Address by Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner, for Human Rights: Signing Ceremony of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure

28 February 2012

Madam President,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Excellences,

It is my pleasure to welcome you today at this signing ceremony of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure.

I am very grateful to the Permanent Mission of Slovakia for taking the initiative to organize this ceremony and to do so in Geneva. The Optional Protocol was on the agenda of the Council for the last three years and many of those present here today, including State delegations, civil society organizations and experts, played a crucial role in the drafting and adoption process. Today we have come together to celebrate the adoption of the Protocol by the General Assembly last December, and to express our collective aspiration for its signature, ratification and early entry into force.

We followed with great interest the drafting process of the protocol, during which it became clear that children should be offered a level of protection under the Convention equivalent to that provided in many other international core human rights treaties. Moving forward we will focus on the entry into force and strongly encourage States to ratify the Protocol as soon as possible. As the High Commissioner stated at the open-ended working group in December 2010, litigation and the examination of communications from individuals at regional and international level can make a vital contribution to the understanding of the substantive content of international norms, can lead to real change not only for the individuals directly concerned but for all those protected by the rights guaranteed in the treaties and can provide a strong incentive for strengthening national protection mechanisms. This Optional Protocol will serve these purposes and in so doing will improve access to remedies and relief for victims. It is important to mention as well that the purpose of the Optional Protocol is not only to provide access to an international mechanism to victims, but also to prompt the availability of remedies at the domestic level.

Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout the years the treaty bodies have acquired vast experience in examining individual communications and built a remarkable body of case law which is being referred to by courts and legal practitioners throughout the world and studied in many universities.

We can only be proud that very soon the optional protocol will be a new and unique tool to better protect children’s rights, a tool which will be adapted to the special needs of children and the nature of the rights protected under the Convention.

At the same time, the individual communications procedures face important challenges as does the treaty body system in general. As you know, we are reaching the end of a process of reflection on how to strengthen treaty bodies so that they can respond to the current needs and the increasing demands.

I wish to take this opportunity to emphasize, once more, the vital importance of the treaty body’s work. While States are the owners and creators of the system and bear the primary responsibility of ensuring respect for the obligations they undertook when ratifying the treaties, the treaty bodies have a central role in monitoring those obligations and provide States with the wealth of their rich expertise.

Today, as we open for signature the Optional Protocol, let us all reaffirm our commitment to the rights of the child and to their protection and promotion through the treaty body system.

Thank you very much.