UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will consider the list of issues on the UK in October 2015.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission will submit a shadow report on the UK’s implementation of the Covenant in July 2015.
The UK ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1991 and agreed that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration in the actions of public bodies which affect children. The CRC protects the rights of children in all areas of their life including their rights to:
- Express their views freely and be heard in legal proceedings that affect them
- Freedom from violence, abuse and neglect
- An adequate standard of living
- Freedom from economic and sexual exploitation
- Be treated with dignity and respect within the criminal justice system.
The full text of CRC can be found here.
In October 2008, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), raised concerns and made recommendations about many issues in the UK, including:
- The allocation of the maximum available resources to implement children’s rights and eradicate child poverty.
- The use of physical restraint and solitary confinement on children in detention.
- The establishment of mechanisms for monitoring and collecting data on cases of violence, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.
- Inequalities in access to health services.
- Reducing the achievement gap in education for children with disabilities, Roma and Traveller children and asylum-seeking children.
- Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility and developing alternative measures to detention of children.
The concluding observations of UN CRC can be found here.
The State review process
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)) is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC), a body made up of 18 independent experts. These experts are nominated by the Governments who have ratified CRC, and are elected to serve four-year terms. UN CRC meets three times a year.
Governments who have ratified CRC submit reports to UN CRC every five years. These reports outline the laws and policies they have adopted to implement CRC. They should also provide evidence about the effect of these laws and policies on children’s enjoyment of CRC rights. These reports are known as the “State Report.”
In the UK, the Department for Education takes the lead in coordinating the UK’s State report to the UNCRC, securing contributions from the devolved administrations, which are responsible for implementing UNCRC in their jurisdictions.
The UK’s most recent State report, from May 2014, can be found here.
A small group of UN CRC members, known as the “pre-sessional working group” meet to discuss the State report. The pre-sessional working group considers information from UN agencies and bodies, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), NGOs, and youth organisations, and convenes a private meeting with their representatives. As one of the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions, the EHRC can submit a report to the UN CESCR at this point. This is known as a “shadow report.”
The pre-sessional working group decides on a list of questions that they want the Government to provide further written information on. This is known as the “List of Issues.” NHRIs and civil society also have the opportunity to provide a written response to the List of Issues.
The List of Issues forms the basis of a public examination of the State report. A government delegation summarises the state report and highlights any new information. Members of UN CRC ask the delegation questions about the state report and their response to the List of Issues. The examination is a constructive discussion which allows time to recognise progress achieved and difficulties encountered in the implementation of the CRC as well as to identify implementation priorities.
Following the public examination, the UN CRC produces a report, which summarises its key concerns and makes a series of recommendations to the Government to improve its implementation of CRC. This report is known as the “Concluding Observations.” States are required to publish these recommendations and follow them up. Governments are required to report on what they have done to implement these recommendations in their next State report, five years later.
The pre-sessional working group of the UN CRC will consider the list of issues on the UK in October 2015. The CRC will meet in May 2016 to consider the UK State report.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) periodically issues general comments, which explain the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These are considered to be an authoritative interpretation of the obligations that States have under CRC. All general comments of UN CRC can be found here.
- In 2013, UN CRC issued a general comment on the impact of the business sector on children’s rights. It held that States have a duty to ensure that business activities do not adversely impact on children’s rights, and to create “an enabling and supportive environment for business to respect children’s rights”.
- In 2007, UN CRC issued a general comment on the rights of children with disabilities. UN CRC explained that measures taken to implement the rights of children with disabilities “should explicitly aim at the maximum inclusion of those children in society.”
- In 2007, UN CRC issued a general comment on children’s rights in juvenile justice. This general comment aimed to encourage States to develop a comprehensive juvenile justice policy in compliance with CRC and to provide States with guidance on the content of this policy, including alternative measures to detention for children and young people.
General discussion days
UN CRC also organises general days of discussion on thematic issues which affect children’s rights. These discussions are open to States parties, UN agencies and bodies, NGOs, National Human Rights Institutions, academics and youth groups. These discussions end in the adoption of recommendations. Recent discussions have been on the themes of Digital media and children’s rights, the rights of all children in the context of international migration and children of incarcerated parents. Information on these discussions can be found here.
The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography was ratified by the UK in 2009. It provides detail on the measures necessary to implement Articles 34 and 35 of the UN CRC, which require states to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, and take all measures possible to ensure that they are not abducted, sold or trafficked.
The full text of the Protocol can be found here.
The UK’s performance in implementing the Protocol was last examined by the UNCRC in June 2014. The UK’s report on the implementation of the protocol, the List of Issues that formed the basis of the examination, and the UN CRC’s concluding observations can be found here.
The Commission’s shadow report highlighted a number of concerns including:
- Improving data collection and analysis to ensure the true extent and nature of child trafficking and forced labour in the UK is understood;
- Providing bodies with responsibility for implementing law and policy in this area with sufficient independence, remits, powers and resources to effectively fulfil their roles;
- Improving, where necessary, draft legislation to ensure that all acts of trafficking and forced labour, including in relation to children, are criminalised and that the law is clear, simple and easy to use;
- Reviewing and strengthening guidance for prosecuting child trafficking cases, to ensure the best interests of the child is a primary consideration;
- Improving the identification and protection of child victims and those at risk of trafficking or forced labour;
- Improving services to support child victims, including the introduction of a Trafficking Care Standard, the appointment of guardians for separated children, and access to compensation;
- Addressing concerns about access to justice and civil legal aid for child victims.
The UN CRC echoed a number of these concerns, including:
- The need for a systematic mechanism for data collection under all offences under Optional Protocol throughout the UK, including in Scotland and Northern Ireland;
- The importance of the proposed Anti-Slavery Commissioner having sufficient statutory independence, a robust mandate and sufficient resources;
- The need to prioritise the provision of an independent guardian for child victims to ensure the best interest of the child through the justice process;
- The need for a unified comprehensive and overarching national plan of action to implement the Optional Protocol throughout the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In 1990 the UN appointed a Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to investigate the exploitation of children around the world. The Special Rapporteur is tasked with:
- analysing the root causes of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography;
- identifying new patterns of sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography;
- identifying, exchanging and promoting best practices on measures to combat the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography;
- making recommendations on the promotion and protection of human rights of children actual or potential victims of sale, prostitution and pornography, as well as on the aspects related to the rehabilitation of child victims of sexual exploitation.
The Special Rapporteur submits annual reports to the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, making recommendations to Governments, United Nations bodies and non-governmental organisations in order to protect the rights of children.
The Special Rapporteur’s report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014 provides an overview of the major, recent, global developments in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. When the Special Rapporteur presented this report, the Commission delivered a joint statement with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which focused on the need to improve the UK’s criminal laws to better protect children from different forms of sexual exploitation.
All thematic reports of the Special Rapporteur can be found here.
The role of Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children was established in 2005. The Special Rapporteur is tasked with:
- Taking action on violations committed against trafficked person on situations in which there has been a failure to protect their human rights.
- Undertaking country visits to formulate recommendations to prevent/combat trafficking.
- Submitting annual reports to include recommendations on measures required to uphold and protect the human rights of victims.
The Special Rapporteur’s report to the Human Rights Council in April 2014 provides an in-depth analysis of the first decade of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. When the Special Rapporteur presented this report, the Commission delivered a joint statement via video link with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
All thematic reports of the Special Rapporteur can be found here.
- Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children.
- Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the implementation of the UN CRC from July 2008.
- Cumulative Impact Assessment
- Fair financial decision making, 2014 progress report.
- Written and oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ inquiry on violence against women and girls. pp. 5-6
Last Updated: 02 Dec 2014