On 17 June 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted the final draft optional protocol on a communications procedure for children’s rights violations crafted by an intergovernmental working group over ten days in December 2010 and February 2011. The new protocol will enable the Committee on the Rights of the Child to examine communications from children and their representatives alleging violations of their rights.
“We can only applaud this decision,” said Ms Anita Goh, Advocacy Officer of the NGO Group for the CRC coordinating the international campaign for the new mechanism. “Despite some regrettable omissions in the final text, such as the deletion of the collective communications procedure, this is a unique opportunity to translate into international law States’ commitments to protect and respect children’s rights.”
The UN Human Rights Council mandated the intergovernmental Group back in June 2009 to “explore the possibility” of drafting this new Optional Protocol. In March 2010, the Council extended the mandate of the Working Group for up to ten days to elaborate an optional protocol. “The new protocol sends a strong signal from the international community that children too, are rights holders and that they have the right to complain internationally when no effective remedies are available to them in their country,” said Ms Goh. “We will continue our work to ensure that the final text is adopted by the UN General Assembly this Autumn and look forward to the start of a new ratification campaign.”
The final draft Optional Protocol will be transmitted to the UN General Assembly for its final adoption in December 2011.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only core international human rights treaty that does not have a communications procedure. A coalition of over 80 international and national NGOs, supported by more than 600 organisations in all regions, has been actively lobbying for the establishment of this new mechanism since 2006. A complaints or “communications” procedure allows individuals, groups or their representatives, claiming that their rights have been violated by a State that is a party to a Convention, to bring a communication before the relevant UN Committee, provided that the State has accepted the procedure.
Global March Chairperson Kailash Satyarthi welcomed the announcement stating: “One of the central pillars of the Global March Against Child Labour is child participation and this is a fundamental right enshrined in the recommendation that accompanies ILO Convention No. 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labour – the right of working children to be consulted on issues that concern them directly. Therefore, we are fully supportive of this optional protocol and we call on all governments to ratify it as soon as possible.”
For background information on the international campaign, click here