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Print this pageCAMPAIGN: The future of children's rights – in whose hands?




Child Rights International Network

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News release


CRIN's campaign to promote transparency in how candidates are appointed to the top jobs in children's rights.

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The Problem

They wield considerable power and influence, and can change the lives of millions of children. Those nominated to exalted positions within the world of children's rights can make a massive difference. But who are they? How are the chosen? And, most importantly, are they the best people for the job?

Many of the processes for appointing people to the top jobs in children's rights are opaque, lack scrutiny and continue to prioritise politics and diplomacy over children's rights.

The Solution

CRIN is running a campaign to stimulate open and transparent appointment processes in order to identify leaders with the appropriate commitment, skills and experience to work effectively for children's rights. We have identified a list of key global children's rights positions coming up for election or renewal that need scrutiny. See below for more details on the positions we monitor.

Get involved

We believe collective campaigning is the most effective way to achieve change.

Organisations working on children's rights can join forces with CRIN to:

- Lobby the UN and others to ensure appointment processes are transparent, criteria are publicly available and demonstrate commitment to children's rights by signing petitions and public letters;

- Identify the best candidates with appropriate experience;

- Alert CRIN of threats to open and transparent election processes, as well as to the independence of those already appointed, such as national ombudspersons.

Appointment processes vary, so see below for specific actions for each key position identified.



Executive Director of UNICEF

Role: UNICEF is mandated by the United Nations General Assembly to “advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and strives to establish children’s rights as enduring ethical principles and international standards of behaviour towards children.” (source: UNICEF) The Executive Director oversees an annual budget of more than $3 billion, and manages a staff of 10,000 in more than 150 countries. The Executive Director has managerial and strategic responsibility for the organisation, and reports to the Executive Board.

How: The organisation’s founding charter, from 1946, simply states that “the Secretary-General of the UN shall appoint the Executive Director in consultation with the Executive Board.” There are no other requirements or directives regarding the appointment, although since UNICEF's establishment in 1947, all chief executives have been American.

Action:  Previously, CRIN encouraged children's rights advocates to sign a letter to the UN Secretary General urging him to conduct an open and transparent appointment process.


Members of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

NEWS: Nine new members took up their positions on the Committee on 28 February 2013. CRIN interviewed all candidates in advance of the elections. Read the interviews here.

Role: The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is the most powerful children's rights organisation in the world. It not only has the authority to influence governments' compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), but also to interpret and expand on the provisions set out in the CRC. And with the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Optional Protocol on a complaints mechanism in December 2011, the Committee will in future even be able to examine individual complaints relating to violations of children's rights.

How: Elections to the Committee on the Rights of the Child take place every two years. Committee members are elected for a term of four years. Article 43 of the Convention states that: “The members of the Committee shall be elected by States Parties from among their nationals and shall serve in their personal capacity, consideration being given to equitable geographical distribution, as well as to the principal legal systems.”

When: The terms of nine members of the Committee expire in February 2015. Elections of new members will be held during a meeting of States parties in December 2014 at the UN in New York. Some current members may go for re-election, and new candidates will be nominated by their States.

Action: NGOs cannot directly nominate a candidate, but they can influence the nomination of candidates at national level. CRIN and Child Rights Connect work together to encourage NGOs to:

  • Identify qualified candidates in their region to serve on the Committee and approach them for their availability. NGOs can also advocate for the election of members whose term will expire;

  • Coordinate with other advocates in the region to secure several good nominations. Check how regions are divided for voting purposes here to make sure each region is adequately represented.

For more information, read a fact sheet by Child Rights Connect or contact Lisa Myers at


Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for children and armed conflict

NEWS: The new SRSG, Leila Zerrogui, took up her position on 4 September 2012, following four years as the deputy head of the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). CRIN co-signed a letter, with a group of NGOs, calling on the UN Secretary General to conduct an open and transparent selection process.

Role: The Mission Statement of the Office of the Special Representative is: "To promote and protect the rights of all children affected by armed conflict." Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy has assumed this position since April 2006.

How: General Assembly resolution A/RES/51/77 on the rights of the child recommends that “the Secretary-General appoint for a period of three years a Special Representative on the impact of armed conflict on children.” The Assembly has since extended this mandate four times and most recently by its resolution A/RES/63/241 of 13 March 2009. The resolution does not explain the procedure for such an appointment, nor the necessary criteria.

When: The term of the current SRSG will expire in July 2015.

Action: There is an opportunity for ensuring that the appointment process is transparent, and that the criteria are publicly available and child rights-focused. More information will be circulated nearer the time.


Special Representative to the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children

NEWS: The mandate of the SRSG was extended for another three years by Resolution (A/67/152) of the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in November 2012.

Role: The 2007 GA resolution on the rights of the child required the Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative on violence against children “at the highest possible level.” You can find the job description in the resolution here.

Marta Santos Pais, of Portugal, was appointed by the UN Secretary General on 1 May 2009, but took up her position on September 1st, 2009. Her mandate was for three years, so ended in September 2012 and has been renewed for a further three years. The SRSG reports directly to the UN Secretary General. (more about her role here)

Find out more about the campaign to get the post established here.

HowThe resolution does not explain the procedure for such an appointment, nor the necessary criteria.

When: The term of the current Special Representative , Marta Santos Pais, will end in September 2015.

Action: As above, there is an opportunity, for ensuring that the appointment process is transparent, and that the criteria are publicly available and child rights-focused. Further details will be circulated in due course.


UN Special Procedures at the Human Rights Council

NEWS: A significant number of special procedure mandates will be appointed during the Human Rights Council’s 25th Session in March 2015. Children’s rights activists can have a say in who is appointed, and more information on the selection process and how NGOs can get involved will be posted by the OHCHR soon. Click here for more in the meantime. 

Special Procedures at the Human Rights Council, including Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, and Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography

Role: "Special procedures" is the general name given to the mechanisms established by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or particular issues in all parts of the world. So, for example, there is a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography, a Special Rapporteur on the right to education, and an Independent Expert on minority issues.

How: According to Human Rights Council resolution 5/1, Annex, the following general criteria will be of 'paramount importance' when nominating, selecting and appointing mandate-holders: (a) expertise; (b) experience in the field of the mandate; (c) independence; (d) impartiality; (e) personal integrity; and (f) objectivity.

Due consideration should be given to gender balance and equitable geographic representation, as well as to an appropriate representation of different legal systems. Eligible candidates are highly qualified individuals who possess established competence, relevant expertise and extensive professional experience in the field of human rights (paras. 39-41).

Those entities which may nominate candidates as special procedures mandate-holders according to Council resolution 5/1, Annex, are:

(a) Governments;

(b) Regional Groups operating within the United Nations human rights system;

(c) international organisations or their offices (e.g. the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights);

(d) non-governmental organizations;

(e) other human rights bodies;

(f) individuals

The Consultative Group, established in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 5/1, submits to the President, ‘at least one month before the beginning of the session in which the Council would consider the selection of mandate holders, a list of candidates who possess the highest qualifications for the mandates in question and meet the general criteria and particular requirements'.

A public list of candidates is available here:

When: Appointments of new mandate holders are made on a regular basis, and a significant amount will be made during the Human Rights Council’s 25th Session in March 2014. For more information, visit the link above.

Action: Encouraging all parties to use the channels available for influencing appointments in order to identify the best possible candidates. Further details will be circulated in due course.


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

NEWS: The UN General Assembly extended Navi Pillay's term in office for two years on 24 May 2012. Her second term began in September 2012.

Role: The UN General Assembly, in resolution A/RES/48/141of 20 December 1993, established the role of High Commissioner. It explained that the Commissioner would be the “United Nations official with principal responsibility for United Nations human rights activities under the direction and authority of the Secretary-General;within the framework of the overall competence, authority and decisions of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Commission on Human Rights.”

How: The resolution further explains that the Commissioner must be:

(a) “a person of high moral standing and personal integrity and shall possess expertise, including in the field of human rights, and the general knowledge and understanding of diverse cultures necessary for impartial, objective, non-selective and effective performance of the duties of the High Commissioner;

(b) appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations and approved by the General Assembly, with due regard to geographical rotation, and have a fixed term of four years with a possibility of one renewal for another fixed term of four years.”

When: The next appointment is due in May 2014 as Navi Pillay will only serve out half of the possible second term of four years.


UN Secretary General

NEWS: The term of the current mandate holder ends in December 2016. On June 2011, Member States unanimously re-elected Mr Ban ki-Moon for the post.

Role: The UN Charter describes the Secretary-General as "chief administrative officer" of the Organisation, who shall act in that capacity and perform "such other functions as are entrusted" to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to "bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security".

How: The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretary-General's selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. Although there is technically no limit to the number of five-year terms a Secretary-General may serve, none so far has held office for more than two terms. On 16 February 2006 Security Council Report published a Special Research Report titled “Appointment of a New Secretary-General”. It described the past history of appointments and discussed the processes used for appointing previous Secretary-Generals. It also described the decisions taken by the United Nations General Assembly in 1997 regarding the introduction of new appointment procedures when the time came to appoint a successor to Kofi Annan.Read more.

Informal rules influence the selection process. For example, nationals of permanent members of the Security Council - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom or the United States - cannot be considered for the post, because of possible undue influence. There is also an informal requirement that candidates for UNSG must be fluent in English and French, which, while the dominant languages of international relations, are only two of the UN's six official languages.

When: Ban's current term will expire in December 2016.

Action: There is an opportunity for ensuring that the appointment process is transparent, and that the criteria are publicly available and demonstrate a commitment to human rights. Further details will be circulated in due course.




Rapporteur on Child Rights at the Inter-American Commission

NEWS: Rosa María Ortiz, former member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, was elected as a Commissioner of the IACHR in June 2011 at the 41st General Assembly of the Organization of American States. Her term began on 1 January 2012, and she was appointed as the IACHR's Rapporteur on Child Rights on 26 January 2012.

Role:The Rapporteur carries out studies on issues of concern relating to child rights in the region, undertakes in-country visits, prepares specific chapters on children's rights for country and annual reports, and examines individual violations of children’s rights.

How: The Inter-American Commission is composed of seven members elected in their individual capacity by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States. See article 1 of the Commission'sRules of Procedure. Members of the Commission serve four years and may be re-elected once. The Commission has a number of thematic rapporteurships, including a rapporteurship on children's rights. Thematic rapporteurs are decided by the Commission in the first session of the year or whenever necessary (article 15.4 of the Commission's Rules of Procedure).

Action: Encouraging civil society and other partners to use available channels of influence in order to identify the best candidates. Rapporteurships are divided out among the Commissioners so NGOs don't have a say in these appointments, but they can lobby at national level for the appointment of Commissioners. Further details will be circulated in due course.


African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC)

NEWS: Four new members were elected onto the Committee in May 2013.

Role: The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) is a Committee of 11 members mandated to monitor and report on the rights of children in Africa. The Committee is potentially a powerful watchdog and advocate for children's rights.

How: Article 33 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child stipulates that Committee  members must be nationals of a State party to the Charter. They must be individuals of high moral standing, integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of the rights and welfare of the child. Members are nominated by State parties to the Charter and elected by the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union. Members are elected for a term of five years and serve on the Committee in their individual capacity.

Action: Civil society has a crucial role to play in recommending qualified and effective candidates to their respective governments to fill these vacancies. Very few candidates were nominated for these important posts in previous elections.

The Civil Society Organisation Forum for the ACEWRC has prepared a fact sheet to inform civil society organisations about the nomination process, flesh out specific criteria for potential members, and inspire civil society participation.

Although CSOs cannot nominate candidates, they can influence the selection process by:

  • Identifying qualified candidates and lobbying them to serve on the Committee.

  • Seeking support for the proposed candidates from government officials working on children's issues or within the Ministry responsible for monitoring the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

  • Sending a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with clear, convincing arguments as to why this person would be a good candidate.

  • Lobbying the government to ensure the nomination process is truly transparent and that State Parties select candidates on merit rather than for political considerations.

  • Lobbying the government to nominate competent and credible candidates.

States are asked to submit names and CVs of their nominated candidates to the African Union Legal Affairs Department by the The process of selecting candidates will vary from State to State. Members are elected by the Executive Council (comprised of the foreign ministers of AU Member States) by secret ballot in a meeting held prior to the AU Summit. Their decision is then passed to the AU Assembly for final approval and adoption.


Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe

NEWS: In January 2012, Mr Nils Muižnieks from Latvia was elected the new Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe. Read a CRIN interview with Mr Muižniekshere.

Role: The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote the awareness of and respect for human rights in 47 Council of Europe member states.

How: According to Resolution (99) 50 on the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, “The candidates shall be eminent personalities of a high moral character having recognised expertise in the field of human rights, a public record of attachment to the values of the Council of Europe and the personal authority necessary to discharge the mission of the Commissioner effectively. During his or her term of office, the Commissioner shall not engage in any activity which is incompatible with the demands of a full-time office.” The Commissioner is democratically elected by the Parliamentary Assembly for a non-renewable term of office of six years. You can see the voting procedure for candidates at the Council of Europe here:

When: January 2018

Action: Lobbying members of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to ensure the selection of the best possible candidate. Further details will be circulated in due course.


ASEAN Women and Children’s Commission

NEWS: In April 2010 ASEAN's Women and Children's Commission opened for business with the election of 20 Commissioners – two from each ASEAN country.

Role: The Commission, which is a body of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN), is tasked with promoting and protecting women and children's rights, building judicial and administrative capacity, and promoting data collection and research. It is expected to focus on human trafficking, child labour, children in armed conflict and gender discrimination.

How: The nomination process for ASEAN is shrouded in secrecy. The Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy Taskforce on ASEAN Human Rights (SAPA TFHR) demanded to meet the ten commissioners and requested the rights body to hold regular meetings with civil society organisations. It also urged the body to investigate reports of human rights abuses, reported the Jakarta Post. The request was denied by the assembly chair who said the body did not have a mechanism to coordinate with NGOs and other parties. Read more.



Ombudspersons for children

Role: Children's Ombudspersons, also known as Children's Commissioners, are mandated to monitor whether a state is fulfilling its obligations under the UNCRC, as identified under general measure of implementation 2 (what are general measures?).

The role of an ombudsperson for children should be completely independent from the government: an ombudsperson should stand above party politics, be totally impartial and fair and be able to criticise and make recommendations, according to the 'Paris Principles' (what are these?). In recent years however, reports have been coming into CRIN's newsroom demonstrating that many governments are still refusing to abide by these principles.

Read more here:




CRIN will continue to monitor such developments and promote the establishment of children's ombudspersons institutions in line with the Paris Principles where they do not yet exist.

Action: Report threats to the independence of children's ombudsmen's offices to


Success stories

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights: The procedure for electing judges to the Court used to be a closed process and was not publicly advertised. Regional NGO the Center for Justice and International Law distributed information about the process and called for the Organisation of American States (OAS) to publish the CVs of all candidates. The OAS agreed to do this.

If you know of any other good examples of transparent appointment processes in children's rights, please contact

Further information

Previous News release items

Organisation Contact Details:

Child Rights International Network
East Studio
2 Pontypool Place
Tel: +44 (0)207 401 2257

Last updated 12/11/2013 19:01:04

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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