Committee on Rights of Child Opens Online Eighty-Seventh Session, Elects New Chairperson and Bureau

OHCHR

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today opened its online eighty-seventh session, electing a new Chairperson and Bureau, and adopting its agenda and programme of work for the session, during which it will review the reports of Luxembourg and Tunisia.

The Committee elected its new Chair and Bureau. Mikiko Otani (Japan) was elected as Chair of the Committee. The Vice-Chairs are Velina Todorova (Bulgaria), Philip Jaffe (Switzerland), Hynd Ayoubi Idrissi (Morocco) and Faith Marshall-Harris Barbados).

In his address to the Committee, Mahaman Cissé-Gouro, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanism Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Representative of the Secretary-General, said this new global wave of COVID-19 was having severe consequences for a greater number of children, with access to essential health, social protection and education services being continuously constrained. Children were facing mental health issues, with large numbers of children reporting anxiety, fear, irritability and depressive symptoms. In particular, children living with chronic illness, disability or existing psychological disorders were likely to be at an elevated risk of mental health distress, as were migrant children and children from disadvantaged socio-economic situations. Child poverty was also continuing to rise at an alarming rate.

Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna, outgoing Committee Chairperson, said it had been a privilege and honour to act as Chair of the Committee. He was the first Latin American and Spanish-speaking Chair of the Committee. Rotation was necessary because it allowed for new visions and fed into regional views. During the past year, and despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee had reached a very satisfactory level of production.

Mr. Pedernera Reyna expressed his concerns about the scale of violence and wars in the world affecting children and highlighted the escalation of violence in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, in particular because the number of children injured and killed was alarming. Attacks that counted children among their victims were unacceptable. They were a crime as nothing justified the murder and injury of children. Children were not collateral damage, they were innocent victims.

Mikiko Otani, incoming Committee Chairperson, said the suspension of in-person meetings had resulted in the loss of more than 200 meeting hours. Country reviews were coming up and the Committee’s Experts stood ready to do their best in the interest of children. The Committee’s priorities would be child marriage, child soldiers, child labour, and children and climate change. In all these areas, children must be provided remedy where their rights were violated.

The Committee then adopted its agenda for the session.

Also during the meeting, the Committee heard statements from representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Child Rights Connect, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The eighty-seventh session of the Committee will run from 17 May to 4 June. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, are on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings will be available via the following link: https://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/.

The Committee will next meet in public at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 May, to start its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Luxembourg under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/LUX/QPR/5-6).

Statements

MAHAMANE CISSÉ-GOURO, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the four new members of the Committee: Rinchen Chopel (Bhutan), Sophie Kiladze (Georgia), Zara Ratou (Chad) and Benoit Van Keirsbilck (Belgium) and also thanked the outgoing Chairperson Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna (Uruguay) for his non-stop work to ensure that the protection of children’s rights remained a priority for all. It was not yet possible to have in-person meetings, and the Office appreciated the huge efforts undertaken by the Committee to continue to implement and uphold children’s rights despite the difficulties posed by time differences and connection issues.

This new global wave of COVID-19 was having severe consequences for a greater number of children, with access to essential health, social protection and education services being continuously constrained. Children were facing mental health issues, with large numbers of children reporting anxiety, fear, irritability and depressive symptoms. In particular, children living with chronic illness, disability or existing psychological disorders were likely to be at an elevated risk of mental health distress, as were migrant children and children from disadvantaged socio-economic situations. While COVID-19 did not affect children’s physical health to the same extent that it affected adults, the overall health, social and economic impact of COVID-19 had a disproportionate effect on children. Child poverty was continuing to rise at an alarming rate. The United Nations Children’s Fund had estimated that in the absence of any mitigating policies, the total number of children living in poor households globally could reach over 725 million.

Ensuring the equitable access of children to online services and connectivity was a necessary first step towards ensuring their access to quality online learning and information from a wide variety of trusted sources. In this regard, the Committee’s General Comment no. 25 on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, which had been launched at the end of the last session, provided valuable, timely guidance to States on ensuring children’s access to digital technologies as a means to realise their full range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

Mr. Cissé-Gouro said that at the most recent preparatory meeting of the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies last week, the Chairs had agreed to take the lead by establishing a drafting group to look at concrete elements in implementing the main outcome of the 2020 review process based on the recommendations of the co-facilitators’ report in relation to three interconnected priorities: a predictable review calendar, harmonised working methods and the digital shift. The Office would do its utmost to support the Chairs in developing further innovative ideas for a strengthened treaty body system, including alternating between full and focused reviews and better digital tools to enhance information sharing with States and other stakeholders.

Recalling recent developments regarding the rights of the child at the intergovernmental level, Mr. Cissé-Gouro said the Office of the High Commissioner had organised the annual full-day meeting of the Human Rights Council on child rights on 1 March, following up on “the rights of the child and the Sustainable Development Goals”. It had also submitted its annual child rights’ input to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on the review theme “sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”. This report included reflections and ideas from children on their situation and on building back, gathered in partnership with civil society through focus groups and other forms of outreach with children from 25 countries across all regions. On 12 April, the Office had organised an online Intersessional Seminar on Youth and Human Rights

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Office had organised the Human Rights Council’s annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child, which had focused on the Sustainable Development Goals. Children themselves took a strong role throughout the event, including as panellists. The meeting outcomes were being conveyed via a summary report to related processes of the General Assembly. The Office had also submitted its annual child rights’ input to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on the review theme “sustainable and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, which included children’s own reflection and ideas to build back. Taking forward the agenda on youth rights, an online Intersessional Seminar on Youth and Human Rights had been organised with the active participation of young people and youth organizations; it had led to recommendations such as establishing a special mandate on youth.

United Nations Children’s Fund said it was preparing guidance on how to beef up reporting on public financing and budgeting in line with General Comment 19, as well as guidance on how UNICEF country offices could consolidate more systematic information on children’s access to justice and remedies for violations of their rights. Following the publication of the report “Realising Rights, Changing Lives”, which had shown that engagement with human rights bodies could trigger concrete changes on the ground, bringing about results in children’s lives, the United Nations Children’s Fund had organised discussions to foster dialogue between regional and country human rights bodies. The United Nations Children’s Fund was also preparing a new strategic plan, the draft of which outlined the need to, inter alia, improve its humanitarian preparedness and response.

Child Rights Connect remained concerned about the implications of the United Nations financial crisis on resources for all of the United Nations treaty bodies, including the impact of the regular budget freeze on human resources needed to support the Committee. The last Annual Day on the Rights of the Child on the Sustainable Development Goals, held at the Human Rights Council in March, had been instrumental to reinforce States’ obligations to apply a child rights approach in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as well as the Committee’s role in ensuring accountability. Child Rights Connect drew attention to the call by the European Union for the United Nations to “adopt a system-wide approach to ensuring the centrality of children’s rights in all of its actions.” Concerning access to justice, very little had been done concerning the right to effective remedies and reparation for children who were victims of human rights violations.

LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Outgoing Committee Chairperson, said it had been a privilege and honour to act as Chair of the Committee. He thanked colleagues and collaborators who had helped him with his work. He was the first Latin American and Spanish-speaking Chair of the Committee. Rotation was necessary because it allowed for new visions and fed into regional views. During the past year, and despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee had reached a very satisfactory level of production. They had made history by becoming the first treaty body to meet outside of Geneva. The Committee had adopted two General Comments and increased the volume of decision-making on cases under the Optional Protocol on individual communications so as not to generate delays. All had invested an incalculable number of hours of dedication to maintain the rhythm of work. The Committee urgently needed to resolve the issue of the expenses incurred by experts in fulfilling their mandate. It was unacceptable that the Committee did not have the resources it needed to work, and States must comply with article 43.12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding stipends. Further, the High Commissioner’s Office must work together with the treaty bodies to establish priorities and prepare forecasts for budgeting. He said he would be continuing as a member of the Committee.

Mr. Pedernera Reyna expressed his concerns about the scale of violence and wars in the world that was affecting children and highlighted the escalation of violence in the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, in particular because the number of children injured and killed was alarming. Attacks that counted children among their victims were unacceptable. They were a crime as nothing justified the murder and injury of children. Children were not collateral damage, they were innocent victims. He pleaded with States for peace and for the children, who were always amongst victims of wars and repression. They needed a world without violence.

Mr. Pedernera Reyna then invited four new Committee Experts to make their solemn declaration. They were Rinchen Chopel (Bhutan), Sopio Kiladze (Georgia), Zara Ratou (Chad), and Benoit Van Keirsbilck (Belgium).

The Committee then elected its new Chair and Bureau. Mikiko Otani (Japan) was elected as Chair of the Committee. The Vice-Chairs were Velina Todorova (Bulgaria), Philip Jaffé (Switzerland), Hynd Ayoubi Idrissi (Morocco) and Faith Marshall-Harris (Barbados).

MIKIKO OTANI, Incoming Committee Chairperson, said the suspension of in-person meetings had resulted in the loss of more than 200 meeting hours. Country reviews were coming up and the Committee Members stood ready to do their best in the interest of children. The Committee’s priorities would be child marriage, child soldiers, child labour, and children and climate change. In all these areas, children must be provided remedy where their rights were violated.

Ms. Otani said that taking into account that no in-person meetings would be held during this session owing to the restrictions required by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and that the Committee could not review more than two States parties online because of time limitations, the Committee was amending the provisional agenda for the session and would review two reports, the fifth and sixth periodic report of Luxembourg and the fourth to sixth periodic report of Tunisia, both under the Convention. The Committee would continue its discussion on issues related to its methods of work, including how to address the increasing backlog of submitted reports. The next Day of General Discussion would focus on the rights of children in alternative care and would be held over two half days, on 16 and 17 September 2021, during the eighty-eighth session of the Committee, which would take place from 6 to 24 September 2021, hopefully at the Palais Wilson.

The Committee then adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/fr/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/05/committee-rights-child-opens-online-eighty-seventh-session

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