Children’s rights in the Pacific: An historic treaty body session in Samoa
“For many years, we spoke and dreamed of holding a session outside Geneva,” said Luis Pedernera, the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). “This week, that dream became a reality. It’s an historic moment,” he said of the Committee’s extraordinary outreach session that was held in Samoa, in March. During the session, the Committee met with government officials, UN entities, civil society, NHRIs and children to discuss the situation of children’s rights in the Pacific.*
Like all other UN human rights treaty bodies, the Committee usually meets in Geneva, Switzerland. Yet, the Pacific is the region most adversely affected by its remoteness from Geneva. Since 2016, six of the seven State Party reviews from the region have been conducted via video link. During the 2020 consultations on the treaty body system’s review process, participants stressed the importance of regional sessions to increase domestic stakeholder accessibility, enhance the visibility of the treaty body system and more closely interact with national and regional human rights systems.
The CRC session in Samoa represents the first regional-level session held by a UN human rights treaty body, the first time an official meeting of the Committee was moderated by children and the first time that sign language interpretation was used for all meetings.
During the session, the Committee reviewed the situation of the rights of the child in the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu and held a preparatory meeting for a future review of Kiribati, enabling State Party delegations to hold in-person, constructive dialogues with the Committee. In addition, the Committee met with a broad range of stakeholders, including more than 100 children and passionate child HRDs, to discuss pressing issues in the region, such as climate change and child rights to participation, education, health and freedom from violence.
Audrey, 16 years old, moderated a discussion on children’s right to health and explained that the session taught her that children’s views matter. “During this session, we learned that we have the right to be heard [and that] children’s opinions, perspectives and problems should be voiced.”
Chair Luis Pedernera added, “We hope [the children] were able to understand how much the Committee appreciates their contributions and that this is just the beginning of strong and meaningful participation of children from the region in our work.”
* The session was co-organized by UN Human Rights with the Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) of the Pacific Community (SPC), the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) and UNDP in Samoa, the Government of Samoa and UNICEF Pacific, with financial support from the RRRT SPC and its donors (Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom), the Government of Samoa and the RCO in Samoa.