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UNICEF Canada statement on Third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child- Complaints or communications procedure for violation of children’s rights

2011-12-19

By Marvin Bernstein, UNICEF Canada Chief Advisor, Advocacy

“UNICEF Canada welcomes the adoption by the UN General Assembly on December 19, 2011 of a new Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The new Optional Protocol establishes a complaints or ‘communications’ procedure for the violation of children’s universal basic human rights. This represents an important step forward for the protection and fulfillment of children’s human rights.

In countries that adopt the Optional Protocol, children or their representatives who claim that their rights have been violated will be able to bring a complaint to an international committee of children’s rights experts, called the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, if they have not been able to have the violation remedied in their home countries. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only major international human rights treaty which has not had an accompanying complaints procedure, thereby, denying children an important avenue to address serious forms of violence, exploitation and discrimination..

While children and their representatives can use complaint mechanisms established under other international treaties to pursue many of their rights, those recourses do not address the scope of children’s rights and lack child-sensitive protections, such as ensuring that the investigation of a complaint will serve the best interests of children. When reviewing complaints under this new Protocol, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will apply a child-sensitive lens and follow the principle of the best interests of the child, while taking into consideration the views and preferences of the child.

Providing an international avenue to investigate serious issues affecting the survivial, development and protection of children sends a strong signal from the international community that children also have rights and it’s critical for them to have another recourse – just as adults do - when effective remedies to realize their rights are unavailable at home.

For a complaint to be reviewed, a nation must ratify this Optional Protocol.  A nation that has ratified the Convention but not the Optional Protocol is not automatically bound by the new complaints procedure. This Optional Protocol must also be accepted by ten countries before it can be used.

We call on Canada to initiate, without delay, national discussions and processes leading up to the ratification of this new Optional Protocol. We also urge Canada to sign the new Optional Protocol at the official signing ceremony  in 2012 to demonstrate its commitment to the protection and promotion of children’s rights in this country. This is a new opportunity for Canada to take a leadership position within the international community.”

About UNICEF
UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.