Human Rights Council adopts complaints mechanism for children

Date: 22nd June 2011
Category: General measures of implementation

The UN Human Rights Council has adopted the draft text of a complaints mechanism for children.

The new mechanism, also referred to as 'communications procedure' finally brings children's rights and its Convention on the par with other human rights treaties. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was the only such treaty without a complaints procedure.

This follows almost four years of campaigning by the children's rights community. Over 600 organisations from around the globe had joined a call for the CRC to be strengthened through the adoption of a complaints mechanism.

Speaking from Geneva, Anita Goh, Advocacy Officer for the NGO Group campaigning for this instrument said: "We can only applaud this decision, 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."


How the CRC complaints mechanism is different

Some critics have argued the CRC did not need its own mechanism because other complaints procedures under other treaties are available to children already. However these have hardly been used by children or their representatives. Furthermore, this new mechanism under the CRC is uniquely adapted to children.

Among other things, it specifies that:

  • In reviewing communications, the Committee on the Rights of the Child must follow the principle of the best interests of the child and have regard to the rights and views of the child;
  • The Rules of Procedure for using the complaints mechanism are to be child-sensitive;
  • Safeguards must be introduced to prevent the potential manipulation of children, and the Committee can decline to consider communications found not to be in a child's best interests;
  • The identity of any individuals involved in submitting a complaint, including child victims, cannot be revealed publicly without their express consent; and
  • Communications must be submitted with the child victim's consent, unless the person submitting the complaint can justify acting on the child's behalf without that consent.


What happens next?

Now that the text has been adopted by the Human Rights Council, it is referred to the UN General Assembly (GA), where another Resolution needs to be drafted and adopted. If a resolution is adopted by the HRC by consensus, which was the case here, it tends not to be reopened for negotiations at the GA. Once the GA Resolution is adopted, a signing ceremony is planned, after which the treaty opens up for ratification. It enters into force after its tenth ratification.

In the meantime, the NGO community will soon begin preparing for the next stage of the campaign: getting States to commit to ratification as soon as possible.