2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In commemoration of this anniversary, the Permanent Mission of Belgium together with the Permanent Mission of Uruguay took the initiative to deliver a strong statement with support from both States and civil society. The statement called for universal ratification of the Optional Protocols and timely reporting. It also welcomed the Committee’s Guidelines regarding the implementation of the Optional Protocol on sale and sexual exploitation of children and a multidisciplinary approach in prevention and protection, promoting cooperation and consultation with children and civil society. The statement delivered on Tuesday September 22nd at the 45th session of the Human Rights Council’s General Debate on Agenda Item 3 got the support from 55 States and 39 civil society organizations. This statement will be an important advocacy tool to support advocacy efforts at the national level to ensure universal ratification and timely reporting. Read the full text below:


Statement on the 20th Anniversary of the two first Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Madam President,

It is my pleasure to deliver this statement on behalf of Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, State of Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, North Macedonia and my own country, Belgium.

Last May 25, we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Though optional, both protocols have clearly benefited from the ratification zeal that made the Convention near universal in application, as the OPSC is now in force in 176 countries and the OPAC in 170. We call for a further strong mobilization to reach full universal ratification of both protocols, as well as for improved reporting rates under these instruments to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, as over a hundred of those reports are still, unacceptably, overdue.

We welcome the strides that have been made in protecting children from recruitment by non-state armed groups, in raising the minimum age for recruitment and deployment of children to take part in hostilities, and in criminalizing child recruitment by parties to conflicts.

We equally welcome and wish to highlight the relevance of the guidelines, regarding the implementation of the protocol on sale and sexual exploitation of children issued exactly one year ago by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. They provide us with a deeper understanding of the protocol’s terminology and substantive provisions, also in light of recent developments in the digital sphere; they enable a more effective and prevention-focused implementation and ensure that the protocol remains a living instrument enhancing the protection of children. Last but not least, they are highly commendable in supporting and strengthening initiatives and efforts undertaken by State parties to better fulfil their obligations under the protocol, including in respect of reporting.

While we embarked on the global 2030 Agenda’s Decade of Action, the COVID-19 pandemic has once again highlighted that the protection of millions of children is a continuous endeavour. Numerous challenges, some of them new, are waiting to be tackled. With the poorest and most vulnerable children being hit hardest, countries should strive to ensure that the social and economic consequences of the pandemic do not negatively affect the protection of children’s rights. Recruited and sexually exploited children are victims, and should be treated as such. No child should suffer from such a fate. We call on all states, whether parties to the protocols or not, to make sure that children are safe at all times wherever they are. A multidisciplinary approach is key in prevention and protection, consulting children themselves and States’ cooperation with civil society are equally crucial aspects. We owe it to our children to put all our efforts in fighting these horrendous  crimes.

List of non-governmental organisations endorsing the Statement:

  1. Child Rights Connect
  2. Children’s Rights Alliance for England, part of Just for Kids Law
  3. Centre of Excellence in Alternative Care of Children, India
  4. Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
  5. Make Mothers Matter (MMM)
  6. Defence for Children International
  7. Plan International
  8. Child Rights Information Centre (CRIC) Moldova
  9. Save the Children
  10. Plataforma de Infancia (Spain)
  11. International Social Service
  12. Terre des Hommes International Federation
  13. International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE)
  14. Railway Children
  15. Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México
  16. ECPAT International
  17. Infancia sin Fronteras
  18. Child Rights International Network (CRIN)
  19. Fundación Amigó
  20. IBFAN-Gifa International Baby Food Action Network – Geneva
  21. International Movement ATD Fourth World
  22. National Coalition for the Implementation of the UN-Convention on the Rights of the Child in Austria
  23. Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Conditions ( EFACC)
  24. Defense for Children International Egypt Branch
  25. Partnership for Human Rights – PHR, Georgia
  26. Alliance for the Rights of the Child (ADP) Czechia
  27. ChildPact – Regional Coalition for Child Protection
  28. SOS Children’s Villages International
  29. Humanium
  30. International Council of Women (ICW-CIF)
  31. Action on Child, Early and Forced Marriage
  32. UWC Dilijan College
  33. Arigatou International
  34. Plataforma NNAPES
  35. Child Protection Network (Armenia)
  36. La Coordinadora por los Derechos de la Infancia y la Adolescencia (CDIA Paraguay)
  37. Women’s World Summit Foundation