Children's Rights at the United Nations 154

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31 May 2016 subscribe | subscribe | submit information
  • CRINmail 154:

    In this issue:


    UN Security Council elections

    For the first time in the UN’s history, countries competing for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council participated in an open debate. The Security Council, the UN body charged with maintaining global peace and security, is in urgent need of reform  to become more  transparent, efficient and effective. The World Federation of UN Associations, mandated with strengthening and improving the working of the UN, has led efforts to ensure election debates are held. So far, two debates have taken place, one for States in the Asia-Pacific Group, the other for States of the Western Europe and Other Group.


    World Humanitarian Summit 2016

    The first ever World Humanitarian Summit took place in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May. Pledges made at the summit include the creation of an education fund to raise $3.8 billion for emergency schooling, a "grand bargain"between major donors and agencies to administer aid more efficiently, a charter committing States not to discriminate against people with disabilities in humanitarian action, and a call to strengthen the role of regional inter-governmental organisations. However, a better deal for refugees failed to materialise and UN reform - of the Security Council in particular - did not receive adequate attention. Critics of the Summit argued that the lack of a binding agreement made it toothless and highlighted the failure to clarify how the pledges will be taken forward. Furthermore, the absence of many heads of Governments, including the leaders of the UN Security Council's permanent members disappointed many at the Summit.

    You can read the Chair’s summary of the Summit.


    International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

    On this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, a group of UN human rights experts called for an end to the pathologisation of sexuality and gender identity. On 17 May, they asserted that being LGBT should be as “part of the rich diversity of human nature”, while warning that treating non-heteronormative sexualities and gender identities as abnormal, especially within the medical profession, is used to justify forcing or coercing LGBT people of all ages to undergo practices such as psychiatric evaluations, hormone therapy and sterilisation.

    The theme of this year’s day was mental health and wellbeing. As such, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) recalled that it was only 26 years ago that the World Health Organization (WHO) declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder – ending the myth that being gay is a disorder or something that requires a ‘cure’ – and underlined that many LGBTI people continue to face enormous daily challenges, sometimes living in fear, in isolation and out of reach of life-saving health services. In a landmark special statement in 2016, the World Psychiatric Association strongly condemned any attempt to conflate homosexuality with a mental disorder. All too often, however, medical professionals continue to considerTrans identities to be linked to mental disorders.


    Special procedures update

    Right to health of adolescents

    The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health published his annual report on the right to health of adolescents, ahead of the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council. The report focuses on mental health, substance use and drug control, and the rights to sexual and reproductive health of adolescents (defined as 10 to 19 years of age).

    Recommendations to States include the need to:

    - Decriminalise abortion and guarantee all adolescents access to confidential, adolescent-responsive and non-discriminatory sexual and reproductive health information, services and goods [...]

    - Close without delay all drug detention centres for adolescents, ensure the provision of prevention, harm reduction and dependence treatment services, without discrimination, and allocate a budget sufficient for the progressive realisation of the right to health.

    -Remove all legal barriers to health facilities, goods and services, such as consent laws that unduly infringe upon the rights of adolescents to be heard and to be taken seriously and, ultimately, upon their right to make autonomous decisions.

    - Ensure that health services are delivered in such a way as to respect adolescents’ rights to privacy and confidentiality, address their different cultural needs and expectations and comply with ethical standards.


    Country visits 

    Human rights of migrants

    The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, expressed deep concern about undocumented migrants in Angola, asylum seekers and refugees who have come under continuous harassment and intimidation by the police, are regularly arrested and arbitrarily detained in large numbers, including pregnant women and children. Crépeau welcomed the country's efforts to renovate the civil registry system and emphasised that it should include all migrants. He stated that “All children born in Angola should be issued with a birth certificate, regardless of their status and without indication of nationality. Birth registration is fundamental to the protection of migrant children and prevents statelessness.”

    During his visit to Greece, the Special Rapporteur stressed that the border closures, coupled with the new EU-Turkey agreement, have exponentially increased the number of irregular migrants in the country. He highlighted the problems facing the increasing number of unaccompanied children and the plight of children being held in immigrant detention centres stressing that “detention can never ever be in the best interests of a child.”


    Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

    In his visit to Argentina, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intoleranceaddressed the situation of numerous minority groups. In particular he highlighted the limitations of the attempt to implement a multicultural bilingual education system, noting that the lack of training of teachers assigned to interact with indigenous communities, and the few indigenous teachers has resulted in stigmatisation and bias against indigenous children in schools. Mr. Ruteere found that “as elsewhere in the world, discriminatory practices in the country have often targeted the poor and, in effect, the most vulnerable who belong to minority groups including indigenous peoples, Afro-Argentines, and migrant communities.”


    Right to health

    Following a visit to Algeria, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health Dainius Pūras, noted that health services for adolescents remain inadequate and do not respond to their needs, in particular those related to sexuality and access to comprehensive age-sensitive sexual and reproductive health education and information. The health sector in Algeria has been developed with a focus on guaranteeing free access to health care, however, he noted that  “... there are important challenges regarding equitable access to and quality of services, and an excessive emphasis on hospital care to the detriment of primary care, health promotion and prevention”. He also looked into the situation of children with disabilities and the mental health care system, and commended state initiatives to develop modern mental health services for both children and adults.

    Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, water and sanitation, and housing

    In their visit to the US, the Special Rapporteurs on extreme poverty, on water and sanitation and on housing stated their continuing concern about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the long lasting impact this will have on its residents, especially children. Lead poisoning has impaired the health of thousands of people, particularly children, and the psychological impact of the crisis has been severe. “The Flint case dramatically illustrates the suffering and difficulties that flow from failing to recognize that water is a human right, from failing to ensure that essential services are provided in a non-discriminatory manner, and from treating those who live in poverty in ways that exacerbate their plight,” said the UN experts.


    More information:

    Nomination, Selection and Appointment of Mandate Holders

    Regularly updated calendar about Special Procedure visits.


    Treaty bodies


    The Committee on the Rights of the Child opened its 72nd session on 17 May. The session will continue until 3 June while the Committee reviews the record of eight countries: Samoa, Nepal, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Pakistan, Gabon, Bulgaria and Luxembourg.

    Discrimination against Roma children, discrimination and exclusion of children with disabilities and the slow rate of juvenile justice reform were raised during Bulgaria’s review.

    Intolerance and violence towards minority children and Muslim refugees and the legality of corporal punishment in all settings were discussed during Slovakia’s review.  

    The Committee expressed concern about the practice of corporal punishment in all settings, despite the legal prohibition in the criminal system and in schools and the allegations of sexual abuse by Gabonese troops which served as the United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic during Gabon’s review.

    The legality of the death penalty, and the execution of five children in 2015 as well as reports of torture and ill-treatment of children in police custody were on the agenda in Pakistan’s review

    Since the previous session in January, Guinea has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, bringing the total number of ratifications to 163, while Samoa and the United Arab Emirates ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which has now been ratified by 173 States. Italy, Luxembourg and Samoa have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on a communications procedure, bringing the total number of ratifications to 27.



    The Committee on Migrant Workers reviewed four States’ compliance with the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families during its 24th Session from 11 to 22 April.

    Lesotho was urged to introduce appropriate measures to facilitate family reunification of migrant workers and members of their families; adopt a comprehensive strategy to promote and protect the rights of children and families of Basotho migrant workers who are left behind in Lesotho; and strengthen mechanisms for investigating cases of child labour, trafficking in persons and prosecuting and punishing offenders.

    Turkey was urged to guarantee the human rights of all migrant children in transit and ensure that they are treated first and foremost as children and, in that regard, provide guidance on how the principle of the best interests of the child is implemented for migrant children in transit. Turkey was also urged to increase labour inspections and prosecute, punish and sanction persons or groups exploiting child migrant workers or subjecting them to forced labour and abuse, especially in the informal economy.

    CRIN will soon publish extracts from the reviews of Mauritania and Senegal.



    The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) reviewed seven States’ compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during its 15th session.

    Lithuania was urged to establish inclusive and accessible support services to women and girls who have experienced  violence, exploitation and abuse; adopt a moratorium on new admissions of children into institutionalised care; and adopt and implement a coherent strategy on inclusive education in the mainstream educational system.

    Portugal was urged to ensure consultations with children with disabilities and with the organisations representing them on all issues affecting them, and that they are given disability- and age-appropriate support; facilitate access and enjoyment of a quality inclusive education for all students with disabilities; and take measures to minimise the impact of austerity measures on children with disabilities.

    Serbia was urged to strengthen its efforts to deinstitutionalise children, in particular those with intellectual and/or psycho-social disabilities, to prevent any new institutionalisation of infants under the age of three, and to ensure a more efficient transition of children from institutions into families. The Committee was concerned that the Law on the Protection of Persons with Mental Disabilities provides for involuntary hospitalisation and forced institutionalisation of children and adults with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities.

    Slovakia was urged to introduce an action plan to ensure the full deinstitutionalisation of children with disabilities from all residential services and their transition from institutions into the community; and ensure that due diligence is applied in all cases of violence and abuse of persons with disabilities, particularly women, girls, boys and older persons.

    Thailand was urged to ensure that women and girls with disabilities can participate effectively in decision-making processes at all levels on matters that concern them directly; adopt a strategy to combat stereotypes against children with disabilities and prevent their abandonment; and take efficient measures to protect persons with disabilities, including women, girls and boys, from forced interventions, especially sterilisation and abortion.

    Uganda was urged to ensure the provision of individualised accessible information and communications technology and assistive technologies in education; enact legislation which prohibits the separation of children from their parents on the basis of the disability of either the child or one or both of the parents; and ensure registration of all children with disabilities at birth.


    UN Subcommittee for Prevention of Torture

    In presenting its preliminary observations to the Romanian authorities on how to strengthen the protection of persons deprived of their liberty against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Subcommittee for Prevention of Torture (SPT) stressed the rights violations facing children in detention. “The situation of detained people belonging to vulnerable groups, including children, young people aged 18 to 21, women, persons with mental and physical disabilities, elderly people and those from minorities requires very close attention and protection measures,” noted the Committee. The SPT monitors how States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are meeting their treaty obligations, including establishing an independent monitoring body known as a National Preventive Mechanism.


    Deadlines for submissions

    Committee on the Rights of the Child: 1 July for the review of Bhutan, Cameroon, Lebanon, Mongolia, Romania under the Convention on the Rights of the Child; Bhutan, Russian Federation, United States of America under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and Bhutan, United States of America under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

    Committee against Torture: 4 July for the review of Burundi, Cape Verde, Honduras, Kuwait and Mongolia; and 17 October for the review of Armenia, Ecuador, Finland, Monaco, Namibia, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan and the list of issues prior to reporting for Australia, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Montenegro, Sweden, Ukraine and United States of America.

    Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: 11 July for the review of Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Paraguay, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ukraine and the UK.

    Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: 10 June for the review of Albania, France, Mali, Myanmar, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey and Uruguay.


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    The President of the General Assembly has so far announced 10 candidates in the running to be the next UN Secretary-General. The 1 for 7 Billion campaign has published information on the candidates' backgrounds, statements and stated intentions, including about how they will work with civil society. The aim is to encourage a more open, transparent and inclusive selection process that involves civil society and encourages candidates to engage openly with civil society, the media and the wider public during the selection process and beyond. Read the full analysis here. 

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