The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) oversees implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“the Convention”), and its Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, through its consideration of State reports and inquiry requests, and its preparation of general comments, substantive statements, and general discussion days. As of January 2020, 196 States are party to the Convention.
- WORKING METHODS
- CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION
- RESEARCH AND ADDITIONAL SOURCES
The CRC consists of 18 independent experts who are elected for a term of four years by States parties to the CRC. See Convention, art. 43. Each member must be a national of a State party to the Convention, of high moral character, and have recognized competence in the field of international human rights. See id. Further information about the election process is found on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ website on Elections of Treaty Body Members.
The CRC generally holds sessions three times per year in Geneva, Switzerland, which normally consists of a three-week plenary and a one-week pre-sessional working group. The schedule of past and upcoming CRC sessions is available online, and the OHCHR maintains a Master Calendar of all UN Member States’ upcoming treaty body reviews.
Initially, a State must present a report 2 years after acceding to the Convention. After the initial report, a State will submit periodic reports every 5 years. Reports shall not exceed 120 pages. The reporting system requires each State party to submit (1) a common core document, which lists general information about the reporting State, a framework for protecting human rights, and information on non-discrimination and equality, and (2) a treaty-specific document, which accounts for specific information relating to the implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocols and any national law or policies taken to implement the Convention. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, Treaty-Specific Guidelines Regarding the Form and Content of Periodic Reports to be Submitted by States Parties under Article 44, paragraph 1(b) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/58/Rev.2, 23 November 2010.
Recently, however, the Committee implemented changes intended to result in a simplified reporting procedure, also referred to as “list of issues prior to reporting.” Under the simplified reporting procedure, the Committee prepares a list of issues prior to reporting (a list of 30 questions) requesting specific information from a State party before the State submits its periodic report. See Committee on the Rights of the Child, Simplified Reporting Procedure. The State must only submit a periodic report answering the questions raised by the Committee in its list of issues prior to reporting, rather than both a periodic report and a subsequent response to list of issues, reducing the two-step reporting procedure to one step. See id. The Committee has made the simplified reporting procedure available to all States parties who are due to report to the Committee from September 1, 2019 onward. See id. For more specific guidelines regarding the form and content of reports, the Secretary General has published a Compilation of Guidelines on the Form and Content of Reports to be Submitted by States Parties to the International Human Rights Treaties and the Committee has published the Treaty-specific guidelines regarding the form and content of periodic reports.
Following the submission of a periodic report, the CRC will first engage in a pre-session working group, where it will draft a list of issues to send to the State party. The State party will then return an answer if any additional information is requested prior to the session. At the session, the CRC engages in a constructive dialogue with a representative of the State party about the list of issues and concerns examined. The Committee will elect two of its members to act as “country rapporteurs” to lead the discussion.
The last phase of the process is for the CRC to draft and adopt concluding observations, which normally includes: an introduction, positive aspects, factors and difficulties impeding the Convention’s implementation, principal subjects of concern, and suggestions and recommendations. The concluding observations also include a request to disseminate the information in the State party and that any additional information should be sent to the CRC regarding specific points mentioned in the concluding observations. A provisional due date for the State party’s next periodic report is also given. The Committee also keeps a current list of concluding observations.
As of April 2014, the CRC may consider individual complaints that allege a violation of an individual’s rights under the Convention or its optional protocols if the State is a party to a separate agreement that establishes a complaints procedure. See Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (adopted 19 December 2011; ratified as of 14 January 2014). Article 7 of the Optional Protocol details the admissibility requirements for communications. As of January 2020, 46 States are party to the Optional Protocol.
The CRC reviews individual complaints in accordance with its Rules of Procedure under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.
More information for the procedure on individual complaints can be found in the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 23 Frequently Asked Questions about Treaty Body Complaints Procedure and Procedure for Complaints by Individuals under the Human Rights Treaties webpage.
Article 12 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (not yet in force) sets out a procedure for a State party to complain about violations that another State party to the Convention has committed. This procedure is the broadest in scope to raise potential violations of children’s rights, as it does not require individual child victims to come forward. Both States concerned must have made declarations accepting this procedure, or the complaint will not be considered. This procedure for inter-State complaints, however, has rarely been used.
The CRC does not have a mandate to accept and review requests for urgent intervention.
Complaints of Systematic Violations (Inquiry Procedures)
The CRC may initiate inquiries into allegations of grave or systematic violations of any of the rights set forth in the Convention on children’s rights. See Optional Protocol to the Convention, art. 13. States parties may opt out of the inquiry procedure at the time of signature, ratification or accession of the Convention by declaring that the State does not recognize the competence of the Committee to undertake inquiries. See id.
The inquiry procedure is confidential and the State party’s cooperation is sought at all stages. Generally, the inquiry procedure proceeds in five steps.
- The CRC receives information that the rights contained in the Convention are being systematically violated by the State party.
- The CRC invites the State party to submit relevant observations.
- Based on the relevant submissions and observations, the CRC may then designate one or more of its members to conduct an inquiry and then submit an urgent report to the Committee. With the State party’s consent, the initial inquiry may involve a visit to the State’s territory.
- The CRC examines the report and then transmits any findings, along with comments and recommendations to the State party.
- The State party is then requested to submit its own observations and any measures it took regarding the CRC’s findings, comments, and recommendations within a specified time period.
Rules 30-42 of the Rules of Procedure under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure explains how the CRC will undertake an inquiry.
The CRC adopts general comments concerning specific issues, articles or themes of the Convention in order to assist States parties in fulfilling their obligations. The Committee maintains a current list of general comments on its website.
Open Letters and Statements
The CRC adopts statements to clarify its position with respect to international developments and any issues that bear upon the Convention’s implementation. A list of past Committee on the Rights of the Child statements can be found on its webpage.
Thematic Discussions and Conferences
The CRC organizes general discussion days every other year in which to discuss and receive input on specific provisions of the Convention or issues related to the CRC’s mandate. After the end of the general discussion day, the CRC will adopt recommendations. These discussion days are open to representatives of States parties, UN agencies, NGOs, national human rights institutions, and all interested stakeholders. Past discussions include topics such as the right of the child to education in emergency situations, the right of the child to be heard, and children with disabilities. A list of previous discussions can be found on the CRC’s webpage on Days of General Discussion.
CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION
NGOs and other civil society groups do not require ECOSOC consultative status to engage with the CRC. Furthermore, any group may submit information to the CRC or prepare an individual complaint on behalf of a victim. Certain requirements, including prior registration, regulate civil society organizations’ participation in-person in the Committee’s sessions, however.
As part of the CRC’s review of a State, the CRC invites NGOs and other interested stakeholders to participate by preparing written reports for its pre-sessional working group. Child Rights Connect has also provided a useful resource to help guide NGOs in the preparation of their alternative written reports.
Based on the written information submitted to its State review, the Committee will also invite selected NGOs to participate in its pre-sessional working group to give an oral report. For more information on how to participate, the CRC has adopted Guidelines for the Participation of Partners (NGOs and Individual Experts) in the Pre-Sessional Working Group of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. NGOs and other civil society stakeholders may also request a private meeting with the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
All NGOs and civil society stakeholders are also welcome to attend CRC sessions as observers, in which case they will not be given the opportunity to address the CRC.
If an NGO or other civil society stakeholder wishes to attend a CRC session, the organization is required to be duly registered. Participants will have to create an account and register through the United Nations Indico system.
More information can be found on the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s webpage for Information Note on Accreditation to attend sessions of Treaty Bodies.
RESEARCH AND ADDITIONAL SOURCES
The Committee’s outputs can be found on its website and are linked to in the relevant sections above. The UN Treaty Body Database also collects these documents, which may be searched by several criteria, but not by keyword or subject matter. For additional research tools, view the Research Aids section of this Online Resource Hub.
Another useful resource is the International Service for Human Rights’ Simple Guide to UN Treaty Bodies (2010), which examines each treaty bodies’ reports, individual communications, State-to-State complaints, inquiry procedures, urgent interventions, general comments, and how NGOs can engage with treaty bodies.
The Child Rights International Network (CRIN) is a global children’s rights advocacy network and advocates in front of UN bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child. CRIN also provides a useful guide on its webpage explaining the working methods of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.