Background Release
19 December 1997

Experts To Examine Reports Of The Maldives (additional information), The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Ireland And The Federated States Of Micronesia

The Committee on the Rights of the Child will discuss the promotion and protection of children’s rights in the Maldives, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Ireland and the Federated States of Micronesia in its seventeenth session at the Palais des Nations at Geneva from 5 to 23 January 1997.

The Committee was formed in 1991 to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most complete statement of children’s rights ever made and the first to give these rights the force of international law. The countries scheduled to come before the Committee at this session are among the 191 to have ratified or acceded to the Convention. The Committee has so far examined the situation of children’s rights in 79 States parties.

The Convention is the most widely accepted human rights instrument ever, protecting the rights of approximately 2 billion children in the world. Only the United States of America and Somalia have not ratified or acceded to the Convention, although the former has indicated its intention to do so.

Besides reviewing the reports from the four countries, the Committee will also discuss cooperation with other United Nations bodies, specialized agencies and other competent bodies; methods of work of the Committee as well as its future meetings; and the biennial report of the Committee on its activities. Every two years, the Committee submits to the General Assembly, through the Economic and Social Council, a report on its activities. The report to be submitted to the General Assembly at its fifty-third session will include the activities of the Committee in its past six sessions starting May-June 1996.

The Committee is composed of 10 independent human rights experts. States parties in 1995 adopted an amendment to the Convention that would increase the membership to 18 in order to enable the Committee to face a rapidly growing workload. The amendment will enter into force upon its acceptance by a two- thirds majority of States parties.

Timetable for Consideration of Reports

The following is a tentative timetable for the consideration of reports during this session:

-- Maldives (document CRC/C/8/Add.33 and Add.37), on Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 and 7 January;

-- Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (document CRC/C/28/Add.6), on Thursday and Friday, 8 and 9 January;

-- Ireland (document CRC/C/11/Add.12), on Monday and Tuesday, 12 and 13 January;

-- Federated States of Micronesia (document CRC/C/26/Add.5), on Wednesday and Thursday, 14 and 15 January.

Convention on the Rights of the Child

The General Assembly adopted the Convention unanimously on 20 November 1989, 30 years after the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. The Convention makes States which accept it legally accountable for their actions towards children. Work on its drafting began in 1979 -- the International Year of the Child -- at the Commission on Human Rights.

The Convention was opened for signature on 26 January 1990. That day, 61 countries signed it, a record first-day response. It entered into force just seven months later, on 2 September 1990.

Ratifying the Convention entails reviewing national legislation to make sure it is in line with the provisions of the treaty. The Convention stipulates, among other things, that: every child has the right to life, and States shall ensure to the maximum child survival and development; every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth; and, when courts, welfare institutions or administrative authorities deal with children, the child's best interests shall be a primary consideration. The Convention recognizes the right of children to be heard.

Furthermore, States shall ensure that each child enjoys full rights without discrimination or distinctions of any kind; that children should not be separated from their parents, unless by competent authorities for their well-being; States should facilitate reunification of families by permitting travel into, or out of, their territories; and States shall protect children from physical or mental harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation.

Also according to the Convention, disabled children shall have the right to special treatment, education and care; primary education shall be free and compulsory and discipline in school should respect the child's dignity; capital punishment or life imprisonment shall not be imposed for crimes committed before the age of 18; no child under 15 should take any part in hostilities and children exposed to armed conflict shall receive special protection; and children of minority and indigenous populations shall freely enjoy their own culture, religion and language.

A conference of States parties has endorsed efforts to amend the Convention in order to increase the membership of the Committee, while the General Assembly has expressed support for the working group of the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to the treaty related to the involvement of children in armed conflict.

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, nominated by the States parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been elected to the Committee: Francesco Paolo Fulci (Italy), Judith Karp (Israel), Youri Kolosov (Russian Federation), Sandra P. Mason (Barbados), Nafsiah Mboi (Indonesia), Esther Margaret Queen Mokhuane (South Africa), Awa N’deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Lisbet Palme (Sweden), Ghassan Salim Rabah (Lebanon), and Marilia Sardenberg Zelner Goncalves (Brazil).

At the end of the spring session in 1997, the Committee elected Ms. Mason as Chairperson; Mrs. Karp, Mr. Kolosov and Mr. Rabah as deputies; and Ms. Mboi as rapporteur for a two-year period.