The voice of children before the Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Additional Protocol to the Child Rights Convention offers children the opportunity to make complaints on violations of their rights before the Committee on the Rights of the Child. There is room for improvement to involve children in the procedure.
‘For rights to have meaning, effective remedies must be available to redress violations’. On 19th December 2011, Optional Protocol III to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure for children was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Although welcomed as an important milestone in the emancipation and acknowledgement of children’s rights, there is one important deficit in the resulting document: no children were involved in its drafting process. This is at least remarkable given the qualification of children’s right to participation as one of the key principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The same is true for the Convention on the Rights of the Child itself: no children were involved in its drafting process. Nevertheless, the adoption of Optional Protocol III to the Convention on the Rights of the Child does offer an opportunity for children to become involved in the realization of their own rights, provided that it will be ratified by a minimum of 10 States.
A complaints procedure allows individuals, groups and their representatives to bring alleged violations of their rights before a competent Human Rights Committee, when domestic or regional complaints mechanisms are insufficient or don’t exist. As such, it offers an overarching remedy as well as an example for establishing remedies for children in domestic law systems. Still, there is room for improvement.
Whereas there is a general balance in the CRC between the protection rights of children and their participation rights , OP III focuses relatively strongly on protective measures, such as article 4 OP III. It would have been more equilibrated to also incorporate an explicit article on children’s right to participation, as was propagated by several states in the preparation phase. Although intended to be included in the Rules of Procedure of the Committee, inclusion in the Protocol itself would have had more standing and it could have established a significant point of reference for regional and national communications procedures for children. Furthermore, it is now only an aspiration that still needs to be realized. The omission of such a provision is a missed opportunity in enabling children to stand up for their rights on an international level.
Therefore, it is time that the Committee on the Rights of the Child itself provides a good example of involving children in the drafting of its own rules of procedure. This would be a much more convincing example of involving children in the enforcement of their own rights, than repeatedly stating that the right of children to be heard should be respected. In doing so, innovative ways of involving children are essential, going beyond the route of written submissions. Establishing child-friendly procedures requires at least the acceptance of role-playing, You Tube films, poems or song texts and verbal explanations to allow children to choose the way in which they can best express themselves for sharing their opinions on best practices in a communications procedure for children.