BURKINA FASO: Children's Rights in the UN Special Procedures' Reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.


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Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson


Country visit: 8 to 12 April 2013
Report published: 4 January 2014

  • I. Context of the visit - A. General political background:
  • Despite the apparent geographical vulnerability of Burkina Faso, to date it has not suffered from serious internal armed conflict or acts of terrorism. All those who spoke to the Special Rapporteur ascribed that to the country’s long history of promoting interfaith tolerance and dialogue, a tradition which is described as a part of the national consciousness. The rate of interfaith and inter-ethnic marriage is high, and it is common for children of one faith to be educated in schools run by religious organizations other than their own. (para 8)
  • III. Conditions conducive to counter-terrorism: challenges faced by Burkina Faso - B. Internal threats - 2. Freedom of religion and religious tolerance:
  • Violations of human rights, including freedom of religion and infringements of religious tolerance, are recognized as conditions conducive to terrorism [...] The Special Rapporteur was informed of some minor, but unprecedented, incidents that some people have suggested are early warning signs, pointing to the emergence of religious intolerance in some sections of society. Examples given to the Special Rapporteur included [...] an incident in which a number of Muslim families removed their children from a Christian school in protest at the introduction into the school uniform of a cross as a religious emblem. (para 35)
  • 3. Detention:
  • The Special Rapporteur was informed during his visit that the facility currently houses 1,281 prisoners, including adult males and females and juveniles. [...] The Special Rapporteur found the sanitation to be extremely poor and the fabric of the prison was in an observably poor state of disrepair. During his visit, the Special Rapporteur heard that there was an almost total absence of medication for the treatment of infections or diseases which, in view of the overcrowding and poor sanitation, were commonplace. The medical infirmary was an empty building, without medical staff or equipment, and senior prison staff expressed grave concerns about the health implications for prisoners. The prison had reportedly only one functioning pickup truck for transporting prisoners to court or hospital, which was on loan from the Ministry of Justice. The authorities depended heavily on Catholic and other religious charities for donations and support to run even the most basic of services. The Special Rapporteur was informed during his visit that the conditions in the Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction de Ouagadougou were typical of most prisons in Burkina Faso. He considers the conditions of detention to amount to inhuman and degrading treatment and stresses the imperative need for urgent action. (para 46)

Visits agreed or under consideration

  • (A) WG on arbitrary detention (April 2011)


Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights


Country visit: 23 - 27 April 2007

No mention of children's rights.


Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants


Country visit: 2-9 February 2005
Report published: 5 January 2006

The Special Rapporteur visited Burkina Faso to assess the general situation of migrants and that of migrants repatriated from Cote d'Ivoire in particular following the outbreak of violence there.

  • Children returned from the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire. The humanitarian operation provided first aid to the returnees, who were initially received in five reception centres set up in the country, then at transit sites. The Bayiri operation provided food aid and emergency relief (especially the vaccination of children). Many children were in a poor state of health when they returned, as the proportion of those vaccinated was relatively low. Many Burkina Faso nationals have either lost or been deprived of their identity documents, some of which, for instance, were burnt on their way back from Côte d'Ivoire.. The local authorities of Ouahigouya told the Special Rapporteur that they were awaiting instructions from the central administration on how to settle this kind of problem. In this respect the Government reports that the administration has provided guidance regarding the restoration of civil status documents, such as the birth certificates of children born in Côte d'Ivoire, so as to enable them to gain admittance to the school system in Burkina Faso. (paragraph 41)
  • Malnutrition. In the course of her meetings with civil society, the Special Rapporteur gathered many testimonies of the precarious situation of returnees. Women and children, for instance, are those most affected by malnutrition. "The children go to school without food", the representatives of civil society in Ouahigouya told the Special Rapporteur. Many returnees have arrived back in Burkina Faso in a very poor state of health, the most vulnerable groups being women and children (with several cases of measles and meningitis). Readmission in schools is also a problem, especially for children who have no papers, since in order to be admitted they require a birth certificate. Repatriated children often do not have such a document, however, besides which school fees often constitute an insurmountable obstacle. Further dangers arise from overcrowding in classrooms and a lack of infrastructures. "The children are practically sitting on the floor", the local authorities of the province of Banfora told the Special Rapporteur. (paragraphs 61, 63, 65)

    The problems of schooling have already been mentioned. A further point in this connection is the more general problem of the need to adapt or readapt to a different sociocultural situation, which is in most cases unknown, since the repatriated children have never lived in their country of origin. Despite the many expressions of solidarity towards returnees which the Special Rapporteur received from the people she interviewed, there are still remaining tensions between the local communities and returnees, which give rise to many obstacles to their socio-economic integration. (paragraphs 73, 74)

  • Separation from parents. Children account for about a third of the people repatriated from Côte d'Ivoire. Children are often denied their most fundamental rights. In 1996 an estimated three million migrants from Burkina Faso resided in Cote d'Ivoire. In 2003, 350,000 Burkina Faso nationals returned home. Many repatriated children suffer the effects of family disintegration when one or both of their parents returns to Cote d'Ivoire, and sometimes have no relatives to look after them. Re-admission in schools can be problematic for children who do not have personal documents because admission requires a birth certificate. (paragraphs 72, 73)
  • Child trafficking and migration. Authorities such as the Ministry of the Interior and representatives of civil society interviewed by the Special Rapporteur mentioned child trafficking as one of the major problems affecting Burkina Faso. The Special Rapporteur found that it is common for people to want to leave their families to "seek a better life" elsewhere.

    Burkina Faso is a country of origin, of transit and of destination. As a country of destination, it chiefly takes in child workers from south-eastern Mali, who take up domestic service in Burkina Faso. As far as child trafficking to other countries is concerned, the main destinations are Côte d'Ivoire and to a lesser extent Benin, Nigeria and Ghana. Some 9.5 per cent of children between six and 17 years old do not live with their parents. Of these, 29 per cent live abroad, for the most part in Cote d'Ivoire where boys work mainly on plantations in conditions of forced labour, and girls work in domestic service.

    These children work mainly in the primary sector (agriculture) and secondary sector (domestic service in the case of girls). There is also a widespread tradition of placing children with Koranic teachers. (paragraphs 75-78)

  • Poverty and abuse. The Koranic teachers are known as "marabouts" and the children "talibes", students of God, or pejoratively "garibouts". Most of the time the parents entrust their children to Koranic teachers as a result of conditions of extreme poverty, in the belief that this might give them the opportunity to receive some education. The talibes have to gather a minimum amount of money, which they must hand over to the marabout or be punished. They beg or do odd jobs in small trade, catering or agriculture. They are easy to recognise because they wear white hats and carry five-kilo tomato tins, which they use as begging bowls throughout the day. The talibes themselves describe their living conditions as miserable: they are not sufficiently fed; the marabouts ill-treat them and they have to spend their whole day begging. (paragraph 79)
  • Child labour. Many children work on the plantations of Côte d'Ivoire. Working conditions vary from region to region but are often akin to forced labour.

    Girls leave their families mainly to take up domestic service. This is either internal migration (from the countryside to the towns) or from neighbouring countries like Mali.

    For instance, in the province of Sourou in the north-west of the country, most children leave the villages to go and work in towns, either in Ouagadougou or in Bobo-Dioulasso. Young girls tend to leave home for the first time when they are between 10 and 12 years old, and more girls tend to leave home than boys. Most children take their own decision to leave. Most of them have had no schooling before they go. Many parents agree to their decision. There is a minority, however, who are not keen to leave the village. They are often persuaded to do so by pressure from the parents, especially the mother, or they are influenced by friends who have already left or are preparing to leave. Girls employed in domestic service face considerable risks of exploitation. Many girls give accounts of being subjected to physical, psychological or sexual abuse. Besides the children's physical integrity, some of their fundamental rights are also disregarded, on account of being made to work too early, being exposed to harsh living conditions, etc. The problem of education is ever-present too; in the towns, children who work do not attend school.

    Thanks to the coordination provided by the Ministry for Social Action and National Solidarity, the government of Burkina Faso has set up 73 local watchdog committees in the country, made up of various members of the local community, such as administrative and religious authorities, local associations and non-governmental organisations, and unions of bus drivers and truck drivers. The establishment of these watchdog committees is very helpful in creating awareness among local communities of the phenomenon of child trafficking and of its underlying causes. For instance, in 2004 watchdog committees in the region of Ouahigouya intercepted some 100 children who had been trafficked. These were mainly children on their way to Mali to live with Koranic teachers.

    Despite the positive results achieved by such committees, however, the Special Rapporteur recommends that these individual measures should be backed up by more thorough structural actions in order to make a real impact on the problem. (paragraphs 80-84)


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