COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTY-FIFTH SESSION

HR/4723
30 January 2004

COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTY-FIFTH SESSION

30/01/2004
Press Release
HR/4723


Round-up


COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTY-FIFTH SESSION


Adopts Conclusions on Reports of Indonesia, Guyana, Armenia, Germany

Netherlands (including Aruba), India, Papua New Guinea, Slovenia, Japan


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 30 January (UN Information Service) -- The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded today its thirty-fifth session and issued its conclusions and recommendations on the situation of children in Indonesia, Guyana, Armenia, Germany, Netherlands (including Aruba), India, Papua New Guinea, Slovenia and Japan whose reports on efforts to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child were considered this session.


The conclusions and recommendations were contained in the Committee's final report for the three-week session, which was adopted today by the Committee’s    18 independent experts.


After considering the report of Indonesia, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the ongoing democratization process and the inclusion of human rights issues, including the human rights of children, in laws and policies.  The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party strengthen measures to ensure quick and safe repatriation of all separated children to Timor-Leste, and take measures to prevent and to end the violence affecting children’s lives and rights, especially in areas such as Aceh, the Maluku and West Papua.


With regard to the report of Guyana, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the establishment of the Ministry for Amerindians Affairs led by a woman of Amerindian descent.  The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party raise the age of the minimum sexual consent and the minimum age of criminal responsibility to an internationally acceptable one; and continue to strengthen measures aimed at increasing enrolment rates in primary and secondary education and to further increase attempts to bring dropouts back to school and other training programmes.


Responding to the report of Armenia, the Committee welcomed the amendments of 2002 and 2003 to the Children’s Rights Act and the adoption in 2003 of the National Plan of Action for the Protection of Children’s Rights in Armenia to be implemented from 2004 to 2015.  The Committee, among its recommendations, urged the State party to raise the minimum age for marriage for girls so that it became equal to the minimum age set for boys, and adopt specific legislation and take other measures to prevent violence against children in all circumstances, including corporal punishment.


Following its consideration of the report of Germany, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the law of nationality and citizenship of 15 July 1999, and the ratification, in 2001, of the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Inter-country Adoption.  It recommended, among other things, that the State party strengthen awareness-raising campaigns with the involvement of children in order to prevent and combat child abuse and to accelerate the elimination of child poverty, notably to eliminate the differences between the eastern and western part of the country.


With regard to the report of the Netherlands (including Aruba), the Committee welcomed efforts to improve coordination of policy through, inter alia, the establishment of a Youth Commissioner in the Netherlands in 2004 and noted with appreciation that the State party had met the United Nation’s target of allocating at least 0.7 per cent of GNI to official development assistance.  It recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure that there was a clearly defined policy on child abuse and neglect, and to develop a National Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation for both the Netherlands and Aruba.


Responding to the report from India, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the Constitution Act of 2002 providing for free and compulsory education to all children between six and 14 years.  Among its recommendations on the report, the Committee urged the State party to strengthen its efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among adolescents, particularly among those belonging to vulnerable groups and among the population at large; establish special education programmes for disabled children and promote community-based programmes for the prevention of child labour.


Concerning the report of Papua New Guinea, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the Juvenile Courts Act in 2003 and the establishment of the first juvenile court in the nation’s capital, Port Moresby.  The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party strengthen efforts to combat discriminatory attitudes towards children with disabilities, particularly amongst children and parents, and promote their participation in all aspects of social and cultural life, and ensure safe drinking water and adequate sanitation to all.


Following its consideration of the report of Slovenia, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of legislative and other measures aiming at improving the integration of children with special needs into regular forms of education, including the Guidance for Children with Special Educational Needs Act in 2000.  The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party intensify its efforts to combat negative stereotypes of and discrimination against Roma and children belonging to other minorities in the State party, and to strengthen its efforts to identify, prevent and combat trafficking in children for sexual and other exploitative purposes.


In response to the report of Japan, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the Law on Punishing Acts related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and on Protecting Children of 1999 and of the Child Abuse Prevention Law of 2000.  Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to undertake all necessary proactive measures to combat societal discrimination and ensure access to basic services, in particular for girls, children with disabilities, children of migrant workers and refugee and asylum-seeking children.


This was the third meeting of the Committee with the expanded membership of 18 instead of 10 independent experts. If approved by the General Assembly, the Committee will hold a two-chamber simultaneous meeting in October 2004.


The Committee's next session will be held from 17 May to 4 June 2004.  Scheduled for consideration are reports of Liberia, Myanmar, Dominique, France, El Salvador, Panama, Rwanda, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Sao Tome and Principe.


Final Conclusions on Country Reports


After considering the second periodic report of Indonesia, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the participatory process through which the report was drafted, including the involvement of non-governmental organizations and universities; the ratification of a number of human rights instruments such as the Convention against Torture (1998), the Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (1999), and the ILO Convention No. 138 on minimum age for admission to employment and No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour in 1999 and 2000, respectively; the ongoing democratization process and the inclusion of human rights issues, including the human rights of children, in laws and policies; and the adoption of laws and the establishment of various mechanisms aimed at protecting and promoting the rights of children.


The Committee acknowledged that the challenges faced by the State party, such as internal armed conflicts, terrorism, and the particular nature of the geographical configuration of the State party comprising over 17,000 islands, were factors which impeded the implementation of the Convention.


The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party review the age limits set by different legislation affecting children to ensure their conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention; ensure that no discrimination based on sex remained; adjust all national and regional laws relating to birth registration, and implement a comprehensive strategy in order to achieve 100 per cent birth registration by 2015; strengthen measures to ensure quick and safe repatriation of all separated children to Timor-Leste; ensure universal access to primary health care; strengthen measures to achieve universal and free primary education; take immediate steps to ensure that all displaced and refugee children and their families had access to basic health and education services, and that all their rights contained in the Convention were protected; take measures to prevent and to end the violence affecting children’s lives and rights, especially in areas such as Aceh, the Maluku and West Papua; and that the State party develop and implement legislation adequately protecting child victims of sexual exploitation, including trafficking, pornography and prostitution.


With regard to the initial report of Guyana, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the establishment of the Ministry for Amerindians Affairs led by a woman of Amerindian descent; the constitutional reform and the passage of Bill  No. 6 of 2001 that provided for the establishment of constitutional commissions, including the Commission of the Rights of the Child; and the ratification of ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the Minimum Age for admission to Employment in 1998 and ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 2001.


The Committee noted that the increasing debt burden, wide spread poverty, racial tension and political instability have impeded progress to the full realization of the children’s rights enshrined in the Convention.  It also noted that a large number of children were leaving in remote areas to reach.


Among the Committee’s recommendations were that the State party raise the age of the minimum sexual consent, and the minimum age of criminal responsibility to an internationally acceptable one; expressly prohibit corporal punishment by law in the family, schools and other institutions; ensure that the National Policy on the Rights of People with Disabilities addressed children’s rights, taking into account the provision for non-discrimination, accessibility to all services including public buildings and transportation; reduce mortality rates by improving prenatal care and preventing communicable diseases; continue to strengthen measures aimed at increasing enrolment rates in primary and secondary education and to further increase attempts to bring dropouts back to school and other training programmes; ensure that pregnant teenagers were given an opportunity to complete their education; continue and strengthen its efforts to assist street children; and that Guyana take all necessary measures to protect Amerindian children against discrimination and to guarantee their enjoyment of all rights recognized in the Convention.


After considering the second periodic report of Armenia, the Committee welcomed a number of positive developments in the reporting period, including amendments of 2002 and 2003 to the Children’s Rights Act, which strengthened the protection of the rights of the Convention in national legislation; the adoption of the Human Rights Procurator Act; the adoption in 2003 of the National Plan of Action for the Protection of Children’s Rights in Armenia to be implemented from 2004 to 2015; the adoption in 2003 of the Strategic Programme to Overcome Poverty to be implemented from 2004 to 2015; and the approval of the National Strategy to Combat HIV/AIDS in 2002.


Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee noted that the State party continued to face serious economic, social and political challenges posed by the transition to a market economy, including increased unemployment and poverty, and the unresolved conflict over Nagorny Karabakh.


Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to take further measures to ensure effective national coordination of activities in the field of children’s rights and that adequate support was given to local authorities for implementation of the Convention; raise the minimum age for marriage for girls so that it became equal to the minimum age set for boys; ensure that effective mechanisms to review, monitor and follow up adoption of children were established; adopt specific legislation and take other measures to prevent violence against children in all circumstances, including corporal punishment; reinforce its efforts to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and combat HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; increase efforts to improve and facilitate the integration of refugees into Armenian society; ensure the effective implementation of the minimum age for admission to employment, set at age 16 in the Labour Code, and of other provisions prohibiting heavy and hazardous work for children under 18; undertake a national study on the nature and extent of sexual exploitation of children; and that the State party adopt and ensure the effective implementation of the National Programme to Combat Trafficking, which was currently under consideration.


Following its consideration of the second periodic report of Germany, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the law of nationality and citizenship of 15 July 1999; the amendment of the Law on Family Matters (Reform zum Kindschaftsrecht) of 16 December 1997; the ratification, in 2001, of the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of Inter-country Adoption; and the ratification, in 2002, of the ILO Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour.


Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the general principle of the best interests of the child was appropriately integrated in all legislation and budgets;take all necessary measure for a full implementation of the new legislation of the law on parental custody; fully and effectively apply the Hague Convention to all children abducted to Germany; undertake a comprehensive study on violence, more particularly, on sexual abuse and violence; strengthen awareness-raising campaigns with the involvement of children in order to prevent and combat child abuse; undertake a study on the extent and nature of female genital mutilation practiced in the state party or abroad on girls who live in Germany; accelerate the elimination of child poverty, notably to eliminate the differences between the eastern and western part of the country; ease refugee family reunification requirements and procedures, in particular for the 1951 Convention refugee families; pursue its efforts to combat sexual exploitation and trafficking in children; and that Germany ensure that street children were provided with adequate nutrition, clothing, housing, health care and educational opportunities.


After reviewing the second periodic report of the Netherlands and the initial report of Aruba, the Committee welcomed efforts to improve coordination of policy through, inter alia, the establishment of a Youth Commissioner in the Netherlands in 2004; efforts to improve the participation of youth in policymaking; and legislative reform aimed at improving implementation of the Convention.  The Committee also noted with appreciation that the State party had met the United Nations’ target of allocating at least 0.7 per cent of GNI to official development assistance.


The Committee urged the State party to make every effort to address those recommendations from the concluding observations of the initial report that had not yet been implemented and to address the ones contained in the present concluding observations.


Among its recommendations, the Committee suggested that the State party take the necessary measures for the establishment of an ombudsman for children in both the Netherlands and Aruba; frequently evaluate, and if necessary revise, the regulations and procedures in the Netherlands with respect to the termination of life upon request in order to ensure that children, including newborn infants with severe abnormalities, enjoy special protection; ensure that there was a clearly defined policy on child abuse and neglect; expand education possibilities for children with disabilities in Aruba; expedite efforts to address non-attendance and the school drop out rate; develop a National Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation for both the Netherlands and Aruba; strengthen the capacity of police in the Netherlands and Aruba to receive and investigate complaints of trafficking and sexual exploitation in a child-sensitive manner; and undertake an in-depth study of trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Aruba, including the possible existence of sex tourism.


After its consideration of the second periodic report of India, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the Constitution Act, 2002 providing for free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to 14 years; the adoption of the 2003 amendment of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994; the launch of a national programme for formation of Women’s Self-Help Groups which had an important impact for children’s rights; and the expansion of primary school.


The Committee acknowledged that the very large number and the high rate of population growth were major impediments in the implementation of the Convention. In addition, extreme poverty; massive inequality of social status; and the persistence of deeply discriminatory attitudes, as well as the impact of natural disasters represented serious difficulties in the fulfilment of all of the State party's obligations under the Convention.


Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to promote respect for the views of children within the family, schools, institutions, as well as in judicial and administrative procedures;to take legislative measures and to amend outdated legislation to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence, including sexual abuse of children in the family, schools and in institutions; strengthen its efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among adolescents, particularly among those belonging to vulnerable groups and among the population at large; establish special education programmes for disabled children; that India reinforce its efforts to provide support and material assistance to economically disadvantaged families and to guarantee the right of children to an adequate standard of living; strengthen its efforts to progressively ensure that girls and boys, from urban, rural and least developed areas, have equal access to educational opportunities; hire more qualified teachers and provide them with more opportunities for training; consider acceding to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol; and promote community-based programmes for the prevention of child labour.


Following its consideration of the initial report of Papua New Guinea, the Committee welcomed the adoption of the Juvenile Courts Act in 2003 and the establishment of the first juvenile court in the nation’s capital, Port Moresby; the amendments to the Criminal Code and the Evidence Act in 2002 entering into force in 2003, which had improved the legal framework of the protection of children against sexual abuse; the adoption of a National Health Plan 2001-2010 and the adoption of specific policies such as the Village Health Volunteers (2000) and the Policy and Expanded Programme on Immunization (2003); and the establishment of a National AIDS Council and the adoption of the HIV/AIDS Management and Prevention Act 2003.


The Committee acknowledged the challenges faced by the State party, namely, the internal armed conflict, the vulnerability to natural disasters and the geographical nature of the country, as well as the existence of more than 800 local languages in use for impeding the full implementation of the provisions of the Convention.


Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party strengthen efforts to combat discriminatory attitudes towards children with disabilities, particularly amongst children and parents, and promote their participation in all aspects of social and cultural life; formulate a strategy which included appropriate teacher training, to ensure that all children with disabilities have access to education, and wherever possible they were integrated into the mainstream education system; improve training efforts of local midwifes promoting safe deliveries; address the issue of malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies though education  and promotion of healthy feeding practices, including breast feeding; ensure safe drinking water and adequate sanitation to all; integrate respect for the rights of the child into the development and implementation of its HIV/AIDS policies and strategies on behalf of children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS; reform its national education system which addressed the key issues of participation and quality of education; and ensure that no children were involved in armed conflict and that every ex-child soldier is properly rehabilitated and integrated in the society.


Following its consideration of the second periodic report of Slovenia, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the recent official withdrawal of the State party’s reservation to article 9, paragraph 1, of the Convention; the ratification in 2002 of The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption of 1993; the adoption of legislative and other measures aiming at improving the integration of children with special needs into regular forms of education, including the Guidance for Children with Special Educational Needs Act in 2000; and the adoption of new legislation defining the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, including the Aliens Act and the Asylum Act of 1999, and the additions to the Law on the Temporary Refugee Status (ZZat-A) of 2002; and the  ratification in 2001 of Convention No. 182 of the International Labour Organization on worst forms of child labour.


Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to establish either a deputy ombudsperson, a section within the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, or a separate children’s ombudsperson, supported with sufficient human and financial resources; intensify its efforts to combat negative stereotypes of and discrimination against Roma and children belonging to other minorities in the State party; continue and strengthen its efforts to address the problem of child abuse; take all measures to ensure that discipline in schools was upheld in a manner that respects the human dignity of the child; strengthen its efforts and programmes to prevent suicide among young people; continue and further strengthen measures to combat poverty, including special measures targeted at single parent families and Roma; take measures to address the high drop-out rate in secondary education;  take further measures to ensure that asylum seekers and refugee children were granted equal access to services, including healthcare; strengthen measures to address the problem of drug abuse among children; and strengthen its efforts to identify, prevent and combat trafficking in children for sexual and other exploitative purposes.


After considering the second periodic report of Japan, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the Law on Punishing Acts related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and on Protecting Children of 1999 and of the Child Abuse Prevention Law of 2000; the establishment of a National Plan of Action against Commercial and Sexual Exploitation of Children in 2001; its largest donation of official development assistance in absolute figures, and the fact that a considerable amount of that assistance was allocated to social development, including health and education; and the ratification of ILO Convention No. 138 concerning the Minimum Age for Admission to Employment in 2000, and No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour in 2001.


Among the Committee’s recommendations were that the State party raise the minimum age of marriage for girls to that of boys, and the minimum age of sexual consent; amend its legislation in order to eliminate any discrimination against children born out of wedlock; undertake all necessary proactive measures to combat societal discrimination and ensure access to basic services, in particular for girls, children with disabilities, children of migrant workers and refugee and asylum-seeking children; prohibit corporal punishment in institutions and the home; strengthen complaints mechanisms for children in institutions and schools; strengthen its system for monitoring domestic and inter-country adoptions; ratify and implement the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption; undertake a study of adolescent health with a view to developing a comprehensive adolescent health policy; amend legislation in order to allow children under 18 to access medical counselling; undertake an in-depth study of youth suicide and its causes; and amend legislation on sexual exploitation and abuse to ensure equal protection for boys and girls.


Committee Membership


The Convention requires that the members of the Committee have a high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of children's rights.  The following experts, elected by the State parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been elected to the Committee:  Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al-Sheddi (Saudi Arabia), Ghalia Mohd Bin Hamad Al-Thani (Qatar), Joyce Aluoch (Kenya), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Luigi Citarella (Italy), Jacob Egbert Doek (Netherlands), Kamel Filali (Algeria), Moushira Khattab (Egypt), Hatem Kotrane (Tunisia), Lothar Friedrich Krappmann (Germany), Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea), Norberto Liwski (Argentina), Rosa Maria Ortiz (Paraguay), Awa N'Deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Marilia Sardenberg Gonçalves (Brazil), Lucy Smith (Norway), Marjorie Taylor (Jamaica), and Nevena Vuckovic-Sahovic (Serbia and Montenegro).


Mr. Doek is the Chairperson.  Ms. Aluoch, Ms. Chutikul and Ms. Sardenberg Gonçalves are Vice-Chairpersons, and Ms. Khattab is the Rapporteur.


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For information media. Not an official record.