On-line version ISSN 1609-073X
Afr. hum. rights law j. vol.10 n.2 Pretoria 2010
Julia Sloth-NielsenI; Benyam D MezmurII
ISenior Professor of Law, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
IIMellon Research Fellow, Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape, South Africa
The 14th and 15th sessions of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child were held in November 2009 and March 2010 respectively. The Committee has considered more reports and issued its first concluding observations. The continued engagement of the Civil Society Organisations Forum with the African Children's Committee offers an example of positive progress towards supporting the implementation of the African Children's Charter. The development of a relatively well thought-out strategic plan for the African Children's Committee's work for the period 2010 to 2014 (with a better level of participation from stakeholders) also offers an advance in the work of the Committee. Despite these, there remains some room for improvement in order to allow the African Committee to achieve its mandate of the promotion and protection of children's rights in Africa.
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* BA LLB (Stellenbosch), LLM (Cape Town), LLD (Western Cape); firstname.lastname@example.org
** LLB (Addis Ababa), LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) (Pretoria); LLD (Western Cape); email@example.com. It is hereby acknowledged that this work is based upon research supported by the Mellon Foundation and the National Research Foundation.
1 Art 32(1) African Children's Charter.
2 Arts 33-36 African Children's Charter. See also art 11(2) of the Rules of Procedure of the Committee.
3 The words 'session' and 'meeting' are used interchangeably throughout this article.
4 Eg, CONAFE country offices (such as from Mali, Senegal and Niger) are increasingly represented.
5 This was the 10th meeting held in Cairo, Egypt.
6 On behalf of Ambassador Moushira Khatab of Egypt, who is the minister in charge of children's affairs.
7 See, eg, J Sloth-Nielsen & BD Mezmur 'Win some, lose some: The 10th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (2008) 8 African Human Rights Law Journal 211-212. [ Links ]
8 It is relevant to note that the incoming Committee members constituted more than half of the Committee membership.
9 http://www.africa-union.org (accessed 31 October 2010).
10 The other remaining five countries that have not ratified the Charter are Central African Republic, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia, Swaziland and Tunisia. A full list of current ratifications can be found at http://www.africa-union.org in the section on Documents.
11 It was agreed that resources to organise the workshop to consider the draft Plan of Action would be mobilised. However, it was also agreed that, if funds were not made available in time, the draft Plan of Action would be presented during the 15th meeting of the African Children's Committee.
12 These countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. The copies of some of these reports are available at http://www.crin.org/resources/treaties/index.asp (accessed 30 September 2010). In the second half of 2010, there are indications that the state reports of Libya and Sudan are almost finalised and to be submitted to the AUC.
13 It is kindly acknowledged that this table is taken directly from Save the Children and Plan (F Shehan 'Advancing children's rights: A guide for civil society organisations on how to engage with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (2010).
14 It is to be recalled that the CRC Committee has undertaken a similar measure. In addition to its guidelines for reporting (CRC/C/5 and CRC/C/58), the Committee also adopted recommendations that are relevant to state parties' reporting obligations. These recommendations provide guidance to state parties that are encountering problems in complying with the strict time frame for submission of reports established by the Convention in art 44, para 1, or the consideration of whose reports has been delayed. These recommendations apply as an exceptional measure taken for one time only (see CRC/C/139). See CRC Committee 'Working methods' http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/workingmethods.htm#a2c (accessed 30 September 2010).
15 Eg, in June 2003, the CRC Committee sent letters to three state parties whose initial reports were due in 1994 and never submitted. The Committee further decided to inform those state parties in the same letter that should they not report within one year, the Committee would consider the situation of children's rights in the state in the absence of the initial report.
16 These countries include Angola, Benin, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.
17 Rule 66 of the African Childrens Committee's Rules of Procedure, entitled 'Non-submission of reports' provides:
'1 At each session, the Chairperson of the Commission shall inform the Committee of all cases of non-submission of reports or complementary information in conformity with article 43 of the Children's Charter. In such cases, the Committee shall address to the state party concerned, through the Chairperson of the Commission, a reminder regarding the submission of these reports or complementary information and shall undertake any other measures in a spirit of dialogue between the State concerned and the Committee.' 2. I f, despite the reminder and other measures referred to in para 1 above, the state party does not submit the required report or complementary information, the Committee shall consider the situation as it deems necessary and shall include a reference to this effect in its report to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (our emphasis).
18 See, generally, BD Mezmur & J Sloth-Nielsen 'An ice breaker: The 11th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (2008) 8 African Human Rights Law Journal 596-616.
19 The concluding observations made by the African Children's Committee in respect of Egypt and Nigeria show that there is some room for improvement in terms of concretising the Committee's recommendations.
20 This is described fully in Sloth-Nielsen & Mezmur (n 18 above) 342-345.
21 Sloth-Nielsen & Mezmur (n 18 above) 346.
22 These concluding observations were widely circulated to CSOs the week before the 14th meeting.
23 This constitutes one of the recommendations of the 2nd CSO Forum, where it was learnt that the production of concluding observations was the responsibility of the individual rapporteur assigned to the study of a particular country report to produce the initial draft. Until the 15th meeting, it seemed that little effort is made thereafter to ensure consistency in format, tone and level of analysis.
24 The concluding observations on Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Tanzania and Uganda are available at http://www.crin.org/resources/infodetail.asp?id=23051 (accessed 30 September 2010). It is important to highlight that the Uganda reports were only considered during the 15th session.
25 However, structurally, Tanzania's concluding observations are not strong.
26 It is to be noted that the African Children's Charter was adopted in 1990 and at that time, the use of the term 'handicapped children' was considered normal.
27 Art 44(1) African Children's Charter.
28 It is important to mention that there is currently an advanced process to adopt an optional protocol on complaints procedure under CRC.
29 'Annexure A: Criteria for granting observer status in the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations' (2007) 7 African Human Rights Law Journal 559.
30 During the 9th session, hard copies of the final version of Criteria for Granting Observer Status with the African Children's Committee were distributed to all partners.
31 See J Sloth-Nielsen & BD Mezmur 'Out of the starting blocks: The 12th and 13th ordinary sessions of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child' (2009) 9 African Human Rights Law Journal 347.
32 Rules 70 and 71 of the African Children's Committee Rules of Procedure provide that state parties can submit a similar report to the CRC Committee to the African Children's Committee after highlighting the specificities of the African Children's Charter. Furthermore, the Guidelines for State Reporting under art 24 provides for the same rule.
33 ACHPR/Res144(XXXXV)09: Resolution on Co-operation Between the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Africa, done in Banjul, The Gambia, 27 May 2009.
34 The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, adopted on 25 May 2000 and entered into force on 18 January 2002; and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, adopted on 25 May 2000 and entered into force on 12 February 2002.
35 The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption, adopted on 29 May 1993 and entered into force on 1 May 1995.
36 This shift in emphasis and tone is notable starting from 'the hope that the state party will become a party' (CRC Committee, Concluding Observations: Belarus (February 1994) para 13) to recommending that 'the state party ... [r]atify' (CRC Committee, Concluding Observations: Benin (October 2006) para 45(c)), to 'recommend that the state party ... [s]peedily ratify' (CRC Committee, Concluding Observations: Kazakhstan (June 2007) para 44(a)), to the CRC Committee 'notes with regret that the state party has still not ratified' the Hague Convention (CRC Committee, Concluding Observations: Chad (January 2009) para 51).
37 One of the authors, Prof Sloth-Nielsen, was one of the panellists.