, the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, and adopting its agenda.

Ms. Kang said that at long last children had joined the ranks of fully-fledged rights-holders empowered to bring their complaints about violations of their rights to an international body. That empowerment happened on 19 December 2011 when the General Assembly approved a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which established a communications procedure. The Protocol allowed the Committee to receive individual complaints about violations of the Convention, as well as violations of the other two Optional Protocols, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict. To act on those complaints the Committee could make specific recommendations for action to the relevant State. The new Optional Protocol also empowerd the Committee to initiate its own inquiries into grave and systematic violations of the Convention and its first two Optional Protocols. Ms. Kang said that now children could benefit from the full range of international protection procedures to safeguard their rights they would eventually bring an end to all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children.

Ms. Kang mentioned other developments, including an update on the treaty body strengthening process and progress of the High Commissioner for Human Right’s report on the promotion and protection of the rights of children working and/or living on the street which would be considered at the next session of the Human Rights Council in March 2012.

Jean Zermatten, the Committee Chairperson, said the Committee had a heavy agenda, with the first and second weeks of the session devoted to examining 13 country reports: seven on the main Convention (the initial reports of Cook Islands and Niue and the periodic reports of Azerbaijan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Thailand and Togo); three initial reports of Azerbaijan, Thailand and Togo under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the three initial reports of Azerbaijan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Thailand under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on children involved in armed conflict. He also thanked a non-governmental organization for organizing and filming the session for live webcasting, a first for the Committee that would allow the public to watch meetings live on the internet.

The Committee also paid tribute to the recent and tragic death of a colleague, Abdelfattah Amor, the Tunisian expert and member of the Human Rights Committee, and held a minute of silence in his memory.

The Committee will reconvene in public on Tuesday, 17 January at 10 a.m. when it will begin its review of reports by States parties with the consideration of the combined third and fourth reports of Azerbaijan (CRC/C/AZE/CO/3-4).

Statements

JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, thanked a non-governmental organization for organizing and filming the session for live webcasting, a first for the Committee that would allow the public to watch meetings live on the internet. Mr. Zermatten said 2011 had been a year that threatened the rights of child but also showed progress, namely thanks to the historic adoption of the third Optional Protocol on individual complaints, on 19 December 2011. That adoption was a significant one, and testimony to the desire of the international community to strengthen the rights of the child. The new Protocol not only gave the Committee additional operational powers, but also additional duties.

Mr. Zermatten paid tribute to the recent and tragic death of a colleague, Abdelfattah Amor, the Tunisian expert and member of the Human Rights Committee. The Committee held a minute of silence in memory of Mr. Amor.

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, reviewed the most important developments of interest to the Committee that had taken place since its last session in October 2011. Ms. Kang began by announcing that at long last children had joined the ranks of fully-fledged rights-holders empowered to bring their complaints about violations of their rights to an international body. That empowerment happened on 19 December 2011 when the General Assembly approved a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which established a communications procedure. The Protocol allowed the Committee to receive individual complaints about violations of the Convention, as well as violations of the other two Optional Protocols, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict. To act on those complaints the Committee could make specific recommendations for action to the relevant State. The new Optional Protocol also empowered the Committee to initiate its own inquiries into grave and systematic violations of the Convention and its first two Optional Protocols. Ms. Kang said that now children could benefit from the full range of international protection procedures to safeguard their rights they would eventually bring an end to all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children. Ms. Kang looked forward to seeing the Optional Protocol open soon for signatures and enter into force after the tenth ratification.

The treaty body strengthening process had reached a decisive stage. A series of meetings and statements, which began in Dublin in November 2009, culminated in the ‘Dublin II' wrap-up meeting of November 10-11 November 2011, which issued an Outcome Document containing concrete recommendations for treaty bodies, States and the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. All must do their part to reflect on those recommendations, what was expected of them and on what they could and wished to implement. The process of consultation would continue with another informal consultation for States in Geneva on 7-8 February 2012 and in New York on 2-3 April 2012. The report of the High Commissioner would then be published by early June 2012. Ms. Kang also reminded the Committee that since its last session, the much anticipated tenth human rights treaty monitoring body, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, had been created.

Following Human Rights Council resolution 16/12, the High Commissioner had presented a report on the promotion and protection of the rights of children working and/or living on the street for consideration at the next session of the Human Rights Council. The report drew on a large number of submissions made by States, national human rights institutions and civil society, as well as expert consultation organized by Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. The next Human Rights Council’s annual day of discussion on the rights of the child, scheduled for 8 March 2012, would be devoted to children and the administration of justice. In preparation, an expert consultation would be held in Vienna from 23 to 24 January, at which the Committee would be represented by Ms. Sandeberg. Ms. Kang also mentioned a slight improvement in translations of essential documents, and thanked the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for their help in providing some informal translations for the session. She also congratulated the Committee on their contribution to the Greening of the United Nations, and reduction of paper – an important step towards paperless sessions.

The session would be a busy one, Ms. Kang concluded, with 13 States party reports to be considered in all: seven on the main Convention (the initial reports of Cook Islands and Niue and the periodic reports of Azerbaijan, Madagascar, Myanmar, Thailand and Togo); three initial reports of Azerbaijan, Thailand and Togo under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the three initial reports of Azerbaijan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Thailand under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on children involved in armed conflict. Ms. Kang said they should make the most of the momentum that adoption of the new Protocol had brought to further the rights of the child in 2012.

JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, said the Committee had a heavy agenda, with the first and second weeks of the session devoted to examining 13 country reports. That heavy workload meant that the Committee had little time for meetings with other agencies and non-governmental organizations was limited, although there would be some meetings held in private, including a child delegation from Thailand. There would be a discussion on the draft General Comment on street children, while past discussions would be pursued, and the Committee would establish priorities. Mr. Zermatten said that at the fifty-eighth session the Committee had decided that the day for General Debate for 2012 would again be held in September, and would this year be devoted to the issue of child migrants. Migration was an important subject, and was also extremely broad with many possible approaches, so the Committee must decide how to approach the theme. Finally the Committee must also plan their sixtieth session, which would be held in Geneva from 29 May to 15 June 2012.

The Committee formally adopted its agenda and closed the public meeting.

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