Reporting on the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols are periodically reviewed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to ensure Governments are upholding the rights of their children.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only international human rights treaty that expressly gives non-government organisations a role in monitoring its implementation (under article 45a) and in Australia, the Australian Child Rights Taskforce plays a key role in this process.
This is an important and powerful way for the Australian Child Rights Taskforce to monitor and help improve children’s rights in Australia, as it ensures that the experiences of Australia’s children and young people are heard before the Committee.
About UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is a body of 18 experts from around the world set up to monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols – children in armed conflict; the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and establishing an international complaints procedure for violations of children’s rights – in countries that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Committee sits periodically in Geneva to consider reports presented by ratifying countries. In its deliberations, the Committee examines the report submitted by the country concerned. It can ask the government for further information or clarification. The Committee also encourages non-government organisations to provide an alternative report to the official government report so that it has a more rounded view of a country’s progress. The Committee can also ask UN accredited agencies, such as UNICEF, to provide information about a particular country.
The Committee then considers the reports and briefing received from Government, civil society and children and young people, and releases recommendations, known as the Concluding Observations. These recommendations explain how the Australian Government can improve implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in Australia, uphold the rights of all children and identify the children at most risk in Australia.
Australia’s role in the reporting process
Australia ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1990, which means that Australia has a duty to ensure that all children in Australia enjoy these rights. The Australian Government presented its latest report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2011. This was followed by the Australian Child Rights Taskforce’s publication, entitled Listen to Children. In 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released its Concluding Observations.
While the Government has responsibility to consider what the Committee says and make its laws, policies and processes better for children and young people, it cannot be forced to do this.
However, in Australia, the Government is listening! In 2013, the Australian Government appointed a National Children’s Commissioner, a significant step in the protection and promotion of child rights in Australia. This had been a key recommendation in the Australian Child Rights Taskforce publication, Listen to Children. The National Children’s Commissioner is Megan Mitchell and it’s her job to make sure children and young people have a genuine say on the issues that affect their lives.
The Australian Government is due to submit its next report by 15 January 2018.
The Reporting Process
The reporting process should be seen as a cycle. At any stage during the cycle, NGOs and other non-State actors can establish their own structures to monitor how the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols are being implemented in a particular State. Children can take part in the different stages of the reporting process.
Step 1: Submission of the State Party Report
Each new reporting cycle begins when the Committee receives the State party report eg. the report from the Australian Government. These reports are usually scheduled for review according to when they are received, irrespective of when they were due.
Step 2: Preparation and submission of NGO Reports
To make a comprehensive and independent assessment of the child rights situation in a State, the Committee welcomes specific, reliable and objective information from non-State actors, including Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and children. This is where the Australian Child Rights Taskforce comes in, advocates, service providers and experts who work directly with children. Our role is to bring an alternative perspective on the impact of Government initiatives on children and make recommendations to improve the situation.
Step 3: The Pre-Session Meeting
The pre-session meeting (pre-session) is a private and confidential meeting of the Committee. During this meeting, the Committee conducts a preliminary review of the report submitted by the State party. It also examines reports from other sources, including NGOs, UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions and children. From this, the Committee obtains an overview of the situation in the country and identifies some key issues to be discussed with the State during the plenary session.
Step 4: The Committee’s ‘List of Issues’
Following the pre-session, the Committee prepares a ‘List of Issues’. In this list of questions, the Committee asks the State for additional information. This list is sent to the State with the formal invitation to appear before the Committee. It is also published on the Committee’s website. The Committee requests a written response from the State by a date indicated in the first paragraph of the document. It is usually approximately three months before the review.
Step 5: Submission of the State’s Written Replies
The Written Replies are the State’s official response to the Committee’s List of Issues. NGOs may contribute to the preparation of a State’s written replies if their assistance is requested by the government. The State’s written replies are a public document and are published on the Committee’s website. NGOs can also provide a brief written response to the ‘List of Issues’. NGOs are advised to wait until they have seen the State’s written replies before sending any additional information, unless there is an important delay.
Step 6: The Plenary Session
The review of a State for either the Convention on the Rights of the Child report or the integrated Children’s Convention and Optional Protocol (OP) report takes place over one full day. An additional half day (one three-hour meeting) will be added for the review of one or both initial OP reports if they are being reviewed at the same time as a Convention on the Rights of the Child report. If a State has only sent a report on one or both OPs, the review will take place over half or a full day respectively. In the case of periodic reports on the OPs for a State which has not ratified the CRC, one full day is given for the review of both OPs.
Step 7: Concluding Observations
On the last day of a session, the Committee formally adopts Concluding Observations for all States reviewed during the session. These Concluding Observations point out the positive achievements and challenges faced in the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the OPs by each State, as well as a list of recommendations about how the State can improve its compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and OPs.
Step 8: Follow up to Concluding Observations
The Committee does not have a formal follow-up procedure by which the implementation of certain Concluding Observations is periodically assessed. However, at each periodic review, the Committee takes into account previous Concluding Observations and compares these with progress detailed in the State party’s report and in submissions received from non-State actors.