CRC
26th session
26 January 2001


ROUND-UP





Issues Final Conclusions and Recommendations on Reports of Latvia,
Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lithuania, Lesotho,
Saudi Arabia, Palau and the Dominican Republic



The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded today its three-week winter session, issuing conclusions and recommendations on reports submitted to it by Latvia, Liechtenstein, Ethiopia, Egypt, Lithuania, Lesotho, Saudi Arabia, Palau and the Dominican Republic.

The nine countries, in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, presented the Committee with written reports on their efforts to promote and protect children's rights, and sent Government delegations to discuss the documents and answer questions from the Committee's 10 independent Experts.

Concerning the situation in Latvia, the Committee welcomed the recent adoption of new laws, as well as the amendments to domestic legislation with a view to bringing it into conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention. Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention in Latvia, the Committee acknowledged that the economic and social difficulties facing that State had been caused mainly by the transition to a market economy. The Committee expressed concern regarding the rise in the number of children and youth using drugs, alcohol and tobacco, the increase of cases of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS among youth, and the growing use of abortion as a method of birth control; and it recommended that Latvia increase its efforts in promoting adolescent health policies.

In reviewing the report of Liechtenstein, the Committee welcomed the establishment of the national youth parliament, which strengthened the active participation of young people in societal activities. The Committee noted the special attention given to domestic violence, including the establishment of a State-supported shelter for abused women and their children and a legislative proposal to make expulsion of perpetrators from the home possible. It expressed concern regarding the insufficient information concerning the practice and procedure of monitoring the situation of children who, due to the lack of facilities in the State party, were in detention in Austria.

The Committee congratulated Ethiopia on its establishment of an independent Commission on Human Rights and the office of the Ombudsman, which would include children's rights within their responsibilities; it was, however, concerned that children and their families who were members of ethnic groups which were a minority in a particular region, or which were not in control of the region's administration, faced discrimination; and it recommended, among other things, that Ethiopia make appropriate additional efforts to strengthen implementation of the non-discrimination provisions of the national constitution. The Committee noted Ethiopia's continuing serious socio-economic problems and expressed its concern about the situation of human rights in general.

The Committee welcomed the adoption of the 1996 Children's Code by Egypt, and the declaration of the Second Decade for the Protection and Welfare of the Egyptian Child (2000-2010), which continued to demonstrate the commitment of the State party towards realizing its obligations under the Convention; it, however, expressed concern at the practice of female genital mutilation which it said was widespread in the country despite the Government's decision to prohibit it, the Ministerial decree banning the practice, as well as various efforts to educate the public about its harms; and the Committee recommended that Egypt address the issue as a matter of priority.

The Committee considered as a positive aspect the efforts undertaken by Lesotho to ensure that the principles and provisions of the Convention were widely known; however, the Committee said it remained extremely concerned about the alarmingly high incidence and increasing prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst adults and children, in particular amongst teenage girls, and the high incidence of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; and it recommended, among other things, that a plan of action be effectively implemented against such incidents.

The Committee welcomed the establishment by Saudi Arabia of the Committee on Deliberate Child Abuse as a positive aspect; and it noted with appreciation the generous financial aid given to developing countries. Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee noted the universal values of equality and tolerance inherent in Islam, and observed that narrow interpretations of Islamic texts by State authorities were impeding the enjoyment of many human rights protected under the Convention.

Concerning Palau, the Committee expressed satisfaction with the quality of the report that provided information on the practical implementation of the Convention as well as the challenges and limitations faced in that regard; also, the establishment of the Victims of Crime Assistance Programme to provide assistance to victims of child abuse and domestic violence was cited a positive aspect. However, it regretted that Palau had not yet acceded to the six main international human rights instruments and said that those instruments would reinforce a culture of human rights and strengthen the efforts of Palau to meet its obligations in guaranteeing the rights of all children under its jurisdiction.

And on the report of the Dominican Republic, the Committee said that the enactment of children's rights related legislation were regarded as positive steps for the implementation of the Convention in that State. The Committee expressed concern that widespread poverty and long-standing economic and social disparities were affecting the most vulnerable groups, including children, and were hampering the enjoyment of the rights of the child in the Dominican Republic. Among its recommendations, the Committee urged the State party to take, as a matter of priority, effective measures to ensure that children born to Haitian families in its territory or belonging to Haitian migrant families had the same access to services.

Also during this session, the Committee adopted a General Comment on education, article 29 (1) of the Convention which states that the child's right to education is not only a matter of access but of content.

The Committee's next session, its twenty-seventh, will be held from 21 May to 8 June 2001. It will consider reports from Bhutan, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Guatemala, Monaco, Oman, Turkey and Tanzania.


Conclusions and Recommendations on Country Reports

LATVIA

The Committee welcomed the recent adoption of new laws in Latvia, as well as the amendments to domestic legislation with a view to bringing it into conformity with the principles and provisions of the Convention; and it noted the establishment in 1998 of the Commission for the Protection of Children's Rights and in 1996 of the Subcommission for the Protection of Children's Rights within the Parliament, among others.

Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee acknowledged that the economic and social difficulties facing Latvia had been caused mainly by the transition to a market economy. This had increased unemployment and poverty, had a negative impact on the situation of children, and had impeded and was still impeding the full implementation of the Convention.

Under its subjects of concern and recommendations, the Committee expressed concern that in light of article 4 of the Convention, not enough attention had been paid to the adequate allocation of budgetary resources for the implementation of existing child rights legislation, and that the amount and proportion of the State budget spent on children policies was not clearly prioritized; it recommended that the State take measures to clearly identify the budget for children.

While noting the efforts of Latvia in disseminating information about the Convention, the Committee said it was concerned that the principles and provisions of the treaty were not disseminated at all levels of society and in particular in the rural areas; and it recommended that the State party develop more creative methods to promote the Convention.

The Committee was concerned that the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child, and respect for the views of the child were not fully reflected in the country's legislation, administration and judicial decisions, as well as in policies and programmes relevant to children both at national and local levels. The Committee recommended that those principles be integrated in all relevant legislation.



The Committee was deeply concerned that, although all children born in Latvia after 1991 were automatically entitled to citizenship, there was still a high rate of children who were without Latvian nationality; and it further expressed its concern at the slow pace in general of the process of naturalization of Latvian non-citizens.

Moreover, the Committee expressed its concern at the high number of children living in institutions, due to the fact that children living in vulnerable families or with families with very low incomes could not be supported because of the lack of alternative care and of social assistance; and it encouraged the State party to develop comprehensive measures to support vulnerable families with a view to assisting them in their child-rearing responsibilities.

The Committee recommended, among other things, that studies be undertaken on domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, to understand the extent, scope and nature of those practices; adequate measures and policies should be adopted, and efforts should be made to change attitudes. The Committee also recommended that cases of domestic violence and ill-treatment and abuse of children, including sexual abuse within the family, be properly investigated.

The Committee expressed its concern regarding the rise in the number of children and youth using drugs, alcohol and tobacco, the increase of cases of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS among youth and the growing use of abortion as a method of birth control; and it recommended that Latvia increase its efforts in promoting adolescent health policies.


LIECHTENSTEIN

The Committee welcomed the establishment of the national youth parliament, which strengthened the active participation of young people in societal activities; and it noted with appreciation that the State party was hosting a large number of refugees from the Balkan region

Among the principal subjects of concern and recommendations, the Committee welcomed Liechtenstein's preparation of legislation that would further facilitate the access to Liechtenstein citizenship for stateless persons. It encouraged the State party to complete the revision of legislation regarding acquisition of Liechtenstein citizenship as soon as possible in light of the Convention. In addition, the Committee encouraged the State party to pay special attention to the position of children born in Liechtenstein to stateless parents.

The Committee said it was concerned about the reservation made by Liechtenstein to article 10 (2) of the Convention as well as the State's policy regarding family reunification. The reservation suggested that the State party had serious difficulties in dealing with applications for the purpose of family reunification in a positive, humane and expeditious manner and without adverse consequences for the applicants. The Committee recommended that the State party take the necessary legal and other measures establishing a practice in the area of family reunification in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention. It further encouraged the State party to consider the withdrawal of its reservation to article 10 (2) of the Convention.

While the Committee noted that the State party published annual reports on the implementation of the Convention, it was concerned that there was no mechanism that could independently monitor implementation and address violations of the rights of children. It recommended, among other things, that the State party establish an independent, child-friendly monitoring mechanism, such as an Ombudsperson for children or a national commission for children's rights in light of the Paris Principles, to monitor the implementation of the Convention. Such a mechanism should be empowered to investigate and make recommendations regarding violations of the rights of children and other shortcomings in the implementation of the Convention.

While the Committee was aware of the initial measures taken by the State party, it remained concerned about the instances of de facto gender discrimination; and concern was also expressed at incidents of racial hatred that could have a negative effect on the development of children. It recommended that Liechtenstein strengthen its administrative measures to eliminate such discrimination of girls.

The Committee noted the special attention given to domestic violence, including the establishment of a State-supported shelter for abused women and their children and a legislative proposal to make expulsion of perpetrators from the home possible. However, the Committee was concerned about the possible under-reporting of abuse of children as well as the fact that medical doctors were exempted from the obligation to report cases of child abuse.

With regard to the administration of juvenile justice, the Committee was concerned about the lack of desegregated statistics on the type of offences for which minors were generally charged as well as on the average length of sentences and pre-trial detention. Concern was also expressed regarding the insufficient information concerning the practice and procedure of monitoring the situation of children who, due to the lack of facilities in the State party, were in detention in Austria.


ETHIOPIA

The Committee congratulated Ethiopia on its establishment of an independent Commission on Human Rights and the office of the Ombudsman, which would include children's rights within their responsibilities, and noted the interim prohibition by the Ministry of Education of the use of corporal punishment in schools. It took note with appreciation of the significant efforts made by the State party to receive and assist large numbers of refugees from neighbouring countries.

Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee noted the continuing incidence of natural disasters, including drought and floods, and further noted the negative impact upon respect for children's rights of the period of armed conflict with Eritrea. The Committee noted, in addition, Ethiopia's continuing serious socio-economic problems and expressed its concern at the situation of human rights in general.

The Committee was concerned that children and their families who were members of ethnic groups which were a minority in a particular region, or which were not in control of the region's administration, faced discrimination. The Committee recommended, among other things, that Ethiopia make appropriate additional efforts to strengthen implementation of the non-discrimination provisions of the national Constitution.



The Committee recommended that Ethiopia strengthen its efforts to ensure that children's right to be heard was respected; to make every effort to ensure that the right of children and adolescents to express opinions, including through peaceful demonstrations, was respected and that appropriate follow-up was given to the recommendations of the Children's Forum.

The Committee recommended, further, that Ethiopia make additional efforts to guarantee the general respect for human rights of adults. It was also concerned about the high number of children with HIV/AIDS or who were otherwise affected through HIV/AIDS related illnesses or death of parents and other family members, and by the need for concerted action to be taken by the State party. It urged the State, to make efforts to remain informed of the scale of the HIV/AIDS problem within the country, to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and to provide assistance to children with HIV/AIDS and to children whose parents and other family members had HIV/AIDS.

The Committee was deeply concerning about the extremely high infant mortality rates and low life expectancy in Ethiopia; it was concerned, in particular, about high rates of malaria and tuberculosis and their effects upon children, about the fragile health infrastructure, limited health awareness among the public, and the limited implementation of the 1993 Health Policy and the 1994 Social Policy. It was deeply concerned that implementation of health policies had been slow and had seen only limited progress

The Committee was deeply concerned about the very low rates of primary and secondary school enrolment, about the especially low rate of enrolment among girls and by the very high drop-out rate among those children who were initially enrolled. The Committee was concerned, in addition, that insufficient resources among education authorities, schools and parents were having a negative impact on children's enrolment and completion of primary and secondary school. It recommended that the State party pursue its efforts to increase enrolment, build additional schools, supply better school equipment, improve teacher training and recruit more teachers towards ensuring improvements in the quality of education, giving particular attention to those regions most in need of such assistance.

Further, it was concerned about the large numbers of children living or working on the streets of main cities in the State party, and about their lack of access to education, health care, essential nutrition and housing; and it was also concerned about the numbers of children involved in child labour. It recommended that the State party make urgent efforts to protect the rights of children.


EGYPT

The Committee welcomed the adoption of the 1996 Children's Code, and the declaration of the Second Decade for the Protection and Welfare of the Egyptian Child (2000-2010), which continued to demonstrate the commitment of the State party towards realizing its obligations under the Convention. Noting the universal values of equality and tolerance inherent in Islam, the Committee observed that narrow interpretations of Islamic texts by authorities, particularly in areas relating to family law, were impeding the enjoyment of some human rights protected under the Convention.


The Committee observed that the State party's reservation to articles 20 and 21 of the Convention on the system of adoption was unnecessary because of the fact that article 20.3 of the Convention expressly recognized kafalah of Islamic law as alternative care; and it recommended that Egypt consider withdrawing its reservation.

The Committee noted the efforts made by Egypt to improve the effectiveness of the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood in monitoring and coordinating efforts to implement the Convention; however, it was concerned that there remained inadequate administrative coordination and cooperation at the national and local levels of government; and the Committee recommended the Egypt continue to improve intersectoral coordination and cooperation at all levels.

Noting efforts to increase collaboration with non-governmental organizations, the Committee was still concerned that insufficient efforts had been made to involve civil society in the implementation of the Convention; it emphasized the important role civil society played as a partner in implementing the provisions of the Convention, including with respect to civil rights and freedoms; and it recommended that Egypt consider a systematic approach to involve civil society, especially children's associations and advocacy groups, throughout all stages of the implementation of the Convention, including policy-making.

The Committee said it was concerned that in all actions concerning children, the general principle of the best interest of the child contained in article 3 of the Convention was not sufficiently taken into consideration; and it recommended that Egypt review its legislation and administrative measures to ensure that the said provision was duly reflected and taken into consideration.

Further, the Committee was concerned at the incidence of ill-treatment of children in schools despite its prohibition, and within the family; it was further concerned that domestic violence was a problem in Egypt, and that it had harmful consequences on children; it recommended, among other things, that legislative measures be taken to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence, including corporal punishment and sexual abuse against children in the family, schools, courts and care institutions.

The Committee said it remained concerned about the situation of children with disabilities, particularly that only a very small percentage received specialized services; and it recommended that the State party review existing policies and practice in relation to children with disabilities.

Concern was also expressed with the high incidence of anaemia and parasitic infections in children, particularly in rural areas; the State party was recommended to improve its health infrastructure and continue to cooperate with and seek assistance in that regard from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Committee's concern was also focused on the practice of female genital mutilation which it said was widespread in the country despite the Government's decision to prohibit it, the Ministerial decree banning the practice, as well as various efforts to educate the public about its harms; and the Committee recommended that Egypt address the issue as a matter of priority.


LITHUANIA

Cited among positive aspects in the report of Lithuania was the recent adoption of new laws, particularly the new civil code, the penal code and the law on the controller for the protection of the rights of the child.

The Committee noted with appreciation the reform of the juvenile justice system and welcomed the appointment of an Ombudsman for children. However, the Committee recognized that the transition to a market economy after independence in 1991 had affected negatively part of the population, mainly families with children, thus impeding the full implementation of the Convention.

Among the Committee's concerns and recommendations, concern was expressed at the absence of a focal point for children within the Government and the absence of mechanisms, both at the central and local level, for coordinating policies relating to children and for supervising and evaluating the implementation of the Convention; it was recommended that the State party consider undertaking measures to establish better coordination.

The Committee was concerned that the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child and respect for the views of the child were not fully reflected in Lithuania's legislation, political, administrative and judicial decisions, as well as in policies and programmes relevant to children both at national and local levels; it recommended that the State party continue to strengthen its efforts in integrating the general principles of the Convention.

The Committee noted with concern that children of stateless persons having no status of permanent residence in Lithuania did not obtain the Lithuanian citizenship; it encouraged the State party to take all appropriate measures to ensure that children born in Lithuania were protected from statelessness. The Committee also expressed concern at the widespread use of corporal punishment and recommended that appropriate legislative measures be implemented to explicitly prohibit the use of any form of corporal punishment.

Further concern was expressed that children were not adequately protected from the increase of violence and pornography on television, in video films and other media; and there was not enough production and dissemination of programmes and books for children within the country. The State party was recommended to enforce legislation for the protection of children from information and material injurious to their development.

The Committee noted with deep concern the increasing number of children left without parental care due to the increase in the number of vulnerable families and the high number of children living in institutions, due mainly to the fact that children living in vulnerable families or with very low incomes could not be supported because of the inadequacy of alternative care and of social assistance, especially in rural areas; and the State party was encouraged to strengthen comprehensive measures to support parents in their efforts to raise children.

In the area of health and health care, the Committee expressed its concern at the high rates of child morbidity, in particular the increase of cases of tuberculosis and the low rates of breast-feeding; it noted that there was a high rate of children whose death was due to traumas and accidents, in particular motor vehicle traffic accidents, and that children were particularly vulnerable to the ill-effects of contaminants in the soil and air; and it further noted with concern the growing rates of suicide among children and youth. Lithuania was recommended to improve its health situation.

The Committee recommended, among other things, that Lithuania develop community-based programmes for disabilities in the rural areas; increase its efforts in promoting adolescent health policies; continue undertaking appropriate measures to ensure regular attendance at schools; and support existing mechanisms to ensure that children living in the streets were provided with the necessary assistance.


LESOTHO

The Committee found the efforts undertaken by the State party to ensure that the principles and provisions of the Convention were widely known to be a positive aspect; and it appreciated Lesotho's education policy which aimed to promote and enhance the quality of basic education by improving the level of teaching and the introduction of free education for children commencing grade one.

The Committee acknowledged that the economic and social difficulties facing the State party and the human rights situation in general had a negative impact on the situation of children and were impeding the full implementation of the Convention; in particular, it noted the impact of the increasing level of poverty, very high unemployment and the emigration of professionals, on children; and it further noted that the impact of HIV/AIDS also adversely affected the full implementation of the Convention.

The Committee said it remained concerned that domestic legislation did not fully reflect the principles and provisions of the Convention and that several recent efforts to amend domestic legislation had yet to be adopted; and the State party was recommended to ensure that ongoing customary law practices were in conformity with the Convention, and to consider the enactment of a comprehensive child rights statute.

While noting that the principle of non-discrimination was reflected in the Lesotho Constitution, the Committee remained concerned that there continued to be serious discrimination which had a negative impact on respect for children's rights and particularly on the rights of girls. It was equally concerned that many children did not have adequate or equal access to education and health services. Lesotho was urged to urgently strengthen its efforts to ensure full implementation of the principle of non-discrimination of the Convention.

The Committee noted that corporal punishment was prohibited by law in schools, but it remained concerned that the practice continued to be widespread within schools as well as in the family, care and juvenile justice systems and generally within society; and corporal punishment of children was accepted among the public at large. Further, the Committee was extremely concerned about the incidence of violence, including beatings, committed against children by law enforcement officials and the lack of investigation or criminal justice response to such incidents. Lesotho was recommended to take measures to effectively implement legislation prohibiting corporal punishment.


The Committee was concerned about the lack of measures and mechanisms to prevent and combat ill-treatment, violence, neglect and abuse of children, including sexual abuse; and noted with concern the poor health situation of children and particularly the limited access to basic health care. It was also concerned about the health risks linked to male circumcision. The State party was urged to take appropriate measures to improve the health of children and to implement legislation against child abuse.

Moreover, the Committee remained extremely concerned at the alarmingly high incidence and increasingly prevalence of HIV/AIDS amongst adults and children, in particular amongst teenage girls, and the high incidence of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The Committee strongly urged Lesotho to fully implement the National AIDS Strategic Plan 2000/2001-2003/2004 and the Policy Framework on HIV/AIDS Prevention, Control and Management as soon as possible and to devote to them ample resources to ensure their success.

The Committee was also concerned, among other things, about the continuing practice of female genital mutilation; the absence of a national strategy to ensure respect for the rights of children with disabilities; the poor conditions of education resources in high mountains and rural areas; the high number of child labour; and the increasing number of street children. It recommended that the State party strengthen awareness among the population of the harm associated with the practice of female genital mutilation; develop a comprehensive national programme for children with disabilities; strengthen its educational system; and ratify the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 concerning the Worst Forms of Child Labour.


SAUDI ARABIA

The Committee welcomed the establishment by Saudi Arabia of the Committee on Deliberate Child Abuse as a positive aspect; and it noted with appreciation the generous financial aid given to developing countries.

Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee noted the universal values of equality and tolerance inherent in Islam, and observed that narrow interpretations of Islamic texts by State authorities were impeding the enjoyment of many human rights protected under the Convention.

The Committee was concerned that several rights contained in the Convention were not reflected in domestic law; and recommended that the State party conduct a comprehensive review of the basic Law, domestic laws, including administrative regulations, and legal procedural rules to ensure that they conformed to international human rights standards.

The Committee was concerned about the persistence of discrimination in the State party; it found direct and indirect discrimination against girls and children born out of wedlock, including in areas relating to civil status and personal status. It recommended that Saudi Arabia take effective measures, including enacting or rescinding civil and criminal legislation where necessary, to prevent and eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and birth in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.



Emphasizing that the human rights of children could not be realized independently from the human rights of their parents, or in isolation from society, the Committee said it was concerned about the restrictions on the freedom of religion, and that restrictions on the freedom to manifest one's religion did not comply with the requirements outlined in article 14, paragraph 3 of the Convention. The Committee recommended that the State party make all efforts to combat intolerance on the grounds of religion or other beliefs.

The Committee was concerned that as the age of majority was not defined, and in the absence of a published criminal code and code of criminal procedure, persons under 18 might be prosecuted for crimes in the same manner as adults and subjected to the same penalties as adults. It recommended that Saudi Arabia establish a system of juvenile justice, fully integrating into its legislation and practice the provisions of the Convention.


PALAU

The Committee expressed satisfaction with the quality of the report of Palau that provided information on the practical implementation of the Convention as well as the challenges and limitations faced in that regard; also, the establishment of the Victims of Crime Assistance Programme to provide assistance to victims of child abuse and domestic violence was cited a positive aspect.

The Committee regretted that Palau had not yet acceded to the six main international human rights instruments and said that those instruments would reinforce a culture of human rights and strengthen the efforts of Palau to meet its obligations in guaranteeing the rights of all children under its jurisdiction.

The Committee noted with concern that budgetary allocations for education and social services had been gradually reduced since independence and that there was a scarcity of resources for welfare and social services; and that there was no social welfare system within the country. The Committee encouraged the State party to pay particular attention to the full implementation of article 4 of the Convention by prioritizing budgetary allocations to ensure implementation of the economic, social and cultural rights of children.

The Committee noted with concern that the principle of non-discrimination was not adequately implemented, in particular with respect to vulnerable groups of children, especially children of non-Palauan parentage, including children of immigrant families and children adopted from overseas. It recommended that Palau increase its efforts to ensure the implementation of laws, policies and programmes guaranteeing the principle of non-discrimination.

Further concern was expressed about the fact that the general principle of the best interest of the child was not taken fully into account in Palau's legislative, administrative and judicial decisions, as well as in programmes relevant to children. The Committee urged the State party to take all appropriate measure to ensure that the general principles were integrated in all legal provisions.

The Committee noted with concern the breakdown of the traditional extended family structure and the increasing number of female-headed households, particularly due to the lack of a welfare support system and alternative care facilities as well as inadequate early child care services. The Committee further expressed concern about the increasing number of street children. It recommended that the State party undertake a needs-assessment study on female-headed households with the view to ensure adequate availability and accessibility of welfare programmes.

Among other things, the Committee expressed concern about the absence of adequate labour laws to protect children from economic exploitation; the high incidence of drug, alcohol and substance abuse among youth; and the inadequate legal protection of children, particularly boys, against commercial sexual exploitation, including prostitution and pornography. The Committee recommended, among other things, that legislation be enacted to protect children from economic exploitation; and that measures be taken to protect children from the illicit use of alcohol, narcotic drugs and other substances.


THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The Committee said that the enactment of children's rights related to legislation such as the code for the protection of children and adolescents, the general law of education, the law against family violence, the general law for youth and the general law on disabilities were regarded as positive steps for the implementation of the Convention in the Dominican Republic.

As part of the factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee expressed concern that widespread poverty and long-standing economic and social disparities were affecting the most vulnerable groups, including children, and hampering the enjoyment of the rights of the child in the Dominican Republic.

The Committee was deeply concerned about the discrimination against children of Haitian origin who were born in the Dominican Republic's territory or who belonged to Haitian migrant families, especially their limited access to housing, education and health services; it recommended that the State party take, as a matter of priority, effective measures to ensure that children born to Haitian families in its territory had the same access to services.

While the Committee took note of the State party's efforts in the area of birth registration, it remained concerned that a large percentage of children were not registered and were not provided with identity cards, thus preventing them from the full enjoyment of their rights. The Committee recommended that the Dominican Republic strengthen and increase its measures to ensure the immediate registration of the births of all children.

The Committee noted the clear legislative prohibition of all forms of torture in the Dominican Republic, however, it expressed concern about the persistent allegations that children were detained in conditions which amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and that children were physically ill-treated by members of the police. It recommended that effective judicial mechanisms be used to deal with complaints of police brutality.

The Committee said it was concerned about the high maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy rates; the insufficient access by teenagers to reproductive health and sexual education and counselling services; and the increasing rate of HIV/AIDS among children and adolescents. It recommended that a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary study be undertaken to understand the scope of the phenomenon on adolescent health problems.

The Committee remained concerned that a large number of children were still involved in labour activities, particularly in the informal sector, including domestic work; and the Committee recommended that the State party establish and implement a national plan for the elimination of child labour.


General Comment on Education

Also during its current session, the Committee adopted a General Comment on education, which is article 29 (1) of the Convention. It said the article was linked directly to the realization of the child's human dignity and rights, taking into account the child's special development needs and diverse capacities. The aims of the provision were the holistic development of the full potential of the child, including respect for human rights, an enhanced sense of identity and affiliation, socialization and interaction with others and with the environment.

The General Comment said that the child's right to education was not only a matter of access but also of content. An education with the contents firmly rooted in the values of the article was for every child an indispensable shield for his or her efforts to achieve, in the course of their life, a balanced, human rights-friendly response to the challenges that would accompany a period of fundamental change by globalization, new technologies and related phenomena.

The Committee said that the wording of article 29 (1) stated that the States agree that education should be directed to a wide range of values. That agreement would overcome the boundaries of religion, nation and culture built across many parts of the world. At first sight, some of the diverse values expressed in the article might be thought to be in conflict with one another in specific situations. Part of the importance of the provision lay precisely in its recognition of the need for a balanced approach to education and one which would succeeded in reconciling diverse values through dialogue and respect for the differences that had historically separated groups of people from one another.


Convention on Rights of 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.


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 State parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been elected to the Committee: Jacob Doek (the Netherlands), Amina el Guindi (Egypt), Francesco Paolo Fulci (Italy), Judith Karp (Israel), Esther Margaret Queen Mokhuane (South Africa), Awa N'deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Ghassan Salim Rabah (Lebanon), Lily Rilantono (Indonesia), Marilia Sardenberg Gonçalves (Brazil), and Elizabeth Tigerstedt-Tähtalä (Finland).

The Chairperson is Mrs. Ouedraogo. Vice Chairpersons are Mrs. Sardenberg, Mrs. Mokhuane, and Mr. Rabah. Mr. Doek is Rapporteur.




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