Committee on the Rights of the Child

What is it? 

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the UN body responsible for ensuring children can enjoy their human rights and live with dignity, respect and equality.

It is a body of independent experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (the Committee is established under articles 43, 44 and 45) and its Optional Protocols - children in armed conflict; the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; establishing an international complaints procedure for violations of children’s rights.

Other treaties have similar monitoring bodies– for example the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) was set up to enforce and monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Human Rights Committee does the same for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). See more on these other treaty bodies.

What does it do?

The Committees works on a number of different areas. These include:

Examine the children’s rights situation in countries

The Committee meets in Geneva and normally holds three sessions per year, for a period of three weeks in January, May-June and September. At each session, the Committee examines reports from approximately 10 State Parties, discusses issues in plenary with government delegations and issues concluding observations on how well each State under review adheres to the rights in the Convention.

All State parties that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child have to submit regular reports to the Committee on how children’s rights are being implemented in their country. States must report initially two years after they become party to the Convention and then every five years after that. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State Party through "concluding observations".

The Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), in cooperation with NGOs and host governments, occasionally organises regional and sub-regional workshops to follow up on implementation of the Committee’s and other treaty bodies’ concluding observations. CRC workshops have been held in Damascus (Syria), Bangkok (Thailand), Doha (Qatar), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Suva (Fiji) and San José (Costa Rica), and recommendations have been issued to the regions concerned.

The Committee also examines those reports from States who have ratified the Optional Protocols to the Convention on sale of children, children prostitution and child pornography; and children in armed conflict. (NB: There is also an Optional Protocol establishing a complaints mechanism.)

At its first session, in October 1991, the Committee adopted guidelines for State parties when they write initial reports.

As part of the Committee’s review of a State, NGOs can submit alternative reports to give the Committee a different perspective and information on what’s happening on the ground. This is a great way for advocates to get children’s rights issues under the UN spotlight and put pressure on governments.

All Alternative Reports are made available on the CRIN library.

Child Rights Connect gives advice and assistance to NGOs wanting to submit an alternative report.

How do the CRC reviews work? 

A working group of the Committee meets prior to each Committee session for a preliminary examination of reports received from States Parties, and to prepare the Committee's discussions with the representatives of reporting States. They meet with UN agencies and bodies, as well as some NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions who have submitted information.

The end result of this pre-session is a "list of issues" that the CRC will examine the State on during its review. The list of issues is intended to give the government a preliminary indication of the issues which the Committee considers to be priorities for discussion. It also gives the Committee the opportunity to request additional or updated information in writing from the government prior to the session. This approach gives governments the opportunity better to prepare themselves for the discussion with the Committee, which usually takes place between three and four months after the working group. For more information read the Committee's Rules of Procedure.

Complaints mechanism 

As noted above, the Committee will soon be able to hear complaints about violations of children’s rights submitted under the newest Optional Protocol to the Convention. CRIN has produced a guide to the CRC complaints mechanism for children’s rights advocates, on how to best make use of this mechanism, as well as a comparison of how it compares to similar mechanisms under other human rights treaties.

General Comments 

The Committee occasionally publishes its interpretation of provisions of the Convention in the form of General Comments, sometimes following a Day of General Discussion debate. These are important as they are the Committee’s latest thinking on a particular right, and allow the Convention on the Rights of the Child to evolve.

Days of General Discussion

Once a year, at its September session, the Committee holds a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on a provision of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in order to issue more detailed recommendations to governments. Each year, children, NGOs and experts are invited to submit documents to inform the Committee's one-day debate with stakeholders (UN agencies, Committee Members, NGOs, academics, lawyers, children, etc). All submitted documents are posted on the CRIN library.

Report to the UN General Assembly

Once a year, the Committee submits a report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, which also hears a statement from the CRC Chair. The General Assembly then adopts a resolution on the rights of the child. You can find all the resolutions in CRIN library.