1. Why do you want to stand for election?
I was awarded a PhD in children’s rights in 1998; the subject of my thesis was children’s rights in Morocco. I am now a children’s rights advocate. My work has included participating in the children’s rights development programme. When this was closed by the new government, I became a university teacher. In this capacity, I have conducted research and training for people in contact with children. My other experience includes working on the prevention of violence against women and children and following up on children rights issues such as the Yokohama conference which I participated in, as well as many other international events.
2. What do you feel you can achieve as a Committee member?
I have several ideas: first, I am looking for a networking and cooperation mechanism among all the UN treaty bodies. I want children’s rights to become a fact across all these treaty bodies. Second, I hope to establish a new reporting mechanism as these reports should only focus on results. There should be a way to activate the recommendations and comments that the Committee makes. It should also help the countries to implement their comments and recommendations.
3. Which area of children’s rights do you think needs more attention?
All children rights must get the same attention. No one can say that we ensured this right and we need to protect it; all children’s rights are moving backwards even in countries that have no political conflict.
4. Children continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty and the budget cuts states are making as a result of the financial crisis. How do you think the children's rights community can work more effectively to protect children's rights in this context?
Poverty and children’s rights are two complicated issues and we should refer to the CRC when talking about these. Countries, whether rich or poor, should do their best to protect children’s rights. Some countries might interpret that the wrong way as they consider themselves poor, but the CRC states that countries must do their best within their means and potential.
5. In our monitoring of children's rights issues, we have noticed a growing trend to restrict children's access to information. Some countries have laws banning the distribution of information about ‘non-traditional' sexual orientations to children; others routinely deny children access to information about sex, sexuality and health issues such as drug use. These restrictions are generally justified as being for ‘child protection’ purposes. What do you think about this and what more can be done to promote children’s access to information?
This is complicated because it raises several questions, first, children’s right to access information and second, the need to protect the child from the information itself. New technology could bring harm to the child. For example, a child could be sexually abused through websites. In addition, states must provide information for children after providing training for people who are responsible for providing this information.
Everything should be done with the best interests of the child in mind. Thus, information provided for children should be based on his or her best interests. Everyone is responsible for providing information to children and protecting them from harm.
6. In January 2012, the Committee reviewed the Holy See's record on children's rights, and in particular the widespread institutional sexual abuse of children. What more do you think can be done to protect children from sexual violence in religious institutions more generally?
Children are vulnerable to violence in any context especially religious institutions, because they do not provide protection for children. The solution for this, in my opinion, is that these religious institutions such as the Holy See must stop being silent about the abuse and provide protection for children. We should also teach children how to protect themselves.
7. There is a lot of talk about ensuring children's rights are addressed across all UN bodies. In reality, children's rights are still not addressed systematically across the board. What do you think can be done to better 'mainstream' children's rights and how do you think the Committee can help with this?
I noticed that the rights of some groups are neglected such as the rights of refugees or migrants. The Human Rights Council, the Universal Periodic Review and international civil society, etc. must do better in helping the Committee to protect children’s rights. Favouritism must be stopped, especially when reviewing countries.
8. If you were Chair of the Committee, what change would you make to how it works?
I think that 18 experts are not enough for reviewing reports, so it should be 23 instead of 18. Two groups should be created within the Committee: one for following up on law reform and the CRC; the other to follow up on policies and programmes planned. A reporting mechanism should be reconsidered. There should be mid-term reports and the Committee must consider States’ suggestions and help them fulfill their commitments to the CRC.
9. NGOs and independent human rights institutions do of course have opportunities to contribute to the review of State parties by the Committee. But how do you think the Committee can work more effectively with civil society, including national organisations, in its work to interpret areas of children's rights in the CRC?
Civil society must be involved more effectively in children rights. The Committee must meet with civil society organisations to discuss alternative reports. There should be a mechanism for the continuous communication between the Committee and CSOs.
10. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the only UN treaty body that lacks a follow-up procedure. If you were to develop such a procedure, what would it look like?
As I said before, there should be mid-term reports that would make it easy to follow up with the Committee. Optional protocols could also be used to communicate with the Committee about children’s rights violations.
11. Now that the complaints mechanism has entered into force, how do you think the Committee can help ensure that it is accessible to children?
Complaints mechanisms are the same as all mechanisms in that children are hard to reach. This mechanism doesn’t take into consideration that there are children in armed conflicts or children in detention who cannot reach the mechanism. In my opinion, it could be useful if civil society organisations play an intermediary role between children and the mechanism because children have more trust in these organisations.