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Print this pageHuman Rights Council: Urgent need for a communications procedure for the CRC




NGO Group for CRC Complaints Mechanism Working Group

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CRC News


Statement prepared by members of the NGO Group Working Group for the Complaints Mechanism under the UN CRC for the 10th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2009.

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The urgent need for a communications procedure for the Convention on the Rights of the Child

The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the most widely ratified of the core human rights instruments, by 193 States. Each of the CRC’s two Optional Protocols, on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the involvement of children in armed conflict has been ratified by more than 100 States.

The Convention is widely acknowledged to have made a substantial impact globally in asserting children’s status as individual people and rights-holders. However, the reporting procedure and the concluding observations on States’ reports issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child reveal persisting grave breaches of the full range of children’s civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

As the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasises in its General Comment No. 5 on general measures for implementation of the CRC: “[f]or rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations”. The Committee goes on to emphasise that “[c]hildren’s special and dependent status creates real difficulties for them in pursuing remedies for breaches of their rights…”.

The CRC is a legal instrument, placing legal obligations on the States which ratify it. Ensuring the recognition and realization of children’s rights demands that children and their representatives must have effective remedies to challenge breaches of the full range of their rights. When States fail to provide such remedies at the national level, children and their representatives need to be able to hold States accountable for their obligations.

An Optional Protocol providing a communications procedure under the new Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities was adopted at the same time as the Convention, and is already in force. In December 2008, the General Assembly adopted an Optional Protocol to provide a communications procedure under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Thus, the CRC is now the only core human rights instrument that does not have a communications procedure allowing individuals or groups of individuals to submit complaints concerning breaches of their rights. This is a serious matter of discrimination against children as rights holders. It is an unjustifiable gap that compromises the respect, protection, and fulfilment of children’s rights, thereby weakening the effective implementation of the Convention.

There is nothing to prevent children and their representatives from using the communications procedures under other instruments to complain about breaches of their rights. However, the CRC is the children’s Convention, and it contains numerous unique and essential rights for the child that are not protected under other treaties. Children, like all other persons, need to be able to appeal to an international mechanism when national remedies do not exist or are ineffective. The communications procedure would be complementary to the reporting procedure, enabling the Committee to develop its jurisprudence in individual cases as well as through its concluding observations on States’ reports and its general comments.

Establishing a communications procedure under the CRC would allow communications from children and their representatives to be dealt with by the Committee on the Rights of the Child – an internationally elected specialist Committee of experts. A communications procedure would also complement States’ reporting obligations, enabling individuals and groups to take up non-compliance of rights directly with the Committee, where any existing and effective domestic remedies have been exhausted.

The proposal for a communications procedure for the CRC is not new. It was raised during the drafting process of the Convention, and raised again by the Committee when it marked the 10th anniversary of its adoption. The 20th anniversary of the CRC’s adoption is fast approaching; children should not have to wait any longer for this necessary component of the promotion and safeguarding of their rights.

States and NGOs have sponsored several meetings to discuss the proposal during previous Human Rights Council sessions. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has given its formal support to the proposal. The Chair of the Committee, Ms Yanghee Lee, told the General Assembly Third Committee last October: “[t]he Committee has given close attention to this issue and considers that such a procedure would significantly contribute to the overall protection of children’s rights.” A number of States in all regions have expressed interest in the proposal and taken a formal position in support of it. We hope that there will now be sufficient momentum to adopt a resolution to establish an open-ended working group to draft the necessary Optional Protocol.

More than 450 NGOs, human rights institutions and other bodies have signed a petition – “An international call to strengthen the enforcement of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by the drafting and adoption of an Optional Protocol to provide a communications procedure” (The signed petition is available on:

The NGOs which have coordinated the campaign for this much-needed procedure have developed detailed briefings, including – as a basis for discussion - a draft Optional Protocol with detailed commentary. There is also a briefing paper answering frequently asked questions about the proposal, which is being circulated during the current HRC session. (These documents are available on:

We very much hope that States will hesitate no longer to provide children with this necessary additional mechanism for the realization of their human rights. The World Conference on Human Rights in its 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reiterated the principle of “First call for children” and stated that “The rights of the child should be a priority in the United Nations system-wide action on human rights”.

We therefore call on the Human Rights Council to establish an open-ended Working Group to draft an Optional Protocol to the CRC for the creation of a communications procedure under the Convention. This would surely be an appropriate and timely initiative to mark the 20th anniversary of the CRC’s adoption.

Further information

LATEST: 11 February 2009: Write to your Ministries now - Download the lobbying materials

What can you do?

If you would like to support this campaign or would like further information, contact CRIN on:

Lobby: Download the lobbying pack

Links and further reading:

Previous CRC News items

Organisation Contact Details:

NGO Group for CRC Complaints Mechanism Working Group
Peter Newell on or Sara Austin on

Last updated 17/02/2009 05:47:45

Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.

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