Children's Rights at the United Nations 104

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26 September 2013, issue 104 view online | subscribe | submit information


September at the UN

In this issue:

To view this CRINmail online, click here.


The UN is certainly back in full swing after the summer break. The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Council, General Assembly and more are in session, producing a lot of content. As always, we give you a snapshot of the main themes for children’s rights to come out of the discussions and preview what’s coming up next.

Happy reading! And as always, if you’ve got any feedback please email us at [email protected].

Best wishes,

The CRIN team


Complaints mechanism update- closer to reality!

Portugal and Montenegro have become the seventh and eight States to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a complaints procedure.  They now join the ranks of Thailand, Gabon, Bolivia, Germany, Spain and Albania. We are still two ratifications away from the mechanism’s entry into force. Forty-one other States have signed the Optional Protocol, including Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Seychelles, which all became signatories this week.

OP3 guidance

Last week the office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children launched a child-friendly guide to the CRC’s complaints procedure entitled ‘Raising Understanding among Children and Young People on the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure’. The guide aims to raise children’s awareness about their rights and enhance their confidence to speak up and seek support.

CRIN has produced a toolkit explaining how the complaints procedure works, and includes an annotated guide, as well as a comparative guide to other international communications procedures of the UN. The toolkit is available in Arabic, English, French and Russian.

Universal ratification push for children’s rights

An event to encourage States to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three Optional Protocols was held at UN Headquarters in New York this week, with a second round to follow on 30 September - 1 October.  For further information:


Committee on the Rights of the Child 64th Session (16 September - 4 October): Review so far

Nine States, including China, Kuwait, Paraguay, Lithuania, Moldova, Luxembourg, Monaco, Tuvalu, and Sao Tao and Principe are currently being reviewed by the Committee in Geneva.

You can follow our coverage on our 64th session page for daily updates from the session and a list of all NGO alternative reports. A full round-up will be available in next month’s CRINmail once the Concluding Observations and other outcomes are issued.

In brief:

On Kuwait,  Committee Members raised issues such as early marriage, the situation of “Bidoun” (stateless) children and their access to education and healthcare, care for children with disabilities and violence against children.

When reviewing Lithuania, the Committee expressed concern about the lack of legislation expressly prohibiting corporal punishment in all settings, the need for additional funding allocated to the Ombudsman’s Office, and the absence of an integrated child welfare policy across government departments. The Committee also questioned the system of 'baby boxes' where parents can abandon a newborn child, saying it should be replaced with the provision of better support, contraception and better education to young pregnant women.

Also during the session, the Committee will continue its work on the draft joint General Comment on harmful practices, which is being developed with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.



Human Rights Council - 24th Session

The 24th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) started in Geneva on 9 September and will finish tomorrow (27 September). Only draft resolutions have been produced so far, and we have included a summary of these below, along with some key children’s rights themes that came through in the discussions. You can find all these draft resolutions here. We will post the final resolutions on our session page once they are published.  

Mixed news for juvenile justice

A draft resolution on “Human rights in the administration of justice, including juvenile justice” is currently before the Human Rights Council. The draft text is very detailed and contains some positive references for juvenile justice. For instance, it calls on States to not discriminate against children when deciding whether something is a ‘crime’ (i.e. States should not make something a ‘crime’ just because it’s ‘committed’ by someone under 18). It also urges States to treat child victims of human trafficking forced into illegal activities (e.g. prostitution, drug production and distribution) as victims not criminals.

However, we are concerned about two aspects of the draft text:

  • It says that States should ensure the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) is at least 12 years. While there are many States with very low MACR (some well below 12), referring specifically to this arbitrary age within childhood risks implying that it is an appropriate age at which to hold people criminally responsible, which it is not. This risks causing States with MACRs above 12 to consider lowering them. We remind the Council that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the articles on children in conflict with the law, apply to all persons below 18 years. Click here to read CRIN’s paper, Stop Making Children Criminals.

  • We are pleased to see the draft says that no child should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment. There is also a reference urging States to prevent all forms of violence against children in the justice system, which could be taken to include sentences of corporal punishment. However, the explicit condemnation of inhuman sentences against children should extend to corporal punishment. Click here for our campaign to stop the inhuman sentencing of children.

UN ignores children’s civil and political rights

There are two important draft resolutions before the HRC at the moment concerning civil and political rights.

The draft resolution on “Civil society space: creating and maintaining, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling environment” contains some strong language around the importance of civil society for advancing human rights. The HRC states that it is “deeply concerned” about moves in some countries to hinder the work of NGOs, making particular reference to use of funding laws (which countries including Russia and Egypt have used to clamp down on NGOs receiving foreign funding). The draft resolution on “the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association” refers to the importance of the Internet and other new communications technologies in advancing these rights.

We are disappointed that neither of these resolutions make specific reference to children, particularly given the significant participation of children in recent protests from Cairo to Sao Paulo, and the fact that today’s children are the first generation to grow up with the Internet.

We remind the HRC that children are entitled to all their human rights, including civil and political rights, not because they are the “the future” or “the adults of tomorrow”, but because they are human beings today. Children’s participation in civil society and their rights to freedom of assembly and association need particular attention, and not just in terms of protecting children during protests - but helping to encourage them to take an active part in their communities.

More on civil society at the UN:

  • The UN Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Aldred de Zayas, delivered his report to the HRC and urged Governments worldwide to provide and create support to civil society’s voices including “whistleblowers”.

  • States are failing in their duty to protect human rights defenders, according to a new report launched by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) during the HRC’s 24th session. The report focuses on reprisals against human rights defenders for promoting human rights and exposing violations at the UN. Click here for ISHR’s press release and full text of the report.

Child marriage

We are pleased to see a draft resolution from the HRC on “Strengthening efforts to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage: challenges, achievements, best practices and implementation gaps.” The draft recognises that the practice is not only a violation of children’s rights but has “adverse consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, such as the right to education, the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health, and the right to be free from all forms of violence”.

Early marriage is among many harmful practices against children that are based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition, as detailed in this report by the International NGO Council on Violence against Children.

"Unspeakable atrocities” in North Korea, says UN inquiry

Personal testimony of survivors of human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) has revealed widespread and serious violations, said the Chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the DPRK, Michael Kirby, during the Human Rights Council’s 24th session earlier this month.

The DPRK prevented the Commission from entering the country, forcing it to conduct its investigations in Seoul and Tokyo with survivors who have fled the DPRK. The regime says it totally rejects the Commission’s oral statement, attacking the testimony as ‘slander’ against the DPRK put forward by ‘human scum’.

After the Commission completed its mission in Seoul last month, Kirby stated that “the specificity, detail and shocking character of much of the testimony appears to call for a response from the international community. In the contemporary world, it is not good enough to produce just another UN report.” The Commission will give an oral briefing to the UN General Assembly in New York next month before delivering its final report next year.

Latest UN Syria report details horrific children’s rights violations 

Children in Syria are being executed by both Government and opposition forces. They are being killed by Government aerial bombardments and indiscriminate shelling by opposition forces, and both sides of the conflict continue to recruit children into armed forced and subject them to detention, torture and beatings. These are the latest findings regarding children from the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, detailed in a report presented to the Human Rights Council last week during its 24th session by Paulo Pinheiro, the Commission’s Chairperson.

In other news about the Syrian conflict, UN chemical weapons experts returned to the country to complete their investigation this week. Last month the experts found “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in an incident on 21 August in the Ghouta area on the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of people, including children, were killed.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), during its 10th session (2-13 September), warned that the conflict in Syria is resulting in gross violations of disabled people’s rights and they need to be afforded much greater protection. “Living in the midst of conflict is physically and emotionally distressing, but all the more so for persons with disabilities who face the same if not greater barriers in times of armed conflict”, said the Committee, before adding that disabled people “are too often the forgotten victims of conflict.”



New UN report on violence against children

“For countless children, life is defined by one word: fear”, says the Special Representative to the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, in her latest report published this week. The report details some of the progress made in preventing violence against children as well as the challenges, including banning corporal punishment in all settings. It also mentions a new study over the coming months on violence against children and the Internet.

The report, which will be presented to the General Assembly on 16 October, also includes ideas on juvenile justice, namely the concept of “restorative justice”. This approach focuses on peaceful conflict resolution and healing, rather than simply punishing children. Ms Pais will hold a side event at the General Assembly in October to present a report of an expert meeting she held on restorative justice in Bali. The International NGO Council on Violence against Children will also be launching a new report at the General Assembly entitled: ‘Creating a Non-Violent Juvenile Justice System’. Further information to follow.


 Your chance to contribute!

- Special Procedure appointments in 2014

A host of special procedure mandates are up for grabs next year.

How does the process work?

Individuals with the relevant expertise apply for the various positions, then a Consultative Group (a group of States selected each year) shortlist applications and forward their recommendations to the President of the Human Rights Council. The President in turn selects one of the candidates and the Council approves or rejects the choice. Read more about the process here.

This gives the children’s rights community an opportunity to nominate - and lobby their governments to vote for - candidates with a background and interest in children’s rights. The key ones for children’s rights include:

  • Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

  • Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children

  • Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights defenders

  • Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

  • Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

- View the full list

The deadline for individual applications is Thursday 31st October. More details on the application process can be found here.

As part of our efforts to position children’s rights on the broader human rights agenda, CRIN monitors the appointment processes for top UN jobs. Click here for more on our transparency campaign.


Call for contributions - extreme poverty and human rights

As children largely cannot vote, it’s vital that governments think about children and their rights when making decisions on the allocation of resources. The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, is inviting civil society organisations to submit contributions on the human rights impact of government fiscal and tax policy. In particular, she welcomes research studies or reports examining how such policies impact the human rights of persons living in poverty.  Click here for more details, including the questionnaire.



Upcoming events and advocacy opportunities

1) Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are among the 15  States set to be reviewed at the 17th session of the UPR (21 October - 1 November). After boycotting their review back in January, Israel are set to be examined during the session.

Report adoptions

At the current session of the Human Rights Council, 14 States reviewed back in February 2009 had their reports adopted, including Russia, Germany and Bangladesh. Find out what was said, here.


The Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN became the latest civil society organisation to submit a mid-term report on the UPR. Read what they had to say on the progress India is making, in this report: “Tracking implementation: A monitoring tool for recommendations from the UN’s UPR for India


2) Special Procedure country visits

The following visits are due to take place over the coming weeks:

  • Special Rapporteur (SR) on truth to visit Uruguay (30 September - 4 October)

  • SR on human rights defenders  to Togo ( 7 – 11 October)

  • SR on indigenous peoples to Canada  (12 – 20 October)

  • Working group (WG) on discrimination against women to Chile (21 – 31 October)

N.B. The WG on Business and Human Rights’ visit to Russia - scheduled from  30 September to 9 October- has been postponed. The new dates are yet to be agreed.

For all the latest news on children’s rights and business, you can read the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s quarterly bulletin, here.

How to engage with Special Rapporteurs

With their visits to countries and meetings with a range of people, Special Rapporteurs can provide advocates with an important opportunity to get their issues on the human rights agenda. Find out how you can engage with them, here.

3) UN treaty bodies


The Human Rights Council’s expert group on discrimination against women in law and practice will hold its 8th session from 30 September – 4 October in Geneva. The working group is currently seeking inputs into its 2014 report to the HRC on good practices in the elimination of discrimination against women in economic and social life. There is no specific deadline. You can find more information here.


CEDAW will hold its 56th session from 30 September – 18 October, in Geneva. Click here for the provisional agenda and States under review.

The pre-sessional working group for the 58th session, where the Committee will identify issues to be raised with States under review (including the Central African Republic, India and the Syrian Arab Republic), will be held from 21 – 25 October. More here.


The 109th session of the Human Rights Committee will take place in Geneva from 14 October – 1 November. The deadline has passed for submitting NGO reports, but you can follow children’s rights developments here.


The 51st session of the Committee Against Torture will be held in Geneva from 28 October – 22 November. Click here for the programme of work and list of countries under review.


4) General Assembly 68th Session

The 68th session of the General Assembly is underway in New York. Human rights, including children’s rights, are reviewed under the Third Committee. CRIN will be covering the key issues related to children’s rights on our General Assembly page, and you can find the agenda for the session  here.

During last year’s session, sexual orientation and gender identity were included for the first time in a resolution condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and the mandate of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) on Violence Against Children was extended by three years.  Click here for more outcomes for children’s rights.

  • Read more about children’s rights at the General Assembly here.

  • Visit the webpage of the General Assembly here.



Useful Contacts and Resources

Useful Resources

Contacts and Organisations

As always, you can keep up to date with all our coverage of children’s rights at the UN by clicking on the following links:

If you have any feedback on our new CRINMAIL, please write to us at [email protected].



We think of the testimony of a young man, imprisoned from birth and living on rodents, lizards and grass to survive and witnessing the public execution of his mother and brother.

We think of the testimony of a woman, whose husband is presumed to have been abducted or taken as a prisoner of war in 1951 and who has had no response as to his whereabouts. ‘To lose a partner is like losing an arm. Every day I wish I could throw myself on his person and embrace him’, she told us.

We think of the testimony of a young woman, forcibly repatriated and imprisoned for leaving the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, describing how she witnessed a female prisoner forced to drown her own baby in a bucket.

We think of the testimony of a man who was obliged to help load the many corpses of prisoners who died of starvation, put them in a pot and burn them, scattering their ashes and remains on the nearby vegetation fields.

We think of the parents of a young abduction victim from Japan who appealed to the Supreme Leader: ‘You have a family (…) and you know how important is family love. Tell us where our daughter is. Is she alive? Is she happy? Is she dead?’
Michael Kirby, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, relaying to the UN Human Rights Council accounts of witness testimony from people who have suffered in North Korea. Click here for his full oral statement. 

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