In September 2022, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) held its 91st Session and adopted recommendations for the State parties under review.
For the first time, the Committee adopted a landmark recommendation on child human rights defenders under the cluster Civil rights and freedoms – Freedom of expression, in the Concluding Observations of Vietnam:
23. Deeply concerned about legislation, including the Penal Code and the cybersecurity law, and the decree on handling of administrative violations, that restrict children’s right to freedom of expression, including on social media, the Committee urges the State party to: […]
(b) Create an environment conducive to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and protect human rights defenders, including child human rights defenders, from violence or intimidation against them for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
We welcome this recommendation as a very important standard because the Committee is explicitly linking child human rights defenders with the right to freedom of expression of children!
The civil and political rights of child human rights defenders are usually overlooked (find more background information in our CHRDs implementation guide). All the previous recommendations* on child human rights defenders adopted by the Committee since 2018 were under the cluster General measures of implementation – Cooperation with civil society. This includes the Concluding Observations adopted during this session 91 for Kuwait, North Macedonia, Philippines, Vietnam.
This recommendation is a positive development following the briefing delivered by Child Rights Connect Working Group on Child Participation for the Committee on “Advancing standards on Child Human Rights Defenders” during this session 91. We held this briefing after noting that while the recommendations increased after the 2018 Day of General Discussion on protecting and empowering children as human rights defenders, there was a progressive decrease in recent years and a need for an explicit use of the UN terminology “child human rights defenders”.
In addition, the Committee addressed the following question in its List of Issues to Jordan:
2.Please explain the measures taken or envisaged to:
(d)Ensure that children, civil society organizations and children human rights defenders can exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;
During this 91st session, Child Rights Connect, UPR Info and co-sponsors also held a briefing on Child Human Rights Defenders (CHRDs) and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) with States, in which Ms Mikiko Otani, the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child participated.
Eventually at the previous CRC session 90, we also reminded the Committee about the importance of its recommendations to States on Child Human Rights Defenders as the implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders is at stake, in our opening statement.
*You can find all the recommendations adopted in the Universal Human Rights Index