On 4 February 2015, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued its Concluding Observations from its 68th Session review of State implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocols. The session ran from 12-30 January 2015 and reviewed the following States: Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Turkmenistan, Sweden, Mauritius, Gambia, Tanzania, Jamaica, Uruguay, Colombia, Iraq and Switzerland. The Concluding Observations can be accessed here.
The Committee specifically reviewed the following States on their implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography: Cambodia, Iraq, Switzerland, Turkmenistan and Uruguay.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the body of 18 Independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties and its two Optional Protocols to the Convention, including the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
All States parties are obligated to submit reports to the Committee, explaining how they have implemented their treaty obligations through domestic laws, policies and practices. States must submit an initial report two years after acceding to the Convention or Optional Protocol and then periodic reports every five years. Non-governmental organisations are encouraged to submit an alternative report (‘Shadow Report’) which provides information on specific issues, such as CSEC, that the State report either omits or is unaware of. The Committee examines each report alongside the alternative submissions and then issues its findings and recommendations to the State party in the form of “Concluding Observations”. These Concluding Observations highlight positive achievements and point out areas for improvement, setting out a list of recommendations to ensure the State complies with its obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocol.
The Concluding Observations are an important advocacy tool at the national level as well as the international level. Although the recommendations are not legally binding under international law, they are an official UN document and form part of the discourse on the State’s compliance with international human rights law. For example, concluding observations from a UN Treaty-Monitoring Body can be referred to and used in the Universal Periodic Review process. They can also be brought up during the State’s review before another UN-Treaty monitoring body, such as the CEDAW Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights or the Human Rights Committee (the treaty monitoring body for the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). And of course, they can be referred to and brought up in subsequent reviews to monitor the States’ compliance with its international treaty obligations.
At the national level, concluding observations are important advocacy tools and can be seen as an authoritative document in the development of National Action Plans, draft legislation and other regulations or policies. Concluding Observations can also be used as a legal source in court cases challenging the constitutionality of laws or advocating for child victims’ right to access justice and seek remedy and reparations for their exploitation.
Where there is a regional human rights mechanism, the UN Concluding Observations serve as an important and authoritative document which can be relied upon to show State implementation of international law, as well as an advocacy tool to push for recommendations at the regional level.