Committee on the Rights of the Child - Working Methods
Overview of the working methods of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
II. Guidelines for reporting by States parties
The Committee has aimed at structuring the reporting process and the dialogue with the State party in such a way that issues of principal concern are dealt with in a methodical and informative manner. For this purpose the Committee has prepared two sets of guidelines regarding the form and content of initial and reports to be submitted by States parties under article 44, paragraph 1 (a), of the Convention. These guidelines, contained in document CRC/C/5 and CRC/C/58 respectively, are public and have been disseminated to all States parties concerned. The Committee strongly recommends all States parties to report to it in accordance with the guidelines and in a thorough and timely manner.
Both sets of guidelines request that the reports contain relevant legislative, judicial, administrative and other information, including statistical data, to give the Committee a good basis for its analysis. States parties are requested to give information about "factors and difficulties encountered" and "progress achieved". "Implementation priorities" and "specific goals" for the future are also requested.
To facilitate a more structured discussion the guidelines group the articles according to content and in a logical order:
(a) General measures of implementation (arts. 4, 42 and 44.6);
(b) Definition of the child (art. 1);
(c) General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12);
(d) Civil rights and freedoms (arts. 7, 8, 13-17 and 37a);
(e) Family environment and alternative care (arts. 5, 18.1, 18.2, 9, 10, 27.4, 20, 21, 11, 19, 39 and 25);
(f) Basic health and welfare (arts. 6.2, 23, 24, 26, 18.3, 27.1, 27.2 and 27.3);
(g) Education, leisure and cultural activities (arts. 28, 29 and 31);
(h) Special protection measures:
(i) Children in situations of emergency (arts. 22, 38 and 39);
(ii) Children in conflict with the law (arts. 40, 37 and 39);
(iii) Children in situations of exploitation, including physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration (arts. 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 39);
(iv) Children belonging to a minority or an indigenous group (art. 30).
This list also forms the agenda for the discussions with States parties.
Guidelines had also been issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the initial reports to be submitted in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which came into force on 18 January 2002 (CRC/OP/SA/1); and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which came into force on 12 February 2002 and (CRC/OP/AC/1).
II. Consideration of reports of States parties by the Committee
Pursuant to article 44, paragraph 1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, States parties undertake to submit to the Committee reports on the implementation of the Convention within two years of the entry into force of the Convention for the State party concerned and thereafter every five years. Reports shall not exceed 120 standard pages, as decided by the Committee at its 30th session (2002, CRC/C/118).
The Committee considers invites nine States parties as an average to present their reports at each session taking into account the criteria of chronological order of submissions and preference to be given to those States parties whose initial reports have been pending for the longest time. The Committee devotes one day (two meetings of three hours each) to its public examination of States parties' reports. In addition, it generally devotes between two and three hours towards the end of the session, in private, to its discussion of each set of concluding observations.
As of 20 April 2004 the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 192 States. So far the Committee has received 276 State party reports, including 180 initial ones, 85 second periodic ones and 11 third periodic ones.
A. Pre-session working group
Prior to the Committee session at which the State party's report is reviewed, the pre-sessional working group of the Committee convenes a private meeting with UN agencies and bodies, NGOs, and other competent bodies such as National Human Rights Institutions and youth organizations, which have submitted additional information to the Committee.
The end result of the pre-sessional working group's discussion on a State report is a "list of issues". The list of issues is intended to give the Government a preliminary indication of the issues which the Committee considers to be priorities for discussion. It also gives the Committee the opportunity to request additional or updated information in writing from the Government prior to the session. This approach gives Governments the opportunity better to prepare themselves for the discussion with the Committee, which usually takes place between 3 and 4 months after the working group. In order to facilitate the efficiency of the dialogue, the Committee requests the State party to provide the answers to its List of Issues in writing and in advance of the session, in time for them to be translated into the working languages of the Committee. It also provides an opportunity to consider questions relating to technical assistance and international cooperation.
B. Constructive dialogue
The State party report will be discussed in open and public meetings of the Committee, during which both the State representatives and Committee members take the floor. Relevant United Nations bodies and agencies are represented. Summary records of the meetings are issued and the United Nations Department of Public Information is invited to cover the proceedings for the purpose of their Press Releases. Other journalists are free to attend, as are representatives of non-governmental organizations and any interested individual.
With the factual situation largely clarified in writing, there should be room in the discussions to analyse "progress achieved" and "factors and difficulties encountered" in the implementation of the Convention. As the purpose of the whole process is constructive, sufficient time should be given to discussions about "implementation priorities" and "future goals". For these reasons the Committee welcomes the representation of the State party to be a delegation with concrete involvement in strategic decisions relating to the rights of the child. When delegations are headed by someone with governmental responsibility, the discussions are likely to be more fruitful and have more impact on policy-making and implementation activities.
The Committee appoints two of its members to act as "country rapporteurs" to lead the discussions with the concerned State party's delegation.
After a brief introductory statement by the head of delegation the interactive dialogue starts. The Chairperson of the Committee will request the country rapporteur(s) to provide a brief overview of the state of child rights in the concerned State party. Thereafter the Chairperson will invite the Committee members to ask questions or make comments on the first cluster of rights, and the delegation may respond. The discussion moves step by step through the next group of issues identified in the reporting guidelines.
Towards the end of the discussion, the country rapporteurs summarize their observations on the report and the discussion itself and may also make suggestions and recommendations. Lastly, the State delegation is invited to make a final statement.
C. Concluding observations/comments
After the discussion with the State party, the Committee will, in a closed meeting, agree on written Concluding Observations which include suggestions and recommendations.
The Concluding Observations usually contain the following aspects: introduction; positive aspects (including progress achieved); factors and difficulties impeding the implementation; principal subjects for concern; suggestions and recommendations addressed to the State party. The Preliminary Observations usually have a similar structure, but it is made clear that they are not final.
The Committee may in its observations request additional information from the State party, in accordance with article 44 of the Convention, in order to be able to better assess the situation in the State party. A deadline for submission of such written information will be determined.
The Concluding Observations are made public on the last day of a Committee session during the adoption of the session report, of which they form a part. Once adopted, they are made available to the States parties concerned, and also issued as official documents of the Committee. In accordance with article 44, paragraph 5, of the Convention, the Committee's reports are submitted to the United Nations General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, for its consideration, every two years.
In the spirit of article 44, paragraph 6, it is important that the Concluding Observations are made widely available in the State party concerned. If it so wishes, the State party may address any of the observations in the context of any additional information that it provides to the Committee.
IV. Follow-up to concluding observations/comments
It is assumed that concerns expressed by the Committee in its Concluding Observations will be addressed in a detailed manner by the State party in its next report. The Committee expects to receive written information on the follow-up measures taken by the State party to address the issues of concern identified in the previous concluding observations.
The Committee may, in accordance with article 45 (b), transmit to relevant agencies and bodies, including the OHCHR, UNICEF, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and UNHCHR, any reports from States parties containing a request or indicating a need for technical advice or assistance, along with the Committee's observations and suggestions. This refers to needs both in relation to the reporting process and to implementation programmes.
States can request support from the Programme of Advisory Services and Technical Assistance of the Centre for Human Rights. Such requests could concern reviews required for ratification or accession and preparation of the report, as well as training seminars, follow-up workshops and other activities to make the principles and provisions of the Convention known and incorporated into national legislation and action plans.
The Concluding Observations of the Committee are disseminated to all relevant United Nations bodies and agencies, as well as other competent bodies, and might serve as a basis for discussions on international cooperation. The Committee may also, in its observations, make particular reference to the need for and possibilities of such cooperation.
V. Strategies to encourage reporting by States parties
The Convention makes reporting in time an obligation in itself. The Committee emphasizes the importance of timely reports. State parties encountering difficulties in preparing the reports, may request technical assistance from OHCHR or UNICEF.
At its twenty-ninth session (see CRC/C/114, paragraph 561), the Committee decided to send a letter to all States parties whose initial reports were due in 1992 and 1993, requesting them to submit that report within one year. In June 2003, similar letters were sent to three States parties whose initial reports were due in 1994 and never submitted. The Committee further decided to inform those States parties in the same letter that should they not report within one year, the Committee would consider the situation of child rights in the State in the absence of the initial report, as foreseen in the Committee's "Overview of the reporting procedures" (CRC/C/33, paras. 29-32) and in light of rule 67 of the Committee's provisional rules of procedure (CRC/C/4).
In addition to its guidelines for reporting (CRC/C/5 and CRC/C/58), the Committee also adopted recommendations that are relevant to States parties' reporting obligations. They provide guidance to States parties that encountering problems in complying with the strict time frame for submission of reports established by the Convention in article 44, paragraph 1, or the consideration of whose reports has been delayed. These recommendations apply as an exceptional measure taken for one time only (see CRC/C/139).
VI. Documentation supplied by the Secretariat
The secretariat prepares country files for the pre-sessional working group, containing information relevant to each of the reports to be examined. These include country specific information submitted by United Nations bodies and specialized agencies, non governmental organizations and other competent bodies. The secretariat also prepares country briefs. Prior to the plenary session both file and country briefs are updated and made available to the Committee members during the sessions.
VII. Interaction with specialized agencies and bodies of the United Nations
Since 1991, the Committee has strong cooperation with UN agencies and bodies for the reporting process, organization of general discussion days, input in General Comments, assistance to informal field visits, etc. They may request a private meeting with the Committee members. The Committee may invite the specialized agencies, the United Nations Children's Fund and other competent bodies, as it may consider appropriate, to provide it with expert advice, pursuant to article 45, subparagraph (a), of the Convention, on the implementation of the Convention in areas falling within their respective mandates
VIII. Participation of non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions in the activities of the Committees
The Committee has systematically and strongly encouraged NGOs and NHRIs to submit reports, documentation or other information in order to provide it with a comprehensive picture and expertise as to how the Convention is being implemented in a particular country. The Committee welcomes written information from international, regional, national and local organizations. Information may be submitted by individual NGOs or national coalitions or committees of NGOs.
Based on the written information submitted, the Committee will issue a written invitation to selected NGOs to participate in the pre-sessional working group of the Committee which provides a unique opportunity for dialogue with partners, regarding the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child by the States parties. The Committee strongly recommends that its partners limit their introductory remarks to a maximum of 15 minutes for NGOs coming from in-country and 5 minutes for others so that members of the Committee can engage in a contractive dialogue with all participants.
The pre-sessional working group is a meeting closed to the public, so no observers are allowed.
At its twenty-second session the Committee adopted its "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." (CRC/C/90, Annex VIII).
NGOs, NHRIs and other competent bodies may request a private meeting with the Committee.
IX. General comments/recommendations
The Committee adopts general comments based on specific articles, provisions and themes of the Convention to assist the States parties in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and to stimulate the international organizations and the specialized agencies concerned in achieving progressively and effectively the full realization of the rights recognized in the Convention. Members may propose at any time that a general comment relating to a specific article, provision or theme be prepared. The Committee sometimes decide to develop a general comment on an article, provision or theme that has been discussed earlier in one of its General Day of Discussion.
The Committee generally shares draft general comments with selected number of experts, including those from the other treaty bodies, for comments.
X. Statements adopted by the Committee
XI. Individual Communications
The Convention on the Rights of the Child has no mandate to accept and review individual complaints. However, the Committee recommends children or their representatives to refer to other treaty bodies, namely the Human Rights Committee; the Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; or the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Much the same can be said for the special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights, including the mechanisms for urgent action and appeals, including the Special Rapporteurs on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography; on Torture; on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, or the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
XII. Other matters
Since 1992, the Committee on the rights of the Child organized 13 general days of discussion on specific provisions of the Convention or on related issues. The Committee always adopt recommendations at the end of such a thematic discussion day. Usually, discussion days are structured in working groups that address sub-themes, as defined in an outline adopted by the Committee eight months earlier. General days of discussions are public meetings open to representatives of States parties, UN agencies and bodies, NGOs, national human rights institutions, professional groups, academics, youth groups, and other interested parties.
It should be noted that two discussion days (children in armed conflict 1992 and children and violence 2000-2001) have resulted in a recommendation to the UN General Assembly, based on article 45 © requesting the Secretary General to undertake on its behalf studies on the related topics. The UN Study on the impact of children in armed conflict was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1996 (A/51/306 and Add. 1), the UN Study on violence against children is currently under preparation.
At the end of 2003, the Committee decided to re-establish the practice it had discontinued in 1997 of having informal visits to States parties. Such visits aim at either helping to prepare the discussions of a State party report or to follow-up recommendations (concluding observations) adopted by the Committee for a specific State party.