30 May 2003
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today considered the second periodic report of Jamaica on how that country was implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ransford Smith, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva and head of the delegation, said that while economic constraints imposed a limit on the pace and extent of social transformation, it was now accepted that children were born with fundamental rights and freedoms which should be inviolate. Children were seen as having the right to make legitimate claims on society, and the obligation to ensure these rights rested with the Government, family, community and civil society on the whole. The Government of Jamaica had committed itself to ensuring that the survival, protection, development and participatory rights of all children in Jamaica were given high priority.
Committee experts questioned the delegation, asking, among other things, about the budget and the total expenditure for children, what was the position of children in Jamaica and how the Government was looking out for children’s rights in the context of the speed of creation of legislation for their protection, the apparent high level of violence against children in many places and contexts and whether this was because the Convention was not interpreted on a local level, support for single and teenage mothers, measures adopted for poverty alleviation, drug abuse, substance abuse and alcohol abuse, and issues related to teenage pregnancy and sexual health.
In preliminary concluding remarks, Saisuree Chutikul, the Committee Expert who served as Rapporteur on the report of Jamaica, said the work done for the children of Jamaica was worthy of congratulations and commendations, and noted that their situation was much better than in many other countries examined by the Committee. Notwithstanding, recommendations and suggestions would be made in the final report.
The delegation of Jamaica also included Mary Clarke, Manager of the Social Development and Gender Unit of the Planning Institute of Jamaica; Stanley Clarke, Legal Officer, Ministry of Health; Gerlin Bean, Director, 3D’s Project (NGO); and Symone Betton, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Jamaica, Geneva.
The Committee will issue its final recommendations on the report of Jamaica towards the end of its session, which concludes on 6 June.
The Committee will reconvene on Monday, 2 June, at 10 a.m. to consider the second periodic report of Morocco (CRC/C/93/Add.3).
Second Periodic Report of Jamaica
The second periodic report of Jamaica (CRC/C/70/Add.15) reviews general measures of implementation of the Convention, the definition of the child, general principles of the Convention, civil rights and freedoms, family environment and alternative care, basic health and welfare, education, leisure and cultural activities, and special protection measures taken in Jamaica.
It states that an effective and integrated system for monitoring the implementation of the Convention has been established at several levels in Jamaica, and a comprehensive data system for the collection of data on children is being developed. All appropriate efforts are undertaken to ensure, to the maximum extent of available resources, and within the framework of international cooperation, that sufficient resources are allocated to children. Efforts to combat child labour have been intensified.
Various measures have been taken to make the principles and provisions of the Convention widely known to adults and children alike, the report adds. A National Plan of Action for children has been endorsed by the Cabinet of the Government of Jamaica in pursuance of its commitment to children. A number of mechanisms exist for ensuring implementation of the Convention, for coordinating policies relevant to children and for monitoring progress achieved. A periodic evaluation of progress in the implementation of the Convention is also provided in the report.
Presentation of Report
RANSFORD SMITH, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the report, said the Economic and Social survey of Jamaica for 2002 had reported that children made up 39.4 percent of the population. The Government of Jamaica had committed itself to ensuring that the survival, protection, development and participatory rights of these children were given high priority. In spite of high debt repayment obligations, the Government had sought to ensure that there were sufficient budgetary allocations to basic social services and to fund reform of the Social Safety Net and other poverty alleviation initiatives. The Government, in partnership with civil society, had continued to develop programmes of legislative and institutional reform and restructuring, capacity building, policy plans, programme development and advocacy to ensure the rights of the child were attained and sustained.
Mr. Smith said that while economic constraints imposed a limit on the pace and extent of social transformation, it was now accepted that children were born with fundamental rights and freedoms which should be inviolate. Children were seen as having the right to make legitimate claims on society, and the obligation to ensure these rights rested with the Government- family, community and civil society on the whole.
In spite of all the achievements, challenges remained. These included the high debt burden; HIV/AIDS and its effects, especially on orphans and vulnerable children; migration of human resources to developed countries, which had impacted on the family structure, parenting and family functioning; and natural disasters such as flood rains which were always present. Nevertheless, the Government of Jamaica remained committed, and would always do all it could to ensure the survival, protection, participatory and development rights of the child were attained and maintained.
Questions on General Measures of Implementation; Definition of the Child
SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, the Committee Expert who served as Rapporteur on the report of Jamaica, said her only regret with regard to the report was the lack of information regarding children’s participation in its formulation. She noticed that several international instruments had not been ratified by Jamaica, including the ILO Conventions on child labour, and she hoped to hear more on this topic during the dialogue. After the presentation of the previous report, 14 recommendations had been made, some of which had been implemented. However, there were still many areas from the concluding remarks which had not been implemented, and which remained relevant today. These included legislation, monitoring of the implementation of the Convention, and violence and abuse against children. She asked for details on the contents of the Child Care and Protection Act, as well as for information on how it was monitored and implemented. With regard to coordination of the implementation of the Convention, was there a body responsible for this, and how was it coordinated from the national to the local level, she asked.
Committee experts also asked questions on such topics as the budget and the total expenditure for children; the legal status of the Convention in Jamaican law; child labour; compulsory education; the legal age of majority which was inconsistent with regard to the previous two topics; the position of children in Jamaica and how the Government was looking out for children’s rights in the context of the speed of creation of legislation for their protection; why this legislation was taking so long and whether this was indicative of any specific problem; coordination issues; data collection and the need to create a child-only database; the apparent lack of dissemination of information on the Convention, particularly in police circles; what could cause the apparent high level of violence against children in many places and contexts and whether this was because the Convention was not interpreted on a local level; punishment for trafficking in women and children; and specifically what measures concerning structural adjustments had been rendered difficult by the debt constraints in the context of the implementation of the Convention.
Response to Questions on General Measures of Implementation; Definition of the Child
In response, the delegation said the implementation of the Convention was overseen by the Special Envoy for Children. The kinds of experience and expertise of the Special Envoy could and would contribute to the efficient implementation of the Convention. Regarding the debt, Jamaica had a problem both externally and internally, with 65 per cent of the revenue of 2003-2004 going to debt services. All demands made on the Government, including the needs of children, was left to the other 35 per cent. The Government hoped to reduce the fiscal deficit, since this would be key to solving the problem, and it was hoped that this would be resolved over the next four years.
The delegation said the National Plan of Action Committee served as a technical support Committee, and had responsibility of monitoring the implementation of the National Plan of Action for Children. This had been reviewed and upgraded as appropriate over the years since its inception. At the sectoral level, there were several inter-sectoral committees, operating to ensure coordination, integration, and the use of a holistic approach in monitoring and developing programmes. There was also a National Policy Document for Children, which included guidelines for action and the policy of the Government.
With regards to the apparent length of time it had taken for the Child Protection Bill to become law, there had been many issues in it which would have affected many groups, and the Government had been careful to ensure that all stakeholders had an opportunity to voice opinions, and this included children. There had therefore been many re-drafts of the Bill, and all of this had taken considerable time. However, today it had moved on, and it should have gone to the Legislative Committee, composed by Members of Parliament, earlier in the week. Following this, assuming no problems were identified in the Bill, it should go to Parliament to be passed.
In the meantime, there was legislation protecting children, notably the Domestic Violence Act, which was to be shortly amended to cover children with regard to violence in the home. The Juvenile Act, which existed now, contained provisions relating to the employment of children, and its provisions would be superseded by those of the Bill, which were similar to those mandated by the Convention. Much current legislation, including that on corporal punishment for children, would be superseded by the Bill, but other provisions made in the legislation would be kept. Corporal punishment, for example, would no longer be tolerated.
With regard to domestic legislation, upon ratification of a Convention, its provisions were incorporated into domestic law, although it was recognized that this could take a certain length of time.
As for the budget allocations for children, there was a need to understand the structure of the estimates of expenditure. For example, allocations for children came under several ministries, including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Youth, Education and Culture, the Ministry of Local Government and Community Government, the Ministry of National Security and Justice, and the Office of the Prime Minister, which had responsibility for one of the biggest programmes for street children. Added all up, this was a significant allocation as could be seen in the case of the budget, which was of 162 million dollars, of which 10.8 million went to health, and 22.8 million to education and culture. Thus, many resources went to those ministries with significant impact on the lives of children. Children benefited in many ways from the budget.
As for violence and abuse, and whether this was related to the manner in which the Convention was interpreted by the public and to the public, there was a problem with respect to violence and abuse, with children being not just victims but also perpetrators. Several initiatives were underway to deal with this issue, including programmes aiming to help children to handle their anger and differences in a peaceful manner. There was also a foundation that trained individuals in communication and conflict-resolution techniques at the level of the family. There were also child guidance clinics. Within the police force, there was a center for the investigation of sexual offences and child abuse, which was equipped with social workers and counselors, with a referral system geared towards maintaining confidentiality and providing support. Research had also been done in order to improve the quality of decision-making on this topic.
There were several sources of data on children, and there was a published compilation of data on children which covered many areas. Work was being done to create a unified data source, called JAMSTAT, and it should shortly be ready for use. Existing data would be harmonized thanks to JAMSTAT, which would provide timely, accurate and relevant data.
Questions on General Principles; Civil Rights and Freedoms; Family Environment and Alternative Care
Ms. Chutikul asked for more details with regard to the Child’s Registry, and noted her concern about the monitoring of the implementation of the new Child Protection Act. Jamaican society had a lot of problems linked to violence, abuse, neglect and abandonment of children, and she wondered what were the causes of this, and whether it could be linked to the style of parenting. What did the Government do with regard to changing these styles, and how were parents prepared for the new laws. Further, how were teachers, counselors and other service providers educated. With regards to early pregnancy and HIV/AIDS, was there sex education in Jamaica, since these seemed to be very common problems, and what was being done in regard to other preventative measures?
Other Committee Experts asked questions on varied issues, including whether there were extended families in Jamaica, and what role was played by these families; single-parent families and what results had been achieved in regard to reproductive health; how the system operated for social services which would guarantee a link between children who had been placed in care and their parents, and who monitored these services; whether support was provided for single mothers and what was being done to protect children in the home from domestic accidents; difficulties linked to the late registration of births; why the positive measures adopted for poverty alleviation did not appear to have made much of a difference; whether young people really participated in the programmes targeting them with regard to reproduction and sex; and the linkage between poverty and violence.
Response to Questions on General Principles; Civil Rights and Freedoms; Family Environment and Alternative Care
Answering the questions, the delegation said that with regard to police brutality, the Government was aware that there were police excesses, which were of general concern to the authorities and the public. However, there were in place judicial and administrative laws that had been invoked in the past and continued to be invoked. The Police Complaints Authority existed for this purpose, and other bodies could be used for this purpose, including the Coroner’s Court.
Regarding the length of time in which it was constitutionally acceptable to keep an inmate on death row, the Constitutional Court had ruled that this should be for a period of less than five years. This had caused certain problems. Jamaica had withdrawn from the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the death penalty for specific reasons linked to this, but remained a party to the Covenant.
As for the children’s registry, this would be established with the aim of providing information to the authorities that would enable them to determine whether a child was at risk. This would be followed by appropriate investigations, following which, if the need was determined, authorized persons would take the necessary steps to remove the child. The subsequent processes would take place under the aegis of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In addressing the issue of parenting, the Jamaican Government had several initiatives aimed at strengthening the family and enhancing family life. Within schools, there was a programme of Health and Family Life, and the curriculum for this had recently been revised. There was also a Coalition of Better Parenting that worked in the field to improve the situation. There was a Strategic Plan on Parenting that had been launched in early 2003, and oversight was being done to ensure correct implementation of the Plan, which was only constrained by the lack of resources. Work was also done to involve fathers in these programmes and others.
There was a child safety programme in which assistance was provided to families. Under it, the aim was to increase payments to families in keeping with inflation levels. A system for better targeting of beneficiaries of the programme was also in existence. Means of payment had also been improved, and the target was to alleviate the condition of poor persons and families.
With regard to teenage pregnancy, the adolescent fertility rate had dropped, and this had happened chiefly through the work of the National Family Planning Board, which had various strategies targeting adolescents. There were also programmes for teenagers, including one to reintegrate teenage mothers into full-time education, and outreach centers in the more vulnerable communities. Teenagers were also targeted through the National Plan of Action for HIV/AIDS, through education and provision of services, and through health clinics where adolescents faced with problems could go and be assured of adolescent-friendly confidential services.
There had been problems with birth registration, and so qualitative and quantitative studies had been undertaken to try to determine obstacles to this practice. Strategies had been identified and some had been implemented in an attempt to improve the situation.
The Constitution covered the issue of discrimination, and disallowed it under any form. Freedom of expression was also taken for granted in Jamaica.
A review of institutions had been commissioned, and the results were eagerly awaited. In the meantime, there were certain initiatives to improve conditions in residential and non-residential institutions, for example day-care centers where work was being done to improve the quality of care provided. Standards for residential institutions had been developed, with ongoing training of staff in measures that were required to make their services as effective as possible. The resources needed to make the homes as effective as possible and to keep up the infrastructure were provided by the Government. Every effort was being made to mobilize funds to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of services in the homes. A more holistic approach to the development of the child and the care of the child in institutions was being created.
In the last year, a peace management initiative had been launched in certain inner-city communities to defuse violence and conflict, with the aim of involving the community itself in dismantling the gun culture and it had proved to be very effective, with a subsequent drop in violence in the areas involved.
Questions on Basic Health and Welfare; Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities; Special Protection Measures
Ms. Chutikul, the Committee Rapporteur for Jamaica, asked for clarification on issues related to early childhood and pre-primary education, and what was being done to recognize community-based schools. There was concern for the low attendance rates and high repetition and drop out rates for boys, and for the low level of passing of school exams. What was being done to improve teaching standards, she asked. There was no gender discrimination in schools, but following graduation girls had difficulty finding employment, and what did the Government do to help them gain employment. How did the National Police Unit for Children link with the local police stations and with local issues, and what sort of training was given to the members of the Unit, she inquired.
The Committee Experts also asked questions on varied topics, including that of disparities between the provision of services in urban and rural areas; infant mortality rates and the lack of updated information on this issue; lack of immunization for Rastafarian children due to their parents’ religious views; what could be done to lower the incidence of HIV/AIDS; drug abuse, substance abuse and alcohol abuse in children and what was being done to change the situation; the situation of rights in institutions and what was being done to improve this; the lack of a system for early detection of high risk of disability; the lack of equipment in schools and what could be done with regard to this since teachers were forced to collect money from parents in order to remedy this, which made a mockery of the “free” nature of schools; and what could be done to improve the attendance figures by girls at school.
Response to Questions on Basic Health and Welfare; Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities; Special Protection Measures
Responding to the questions, the delegation said that with regard to the recognized and un-recognised basic schools, there were a few of the latter, but not many. This was due to quality control, and recognition was given depending on the qualifications of the caregivers at the basic school level. This was not meant to discriminate, but to encourage a basic standard, which was reached by most basic schools. The National Council on Training and for Vocational Education had developed a certification programme for caregivers at the early child development level, and last year the first batch had graduated.
The Government, to ensure that every child had a place at the secondary level, had a programme to partner with independent (private) schools in which children who had received high grades were assigned to these schools, and were given a grant. With respect to children with special needs, there was a multi-sectoral Committee in the Ministry for Health which was attempting to document the situation of children with special needs and the services available to them, in order to have a standardized screening method and a programme for schools and clinics so as to improve detection of disabled children.
At the secondary level there was a problem with male under achievement and male drop-out rates. There were many reasons for this, and it therefore had to be attacked in a multi-faceted manner in order to reverse the situation. More information would be given to the Committee on what had been done at a later date. Work was also being done to improve literacy and to thus improve school promotion figures. The aim was to place every child in a school.
Fund-raising was a very positive experience for most schools, since it ensured involvement of both children and families in social events within the school, with the concomitant benefits of this involvement. There was a programme of cost-sharing, which determined how much parents could contribute towards school fees. There was also a programme for students who could not afford to pay these at all. There were different programmes to help children in need, and every effort was made to ensure that confidentiality was maintained and no stigma was attached to those in need.
With regard to statistics on infant and mother mortality, these were being updated, and as soon as the official figures were received, they would be forwarded to the Committee. There were public information programmes on alternative medicine. There was also ongoing research at the University of the West Indies on some of the claims of these medicines.
A Woman’s Center existed for pregnant teenagers, and once the child was weaned, every effort was made to reintegrate the young mother into full time education. As for HIV/AIDS, there were some increases, but the rate of increase was slowing down, and the increase was possibly because of the improvement in testing and the increase in number of people and pregnant mothers being tested. A National Health Fund had been launched to take care of people with special needs with regard to medical therapy.
It was recognized that young persons needed to be targeted and assisted in the context of mental health, and there was a programme and an institution for this. There were a few problems with adolescent suicides. A National Forum had been held on the topic with the aim of alerting parents on what to look for and what intervention strategy existed. There was a National Council on Drug Abuse, and a Master Plan of Operation for the Control and Treatment of Drug Addiction, and this was currently being updated. The National Council on Drug Abuse operated several programmes aimed at drug abuse prevention among the young, and there were services for rehabilitation.
There was an aim to have dedicated centers for young people in conflict with the law, and to have their situation resolved as rapidly as possible. Efforts were made to ensure that children were not locked up along with adults or in adult institutions. The Juvenile Correctional Centers tended to be very under populated and to operate under capacity, and this was due to the number of sentencing options available to the Courts.
Preliminary Concluding Remarks
MS. CHUTIKUL, the Committee Rapporteur on the Report of Jamaica, concluded by saying that the dialogue had been most constructive, and it would be useful for the Committee in drawing up its concluding observations for Jamaica. The work done for the children of Jamaica was congratulated and commended, and it was noted that their situation was much better than in many other countries examined by the Committee. However, there was always room for improvement, and after today the delegation should know where these lay. Suggestions would be made in the concluding remarks and recommendations in many areas, including parenting, health, HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, remedies to the violence, education, and children as victims. The delegation was also encouraged to ratify the treaties mentioned during the discussion.
MR. SMITH, the head of the delegation of Jamaica, concluding, thanked the Committee for the many questions asked, which had been most interesting. The suggestions made would be implemented to improve the situation of all children in Jamaica. The Government would come back to the Committee on several topics and would provide the information that had been asked for. It was hoped that at the next meeting, even more information would be provided, and the situation of children in Jamaica would have improved even further.
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