COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILD CONCLUDES THIRTIETH SESSION



CRC
30th session
7 June 2002




Recommendations Adopted Concerning Guinea-Bissau, Belgium,
Niger, Belarus, Tunisia, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates,
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Spain, and the Netherlands Antilles



ROUND UP RELEASE -- The Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded its thirtieth session today, having considered reports of 10 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As the Convention's monitoring body, the Committee made recommendations for the promotion and protection of children in Guinea-Bissau, Belgium, Niger, Belarus, Tunisia, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Spain and the Netherlands Antilles.
The recommendations of the Committee's 10 members were contained in the final report for the session which was adopted today.
In considering the initial report of Guinea-Bissau, the Committee welcomed the prohibition of corporal punishment in the family and schools; and the efforts made to improve understanding and knowledge of children's rights among the general public and children. It was deeply concerned by the lack of a well-defined and comprehensive children's rights policy and an up-to-date national plan of action for the implementation of the Convention in Guinea-Bissau; and among its recommendations, it encouraged the State party to strengthen programmes to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS; and to make efforts to end practices of female genital mutilation.
With regard to the second periodic report of Belgium, the Committee welcomed the numerous initiatives to combat trafficking and child sexual exploitation. It expressed concern about the absence of a global vision of children's rights, which has not been translated into a national plan of action; that there was no independent mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Convention; and at racist incidents against minorities. The Committee recommended that the State party take legislative measures to prohibit corporal punishment of children and prosecute instances of ill-treatment.
Among positive aspects in the initial report of Niger, the Committee welcomed the establishment of the National Committee for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children. It was concerned about the breakdown of family structures due to large families, the existence of polygamy, the lack of education, and poverty and unemployment which negatively affect the upbringing of children. It recommended that the State party prohibit corporal punishment; reinforce efforts to improve the health situation of children; and increase efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS.
On the second periodic report of Belarus. the Committee welcomed the adoption of a number of laws in order to further conform domestic legislation with the provisions of the Convention. It expressed its concerns about the spreading phenomenon of family disintegration in Belarus, including the high rate of divorce and parental neglect; and about the increase in child morbidity. It recommended that the State party monitor the situation of children in vulnerable situations; and make sure that all children mature enough to express their views were heard.
Concerning the second periodic report of Tunisia, the Committee welcomed the withdrawal of a reservation and a declaration to articles of the Convention. It expressed concern that the rights to freedom of expression, including to receive information, as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly were not fully guaranteed in practice; and it recommended, among other things, that all legislative measures be taken to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence.
With regard to the initial report of Switzerland, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the new Constitution of 1999 which enshrined provisions on the rights of the child. It expressed concern about the allegations of instances of ill-treatment by law-enforcement officers against foreign children and the prevalence of abuse; and it recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure that national and cantonal laws conform with the Convention in order to avoid discrimination which might arise from existing disparities.
In the initial report of the United Arab Emirates, the Committee considered as positive aspects efforts in promoting inclusion of disabled children in society; and the State party's participation in international development assistance programmes. It was, however, concerned at the disparities in the enjoyment of economic and social rights, particularly health and education, experienced by non-national children. The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure the preparation and implementation of a national plan of action for children; and establish an independent national human rights institution.
On the initial report of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Committee welcomed, as a positive factor, the State party's abolition of the death penalty for all persons below the age of 18. It said that the State party lacked a clearly defined and comprehensive child rights policy and plan of action for the Convention's implementation; and it recommended that the State party continue and strengthen efforts to reduce infant mortality and under nutrition and take preventive action against the rise of obesity.
Concerning the second periodic report of Spain, the Committee welcomed as a positive aspect the great progress and achievements made by the State party and noted with appreciation that it had made the protection and promotion of the rights of the child a general rule in the society. The Committee was concerned that there was not yet a balanced redistribution of resources at the central, regional and local levels; and it recommended that the State party monitor the situation of children, in particular those belonging to vulnerable groups, such as the Roma and children of migrant workers.
And with respect to the initial report of the Netherlands Antilles, the Committee noted as a positive factor the efforts made through the enactment of legislation to facilitate the implementation of the Convention in the territory. The Committee was concerned at the absence of an independent mechanism to assess progress in implementing the Convention. It recommended that all forms of violence be prohibited, including homicide of children.
The Committee's next session will be held from 16 September to 4 October 2002 during which the reports of the United Kingdom, Sudan, the Seychelles, Israel, Argentina, Moldova, Ukraine, Burkina Fasso and Poland will be considered.

Final Conclusions and Observations on Country Reports
GUINEA-BISSAU
Among positive factors in the initial report of Guinea-Bissau, the Committee welcomed the ratification by the State of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention; the creation of the Institute for Women and Children in 2000; the prohibition of corporal punishment in the family and schools; and efforts to improve understanding and knowledge of children's rights among the general public and children.
The Committee was concerned to note, among other things, that there was an "absence of specific legislation on the implementation of the Convention"; and that customary law which did not fully comply with the Convention was applied much more often than national legislation, particularly on issues relevant to children. It was deeply concerned by the lack of a well-defined and comprehensive children's rights policy and an up-to-date national plan of action for the implementation of the Convention; a lack of monitoring of the Convention's implementation; that budget allocations for health and education were extremely low; that differences in the minimum legal age of marriage for girls (14) and boys (16) was discriminatory; that the principle of the "best interest of the child" had not been fully implemented by the State party; and that children's opinions were not given sufficient consideration in Guinean society.
The Committee was also concerned about the regular occurrence of sexual abuse of children within the context of the family, including the extended family; at the high rates of infant and maternal mortality, rates of malnutrition and inadequate immunization and high mortality rates from malaria; that the rights of children with disabilities were very poorly respected; about the negative impact of the growing rate of HIV/AIDS infection on the cultural, economic, political, social and civil rights and freedoms of children infected with the disease; that female genital mutilation was practised widely within certain ethnic groups; and that literacy rates and primary and secondary school enrolment rates among children were extremely low.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party take the necessary steps to bring customary law practices into compliance with the provisions and principles of the Convention; that a comprehensive child rights policy and national plan of action be developed and implemented; that the State party strengthen its efforts to disseminate the principles and provisions of the Convention; raise the minimum legal age of marriage; urgently implement the principle of the best interests of the child through all of its activities; ensure that children's views were given due consideration; review its birth registration procedures, considering the abolition of sanctions for late registration; undertake a study on the scope of abuse and ill-treatment of children; combat the practice of corporal punishment; prevent domestic violence; significantly improve children's access to health services; strengthen programmes to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS; strengthen efforts to end practice of female genital mutilation; raise the State party's contribution to the education budget to the maximum of available resources; continue its landmines detection programme; make every effort to combat the economic exploitation of children through labour; and ensure that the detention of children was used only as a measure of last resort.

BELGIUM
In the second periodic report of Belgium, the Committee welcomed the adoption of article 22-bis of the Constitution on the protection of children; of new laws by the State party concerning the protection of children, child labour, guardianship and family mediation; the numerous initiatives to combat trafficking and child sexual exploitation; and ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour.
The Committee was concerned, among other things, at the absence of a global vision of children's rights, which has not been translated into a national plan of action; that there was no independent mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Convention; at racist incidents against minorities; about the disparities in the enjoyment of economic and social rights, particularly health and education, experienced by poor children, and non-Belgian children, including unaccompanied minors, and disabled children; that corporal punishment was not expressly prohibited by law; and while reiterating its satisfaction for the numerous measures taken by the State party to combat sexual exploitation and trafficking of children, the Committee was concerned that trafficking for the purpose of sexual or other exploitation was still a problem.
Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party establish independent human rights institutions in the German-speaking Community and at the federal level in accordance with the Paris Principles; strengthen, and make on-going its programme for the dissemination of information on the Convention and its implementation among children and parents; take all appropriate measures to prevent and combat negative societal attitudes; review existing policies and practice in relation to children with disabilities; take legislative measures to prohibit corporal punishment of children; prosecute instances of ill-treatment; expedite efforts to establish special reception centres for unaccompanied minors, with special attention to those who were victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation; and ensure that persons under 18 were not tried as adults.

NIGER
Among positive aspects in the initial report of Niger, the Committee welcomed the establishment of the National Committee for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children. The Committee noted that the State party was among the few countries which had ratified the 1961 Convention on reduction of statelessness and ILO Conventions 138 and 182; it also noted the efforts undertaken by the State party to get religious and traditional leaders involved in several programmes concerning children; and the adoption of the National Programme of Action for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children.
The Committee was concerned, among other things, that insufficient efforts had been made to involve civil society in the implementation of the Convention, particularly in the area of civil rights and freedoms; that the minimum age for employment was fixed at 14 years while education was compulsory until 16 years; and that the general principles of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, and the right to life, survival and development and respect for the views of the child were not fully integrated in the country's legislation. It was also concerned by the breakdown of family structures due to large families, the existence of polygamy, the lack of education, and poverty and unemployment which negatively affect the upbringing of children; at the practice of repudiation of women that could lead to the separation of the child from the mother; that insufficient attention had been given to adolescent health issues; about widespread poverty and the increasingly high numbers of children who did not enjoy the right to an adequate standard of living; and about the low enrolment in schools and widespread of illiteracy.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party continue and strengthen its reform activities to ensure that its domestic legislation conform fully with the Convention; make greater efforts to ensure that all children enjoyed all the rights set out in the treaty; develop a systematic approach to increasing public awareness of the participatory rights of children in the best interest of the child; undertake studies on domestic violence, ill-treatment and abuse; prohibit corporal punishment; reinforce efforts to improve the health situation of children; increase efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS; adopt the Bill to prohibit female genital mutilation; reinforce efforts to provide support and material assistance to economically disadvantaged families and to guarantee the rights of children to an adequate standard of living; take necessary measures to remedy the low quality of education; provide displaced children with adequate social services, including health care, immunization and education and to socially reintegrate former combatants; adopt a national action plan to prevent and combat child labour; and prohibit the practice of child begging in the streets.

BELARUS
Among positive aspects in the second periodic report of Belarus, the Committee noted the adoption of a number of laws in order to further conform domestic legislation with the provisions of the Convention; it particularly noted the adoption of a new civil code and a new marriage and family code; the establishment of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child; the approval of the national plan of action of the Presidential Programme "Children of Belarus"; the adoption of the National Plan for Human Rights Education; and the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Among its concerns, the Committee regretted that some of the concerns and recommendations it made previously had been insufficiently addressed; that the National Commission on the Rights of the Child had a consultative status; expressed concern at the absence of an overall national mechanism to monitor implementation of the Convention; that insufficient efforts had been made to involve civil society in the full implementation of the Convention; that the principles of non-discrimination, best interests of the child, right to life, survival and development of the child and respect for the views of the child were not fully reflected in the State party's legislation and administrative decisions; about the spreading phenomenon of family disintegration in Belarus, including the high rate of divorce and parental neglect; about the increase in child morbidity, including the increase of HIV/AIDS among newborns; about the high number of children addicted to drugs, alcohol and smoking; the persisting negative consequences of the Chernobyl disaster; and about information that Belarus was a country of origin and transit for trafficking of children.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party continue its comprehensive review of existing legislation, from a right-based prospective; strengthen is mechanism to collect and analyse systematically disaggregated data on all persons under 18; consider involving non-governmental organizations; develop more creative methods to promote the Convention; monitor the situation of children in vulnerable situations; make sure that all children mature enough to express their views were heard; guarantee to all children the full implementation of the rights to freedom of expression; continue to develop measures for the prevention of family disintegration; improve social assistance and support to families to help them with their child-rearing responsibilities; take effective measures to prevent and reduce the abandonment of children; undertake studies on domestic violence, violence against children, ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse; prohibit all forms of corporal punishment; ensure that all children had access to free basic health care of good quality; undertake studies to determine the causes of and ways to prevent disabilities in children; ensure the availability of education in the Belarusian language and accessibility for Roma children; improve the quality of education in the whole country; undertake a study on the issue of trafficking and trafficking-related problems; combat and eliminate child trafficking, sexual exploitation, drug abuse and trade and economic exploitation; and ensure that all persons under 18 benefit from special protection measures in the field of the administration of juvenile justice.

TUNISIA
In the second periodic report of Tunisia, the Committee noted as positive aspects the State party's commitment to the issue of child rights and particularly welcomed the adoption of the Child Protection Code. It also welcomed the obligatory reporting of danger to children; the development of a specialized system of juvenile justice; and the efforts on data collection. The Committee commended the amendment of the Labour Code, raising the minimum age for admission to employment to 16 years, which was the age for completion of compulsory education; the withdrawal of a reservation and a declaration to articles of the Convention; and the ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182.
Among its concerns, the Committee said that the effectiveness in practice of the Higher Council for Children as a mechanism for coordination remained unclear; that respect for the views of the child remained limited owing to traditional societal attitudes towards children; and that the rights to freedom of expression, including to receive information, as well as freedom of association and peaceful assembly were not fully guaranteed in practice. The Committee said it was extremely concerned at allegations of violations of the right of the child not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; that violence as a means of discipline in the home and at school continued to be acceptable as a form of discipline in the State party; that the repetition and dropout rates, while decreasing, continued to pose a significant challenge to the educational system; and about the lack of specific data and activities concerning child labour in the State party.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party conduct impact assessments regarding the annual report on the situation of the child, incorporating all areas of the Convention; establish an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles; pursue its efforts aiming at creating awareness of all aspects of the Convention; address the disparities in the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls; make efforts at all levels to address discrimination, notably discrimination based on the political and human rights activities, among others; promote and facilitate respect for the views of children and their participation in all matters affecting them; take all necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of the rights to freedom of expression and to freedom of association and peaceful assembly in practice; ensure that alleged perpetrators of torture or ill-treatment be punished; take all legislative measures to prohibit all forms of physical and mental violence; reinforce efforts to allocate appropriate resources to improve and protect the health situation of children; take all appropriate measures to further improve education; and take all necessary measures to effectively prevent and combat child labour.

SWITZERLAND
As part of positive aspects in the initial report of Switzerland, the Committee welcomed, among other things, the adoption of the new Constitution of 1999 which enshrined provisions on the rights of the child; the new Act on divorce and filiation; the amendments to the Penal Code which introduced the illegality of possession of hard-core pornography, including child pornography; the revisions of the Federal Act concerning Assistance to Victims of Offences; and the State party's close cooperation with civil society with regard to children's rights.
The Committee was concerned that there was no central independent mechanism to monitor the implementation of the Convention; that some of the cantonal disparities in practice and services provided and in the enjoyment of the rights by children may amount to discrimination; that the general principle of the best interests of the child was not fully applied; about the allegations of instances of ill-treatment by law-enforcement officers against foreign children and the prevalence of abuse; that corporal punishment within the family was not prohibited under law; at the high number of children who died or were wounded in road traffic accidents; that costs of social insurance and health were very high which might affect low-income families; that 5.6 per cent of the population was affected by poverty; and at the increasing use and sale of illegal drugs among adolescents.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party ensure that national and cantonal laws conform with the Convention in order to avoid discrimination which might arise from existing disparities; establish an adequate permanent national mechanism to coordinate the implementation of the Convention at the federal level; establish a federal independent human rights institution; that further efforts be made to ensure the implementation of the principle of respect for the views of the child; ensure respect of a child's right to know his or her parents' identities; train the police force on the human rights of children; explicitly prohibit all practices of corporal punishment; take measures to establish more child-care services to meet the needs of working parents; take necessary measures to avoid that children adopted abroad become statelessness; undertake studies on violence, ill-treatment and abuse against children; pursue its efforts to decrease the HIV/AIDS prevalence and take all necessary measures to prevent suicides among adolescents; reinforce the collection of data regarding children with disabilities; simplify its approach regarding proceedings for asylum seekers and take all necessary measures to expedite asylum proceedings; and raise the minimum age for criminal responsibility.

THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
In the initial report of the United Arab Emirates, the Committee cited as positive aspects the establishment of the Sharjah Supreme Council for the Family; of a committee on the Convention; the creation of the Children's City; the establishment of a children's parliament in Sharjah; the dissemination of UNESCO's Passport to Equality, concerning non-discrimination of women, to several schools in the country; the efforts in promoting inclusion of disabled children in society; and the State party's participation in international development assistance programmes, among other things.
The Committee expressed concern that several rights contained in the Convention were not adequately reflected in domestic law; that the absence of a central mechanism to coordinate the implementation of the Convention in the country made it difficult to achieve a comprehensive and coherent child rights policy; that insufficient efforts had been made to involve civil society in the implementation of the Convention; and that girls, women and children born out of wedlock were discriminated against. It was concerned about the disparities in the enjoyment of economic and social rights, particularly health and education, experienced by non-national children; and at the hazardous situation of children involved in camel racing, in particular that sometimes very young children were involved, were trafficked, particularly from Africa and South Asia, were denied education and healthcare, and that such involvement produced serious injuries, even fatalities.
Among other things, the Committee recommended that the State party withdraw its reservations to some of the articles of the Convention; ensure the preparation and implementation of a national plan of action for children; establish an independent national human rights institution; strengthen its efforts to allocate resources for programmes and policies to promote the civil and political rights of children; take effective measures to prevent and eliminate discrimination on grounds of sex and birth; take all necessary measures to ensure that all children within its jurisdiction enjoyed all the rights set out in the Convention; continue to promote and facilitate respect for the views of children; ensure the right of a child to a nationality without discrimination of his or her parent's sex; take immediate steps to abolish the imposition of flogging and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment to persons who might have committed crimes while under 18; ensure that adolescents had access to and were provided with education on reproductive health; undertake a process of curriculum and teaching methodology reform; and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
On the initial report of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Committee welcomed, as positive factors, the State party's abolition of the death penalty for all persons below age 18; the setting of a family court under the Domestic Violence Act of 1995 to deal specifically and speedily with cases of domestic violence; the programme to strengthen parental skills and empower the family; and noted the State party's good cooperation with NGOs.
The Committee was concerned that the State party lacked a clearly defined and comprehensive child rights policy and plan of action for the Convention's implementation; that children with disabilities were de facto discriminated against by the absence of specific legislation to cater for their special needs; that children had limited opportunities to express their views; that many children born out of wedlock did not know the identity of their father; that corporal punishment was widely practised; that a large proportion of Vincentian families were living in poverty; that almost half of all families were headed by women as single parents; in some instances of "adoption", children were sold for money; at the lack of basic medicines to meet the needs of sick children; that instances of child abuse were high and that insufficient effort had been made to address the problem; at the high rate of teenage pregnancies; that pre-schools were unregulated by the Government; at the situation of child labour; and by the sexual exploitation of children.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party strengthen the coordination of its efforts to implement the Convention; undertake systematic education and training on the provisions of the Convention; clarify the ages and terms applied to children; adopt legislation making provisions for the protection of the rights of children with disabilities; ensure that the best interests principle was reflected in all relevant legislation; prohibit the use of corporal punishment in all contexts; give particular attention to the situation of children within single parent families; establish a legal basis for alternative care, including foster care; continue and strengthen efforts to reduce infant mortality and under nutrition and take preventive action against the rise of obesity; conduct a survey to identify the exact number of children with disabilities; undertake a study on the scope and nature of child abuse and neglect; increase efforts to promote adolescent health; undertake a survey to assess the scope and nature of child labour, street children, and substance abuse by children; and urgently prohibit the corporal punishment of children in the context of juvenile justice.

SPAIN
In the second periodic report of Spain, the Committee welcomed as a positive aspect the great progress and achievements made by the State party and noted with appreciation that it had made the protection and promotion of the rights of the child a general rule in the society. It noted with satisfaction that the State party had established the Observatory for Children; various social programmes and policies for children; and a post of Assistant of the "Defensor del Pueblo -- Spanish Ombudsman -- in charge of issues relating to children. It also noted the improvement of safeguards in the cases of intercountry adoption; its increased assistance to developing countries; and the ratification of both Optional Protocols to the Convention, among other things.
The Committee was, however, concerned, among other things, that there was not yet a balanced redistribution of resources at the central, regional and local levels and that not all the Autonomous Communities provided the same level of social policies and services; at the low age of marriage, which could be 14 years of age with the judge's permission; that the principles of non-discrimination, best interest of the child, right to life, survival and development of the child and respect for the views of the child were not fully reflected; that there were different procedures for the protection of children in the 17 Autonomous Communities; at delays in the procedure for family reunification of recognized refugees; at the number of children and adolescents addicted to synthetic drugs, alcohol and smoking; about the conditions of unaccompanied foreign children, mostly Moroccans; at reports of incidence of child labour; and at reports of child prostitution in the suburbs of large cities.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that the State party strengthen effective coordination within and between government agencies at national, regional and local levels in the implementation of policies on children; identify clearly its priorities with respect to child rights; monitor the situation of children, in particular those belonging to vulnerable groups, such as the Roma and children of migrant workers; prohibit all forms of violence including corporal punishment in the upbringing of children; undertake studies on domestic violence, violence against children and ill-treatment and abuse; take steps to address adolescent health concerns; undertake a study on the extent and nature of female genital mutilation practised in Spain; ensure regular attendance at schools and the reduction of truancy and dropout rates, especially with regard to Roma children; ensure that the educational process promotes a culture of peace and tolerance, as well as addresses the negative impact of terrorism; provide unaccompanied foreign children with information about their rights under the Spanish and international law; and protect all persons under 18 from all forms of sexual exploitation.

THE NETHERLANDS ANTILLES
The Committee noted as positive factors in the initial report of Netherlands Antilles the efforts made through the enactment of legislation to facilitate the implementation of the Convention in the territory. It welcomed, among other things, the adoption in 1999 of the National Youth Policy Programme; the introduction of the Directorate for Youth Development to coordinate and monitor child rights policy; the efforts to promote cooperation with and participation by NGOs in policy development; the establishment of a mechanism for coordinating external aid; and the development of a National Strategic Plan for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS.
The Committee was concerned at the absence of an independent mechanism to assess progress in implementing the Convention and to register and address complaints from children directly, concerning violations of their rights under the treaty; that specific protection was only given to children of 16 years and below in the administration of the justice system; that the principle of non-discrimination against children was not guaranteed in legislation; that one of the leading causes of death among older children was homicide; that the views of the child were still not fully respected and taken into account; at the high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools and the insufficient number of well-trained teaching staff; that there was a lack of affordable sports facilities and other recreational programmes; and at the high incidence of drug abuse and drug trafficking involving children.
The Committee recommended, among other things, that an independent and effective mechanism be established in accordance with the Paris Principles; that all relevant legislation prohibiting discrimination on all grounds be ensured; that efforts to assure child participation in all spheres that affect their lives be continued and strengthened; that all legislative measures be taken to prohibit all forms of violence; that steps be taken to ensure that parents and families understand and fulfil their obligations towards children; that programmes be developed to facilitate alternative care; that greater efforts be undertaken to make the necessary professional and financial resources available; that studies be undertaken to determine the causes of and ways to prevent disabilities in children; that the programme on reproductive health proposed in 1996 be implemented; that respect for the rights of the child be integrated into the development and implementation of its HIV/AIDS policies and strategy; that resources be extended to support children to go to secondary education; and that the special protection of the juvenile justice system be applied to all children under 18.

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.
In May 2000, the General Assembly adopted by consensus the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Optional Protocols have entered into force.

Committee Members
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: Ibrahim Abdul Aziz Al-Sheddi (Saudi Arabia), Ghalia Mohd Bin Hamad Al-Thani (Qatar), Jacob Egbert Doek (the Netherlands), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Luigi Citarella (Italy), Judith Karp (Israel), Moushira Khattab (Egypt), Awa N'Deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Marilia Sardenberg (Brazil), and Elizabeth Tigerstedt-Tahtela (Finland).
The Chairperson is Mr. Doek. Vice Chairpersons are Mrs. Ouedraogo, and Mrs. Sardenberg. Mrs. Karp is Rapporteur.



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