28 June – 2 July 2005
REPORT OF THE AFRICAN COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS ON THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THE CHILD
1. It will be recalled that the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child comprising 11-Members elected from States Parties to the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was established by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government during its 37 th Session held in Lusaka, Zambia in July 2001. Among others, the mandate of the Committee is to promote and protect the rights of the African child based on the provisions enshrined in the Charter.
2. The African Committee organized its 6 th Meeting to coincide with the Day of the Africa Child (DAC) which this year was on the theme “African Orphans: Our Collective Responsibility”. Within the framework of DAC, a Consultative Workshop on “Protecting the Orphans and Vulnerable Children ” was conducted on 16 and 17 June, 2005 and was part of the 6 th ACRWC Meting which was held from 13 to 17 June, 2005.
3. African children represent more than half of the continent’s population and their vulnerability cannot be over-emphasized. Africa’s children are most disadvantaged in many ways: their life chances are limited; they are exposed to violence; they are used as child soldiers; they are vulnerable to malnutrition and diseases, in particular the HIV/AIDS pandemic; they are deprived of education; their rights are violated; they are abused and exploited. While Africa’s children are most vulnerable, addressing their vulnerabilities and rights have not been prioritized at national level. Governments continue to overlook children issues when formulating national development policies and programmes and the Ministries responsible for implementing activities on children are not allocated sufficient budget .
4. The major cause for concern is that the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which is the legal instrument for the survival, protection and development of the African child has to-date been ratified only by 35 Member States. This is a sad state of affairs as those countries that have not ratified the Charter yet cannot be held responsible for the state of children in their countries. An appeal is therefore made for Member States which have not yet done so to ratify the African Charter urgently.
5. The Committee held its 5 th Meeting in Nairobi from 8 to 12 November 2004 and the 6 th Meeting took place in Addis Ababa from 13 to 17 June, 2005. Among others, the Committee has been able to adopt the procedures for considering State Party reports. This is a major step forward as the Committee can start considering State Parties’ Reports in its future meetings. The Committee has also adopted its Plan of Work for 2005-2009 which includes; Popularization of the African Charter; Protection of the rights of Children as enshrined in the Charter; Monitoring of the implementation of the Charter; and Strengthening its Institutional Capacity.
6. One major constraint which is continuing to hamper the work of the Committee is the lack of a Secretariat to coordinate its work. In view of the long recruitment process at the AU Commission it has not been possible yet to put in place a Secretariat for the Committee. The AU Commission is still pursuing the matter.
7. The AU Commission would also want to inform Council that the term of Office of five of the Committee Members will expire in July 2005 after the elections of the new Members which, as you are aware, will be held during this session. The AU Commission would like to thank the out-going Members for the services rendered to the African children through the Committee and wish them well in their future endeavour.
8. The present report highlights the recommendations which the Committee adopted during its Fifth and Sixth Meetings. Annexed to the Report is also the report of the Consultative Workshop on Protecting Orphans and Vulnerable Child held on 16 and 17 June, 2005. In presenting this report, the Committee calls on the Executive Council to treat children issues with all the seriousness they deserve and continue to support the work of the Committee. The Report is in three Sections:
I. REPORT OF THE FIFTH MEETING OF THE AFRICAN COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS ON THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THE CHILD
The Fifth meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was held at the Nairobi Safari Club in Nairobi, Kenya from 8 to 12 th November 2004. The meeting was attended by 8 Members of the African Committee, representatives of some UN Agencies, NGOs and other International organizations working in the area of children’s rights.
SUMMARY OF PROCEEDINGS
After debating the items on the Agenda, the Committee made the following recommendations:
i) Report on the Activities of Committee Members in Relation to the work of the Committee
After hearing reports from some of the Committee Members , it was recommended that:
a) Member States should fulfill their obligations by submitting to the African Committee reports on measures undertaken to implement the provisions stipulated in the Charter, in accordance with Article 43 of the African Charter;
b) Activities undertaken by Committee Members on behalf of the Committee will subsequently only refer to those activities delegated by the Chairperson of the Committee or activities undertaken by Committee Members on the request of the Secretariat of the Committee (in consultation with the Chairperson).
c) Reports on activities undertaken on behalf of the Committee will in future be sent to the Secretariat/ Chairperson of the Committee for incorporation into the report of the Chairperson to the Committee.
c) In future there will no specific agenda item in relation to the individual reports on the activities of the Committee Members
ii) Report by the AU Commission
After the debate it was recommended that there was need:
a) for National Human Rights Organisations to focus on children’s rights ;
iii) Reports on the Celebration of the Day of the African Child
After hearing reports from the AU Commission and some Committee Members it was recommended that:
a) the Committee registers its disappointment on the failure of Member States to submit their reports on DAC to the Commission;
b) In order to enhance clarity and expound on the theme of the Day of the African Child, an explanatory note should always be prepared and forwarded to Member States amplifying the rationale for the selection of the theme, its relevance and its meaning;
c) Shortly before the Day of the African child, the chairperson of the Commission/the Chairperson of the Committee should send out a message on the theme to all Member States;
d) There should be a multi-faceted approach for reaching out to actors at national level with regard to the celebration of the day. The Secretariat should develop and circulate to members a strategy note on how the day should be celebrated;
e) In order to ensure better coordination and communication with Member States, there is need to carry out an audit in all Member States on the focal points that are responsible for the organization of the celebrations for the day of the African child as well as the nature of activities carried out;
f) In order to facilitate the reporting process, a structured and simple reporting format should be developed and forwarded to Member States to be used in preparing their reports;
g) In order to enhance information sharing, other organizations apart from Governments, should be welcome to forward their reports on the celebrations of the Day to the AU Commission
iv) Progress Reports on Country Visits by Committee Members
Reports on country visits to Madagascar, Namibia and Sudan were heard and the following recommendations were made that:
a) A letter be sent to the host Governments and partners under the signature of the Committee Chairperson, thanking them for their cooperation and enclosing the report of the mission, its findings and recommendations;
b) Member States be called upon to establish Ministries for children matters;
c) There should be follow-up on the visits;
d) The Committee should identify the problems, draw the attention of the country concerned on the problems and propose solutions in solving them;
e) CSOs could assist in identifying cases of violation of children’s rights.
v) Discussions on Modalities for handling State Party Reports on the Implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
It was agreed that the document would be revised in line with views expressed and amended made by the Committee.
vi) Presentation and Discussion on Harmful Traditional Practices (IAC)
After presentation and debate on the issue, the Committee undertook to ensure:
a) that FGM and other harmful practices were taken on board in the priority programme of the Committee;
b) that State Parties include FGM and other harmful practices in their reports
vii) Presentation and Discussion on Progress Report on the African Common Position on the Future of Children: State of Africa’s Children
After the debate on the item, it was recommended that:
a) the Committee should speak up on behalf of children at all fora;
b) the Committee should include the promotion of the rights of children in its priority programme;
c) children issues should be included in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Programmes of Member States;
d) The African Committee should be involved in the elaboration of the next Report due in 2006
viii) Presentation and Discussion on the Way Forward on Children affected by armed Conflict in Africa
After discussion, it was agreed that:
a) There was need for training the AU peacekeepers on issues of children’s rights and child protection. In this regard UNICEF expressed the interest to work with the AU Commission;
b) the Committee ought to pronounce itself and take a position on the various conflicts affecting children on the continent. It was proposed that the Secretariat should prepare a position paper for the Committee’s reflection.
ix) Prioritization of Work-Plan of the Committee.
Discussion of partnerships in relation to the implementation of the prioritized Work-Plan (Partners’ Forum )
After discussion , the Committee identified the following priority activity areas:
a) Undertaking targeted advocacy missions and initiatives particularly in response to major crises affecting children on the continent e.g in Darfur, Nothern Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire as well as lobbying for the ratification of the Charter;
b) Following up countries that have ratified the Charter to submit their reports to the Committee as well as the consideration of State Party reports;
c) Building the capacity of both the Committee and the Secretariat to handle State Party reports as well as communications .
d) Working out modalities for handling Communications under Article 44 of the African Charter.
e) Organising a meeting with Ministers in Charge of Children Affairs together with Civil Society Organisations.
The Committee decided that the above areas should be developed further into detailed projects by the Secretariat.
x) Committee’s link with the Labour and Social Affairs Commission
It was proposed that the Committee should seek to be given space on the Agenda of the Labour and Social Affairs Commission other than just being invited to attend.
xi) Children in crisis in Africa
After identifying the urgent need to respond to situations on the continent where the rights of children were gravely at risk, the Committee made the following recommendations:
a) the Committee should follow up with the AU Commission to ensure that a component for children is incorporated in all major initiatives taken by the AU Commission particularly in areas where there is gross violation of children’s rights.
b) the Secretariat should elaborate a concrete proposal and mobilise resources for the advocacy missions by the Committee to areas where the rights of children are gravely at risk.
xii) Methods of Work of the Committee
Under this item, it was recommended that:
a) the Committee should, whenever necessary, endeavour to seek legal guidance from the Office of the AU Legal Counsel.
b) In view of the problems experienced in the interpretation of Article 44, it was agreed that the Secretariat would follow up with the Legal Counsel for proper guidance.
xiii) Open and closed meetings of the Committee and the participation of partners/observers
After discussion, the Committee proposed that:
a) Members of the Committee would in their comments on the proposed agenda items indicate which items should be discussed in open and closed sessions;
b) once the items to be discussed in the closed sessions had been determined, the information would be sent to the participants in advance to enable them plan the timing of their attendance at the meetings.
xiv) Follow up of State Party Reports
The following recommendations were made on the item:
a) In order to maintain the independence of the Committee Members, the responsibility of following up Member States to submit reports should be left to the AU Commission. While Committee Members could informally follow up, they should not have the primary responsibility of reminding their Member States to submit reports.
b) Before the Committee takes a decision to allow for the submission of consolidated reports it should seek the guidance of the AU Legal Counsel. The Secretariat was requested to follow up with the office of the Legal Counsel.
II. REPORT OF THE SIXTH MEETING OF THE AFRICAN COMMITTEE OF EXPERTS ON THE RIGHTS AND WELFARE OF THE CHIL
The 6 th Meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was held at the AU Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13 th to 17 th June 2005. The Meeting was purposely organized at this date to coincide with the Day of the African Child (16 June, 2005) on the theme: “African Orphans: Our Collective Responsibility”. The meeting was attended by 7 Members of the African Committee as well as representatives from UN Agencies, NGOs and other Organisations dealing with children issues.
Within the framework of the Day of the African Child (16 June), the AU Commission organized a Consultation Workshop on “Protecting Orphans and Vulnerable Children” on 16 and 17 June, 2005. The Workshop was part of the Committee’s meeting and was attended by Committee Member as well as other partners dealing with children issues. The report of the Workshop is annexed to this report.
SUMMARY OF DELIBERATIONS
i) Report on Child-Related Activities at the AU Commission
After the debate, the Committee agreed that:
ii) Enhancing coordination with:
a) The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child;
The Report was presented by Mrs. Nakpa Polo, Committee Member who attended the 38th Session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva as observer.
During the debate, Committee Members commended Mrs. Polo for her clear presentation and raised the following issues:
a) explanation on the administrative machinery and capacity needed for considering State reports was sought. It was explained that for each report a pre-session was held and each report was examined for a whole day. The time taken depended on the number of reports to be considered. The Secretariat provided the technical assistance however, when needed additional resource persons were recruited to assist the Secretariat;
c) whether special rapporteurs were chosen from outside. It was explained that it was the Committee Members themselves who were assigned as special rapporteurs;
d) the UN Committee was ready to provide the ACRWC with any information and assistance;
e) the information contained in the report for handling State Party reports was more or less similar to that of the UN Committee;
f) there should be synergy between the ACRWC and the UN Committee as the reports to be submitted to the ACRWC would be a complement to the report submitted to the UN Committee.
It was agreed that Committee Members should undertake a similar visit to the ACHPR to learn from their experience.
iii) Follow-up on modalities for handling State Party reports on the implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
After agreeing that the document had been revised in line with discussions held during the 5 th Meeting the Committee adopted the document.
iv) Follow-up on the Work-Plan of the Committee
It was noted that this issue had already been considered at the last Meeting. The Committee, therefore, adopted its Work-Plan for the period 2005-2009.
v) Modalities for participation in the meeting of the Committee by NGOs, Associations and other partners
When examining the above subject matter, participants wanted to know if the Commission already had some well-defined rules governing the participation of NGOs in the Commission’s work. In her reply, the Representative from the Legal Counsel highlighted that the need to review the criteria:
vi) Brief on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS)
The Representative from UNICEF gave a brief on the document titled: “A Call for Accelerated Child Survival” which was distributed to all participants. He stated that the document was prepared by Experts from UNICEF and WHO in collaboration with the AU Commission. The AU Commission would finalise the document before submitting it to the Summit of Heads of State and Government in July 2005. He pointed out that the document was focuses on goal 4 of the MDGs on: Reduce Child Mortality with the target of reducing by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five child mortality rates: although the other 7 goals are also relevant to child survival. He then gave an overview on the content of the document.
In the debate that ensued, the following recommendations were raised:
d) There was need also to close the gap between declarations and actions. The many declarations and commitments which have been made over the years, have not been translated into concrete action;
e) African leaders should show more political will and fulfill the promises made to African children;
f) Child rights movements and organizations should be reinforced to ensure the promotion and respect of children’s rights.
vii) Establishment of a Secretariat for the Committee: Appointment of Staff and technical support for the Committee
After a lengthy debate on the matter, it was agreed that the Committee should take cognizance of the recruitment procedure at the AU Commission and the efforts being deployed to establish a Secretariat for the Committee. However, an appeal was made for the AU Commission to expedite the recruitment process and that in the meantime the AU Commission should continue to provide secretarial support to the Committee.
viii) Elections of New Members
Under this item, the issue of the five members of the Committee whose terms of office expire in July 2005 was raised. Concerns were expressed to the fact that from July 2005 when the new Members were elected and the next meeting of the Committee there would be no Chairperson. After the debate, it was finally agreed that the four Members who would remain would continue the work of the Committee and that the AU Legal Counsel would include the concerns of the Committee in the document to be presented to the Executive Council.
Under this item it was recalled that the Committee had received a complaint and concerns were expressed on what should be done with the complaint. It was highlighted that this was a legal issue and that the Committee did not yet have any guidelines on how to deal with such issues. After a long debate, it was agreed that:
III. REPORT OF THE CONSULTATION WORKSHOP ON PROTECTING
ORPHANS AND VULNERABLE CHILDREN
The Consultation Workshop on Protecting Orphans and Vulnerable Children was held within the framework of the Day of the African Child, on 16 and 17 June, 2005 at the AU Conference Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was also part of the 6 th Meeting of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).
The Workshop was attended by the Members of the ACRWC, representatives of the Embassies in Addis Ababa, Representatives of UN Agencies, NGOs, CSOs, International Organisations and other Organisations dealing with children issues.
The opening ceremony was chaired by the Vice-Chairperson of the ACRWC and was addressed by the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, the Vice-Chairperson of the ACRWC, Ms Lotti Latrous, Founder of l’Espoir d’Adjouffou an NGO in Cote d’Ivoire, the Representative of UNICEF and the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Addis Ababa, Chairperson of the AU Permanent Representatives’ Committee.
SUMMARY OF DELIBERATIONS
Social Development and Children in Africa
Moderator: Mr. Soh – ACERWC
The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs gave an overview on Social Development and Children in Africa. She highlighted that:
- the ultimate goal of social development was to improve and enhance the quality of life of all people including children;
b) Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Children
The issue was presented by the Executive Director of African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) who is also a Member of the African Committee on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. He highlighted that:
In the debate that followed the two presentations, these recommendations were made:
PLENARY SESSION I : DIMENSION OF VULNERABILITY
Moderator: Prof. Ebigbo – ACERWC
AIDS in Africa
a) Orphans and increased vulnerability
The above topic was presented by the UNICEF Representative who highlighted the following:
Children in Conflict Situations
The presentation was made by the Representative of ICRC. He gave an overview on the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. With regard to children in conflict situations, he underscored the following:
The following recommendations were made;
a) Concerted efforts by all stakeholders were required to assist victims of armed conflict;
b) The AU Commission, in cooperation with other partners, should: ensure implementation and application of relevant regional and universal instruments; protect family unity including reunification and registration of children; protect children and ensure that they receive education and care; and act speedily in post-conflict situation to reintegrate children affected by conflict into the normal society.
The Representative from the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers complemented the presentation by ICRC. He stated that while some progress was being registered in the recruitment and use of children as soldiers by Government armies, armed political groups had continued to force children into combat with all its atrocities. He highlighted that:
In her presentation, the representative of DFID indicated that;
The above item was presented by the Representative of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). After giving a brief on the objectives and activities of the ACPF, he highlighted that:
The Presenter made the following recommendations that:
After the general debate on the above presentations the following recommendations were made, that:
a) there was need to obtain more data on CHHs;
b) CSOs should be empowered to act as an agent of change in situation of confict - to identify the problems and assist the communities with problems such as reintegration of child soldiers and sustain what Governments and other NGOs have started;
PLENARY SESSION 2: PROTECTIVE ENVIRONMENT
Moderator: Mr. Bjorn, UNICEF
Rapporteur: Mr. Dirieh, ICRC
a) Laws and Policies
The above item was presented by the Vice-Chairperson of the ACRWC. He highlighted the following:
He recommended that there was need to:
The Representative of Plan presented the issue. She gave a brief on the activities of Plan. She then provided an overview of the Child-centered Community Development (CCCD) concept. She indicated that:
- poverty is impacting more severely on children;
She ended by sharing some good practices and examples.
The topic was presented by the Representative of Save the Children – Sweden who focused on the obligations of State Parties to the ACRWC to provide the necessary funding for realizing the rights of vulnerable children. She highlighted that:
After sharing some good practices in some countries, she made the following recommendations that Member States should:
The item was presented by a Representative from UNICEF. He indicated that
In the debate that ensued after the presentations, the following recommendations were made:
PLENARY SESSION 3: KEY ELEMENTS OF A PROTECTIVE ENVIRONMENT AND HOW THEY CAN BE PUT IN PLACE
Moderator: AU Commissioner for Social Affairs
Rapporteur: African Child Policy Forum
The AU Commissioner for Social Affairs indicated that one of the objectives of the Workshop was to come up with recommendations that would add value to the AU Commission and the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
After some debate on the issue, the following recommendations were made:
PLENARY SESSION 4: DISCUSSION ON COOPERATION BETWEEN AU AND PARTERNS
Moderator: Mrs. Polo – ACERWC
Rapporteur: Ms. Berman – DFID
Working together to achieve the protective environment
In the general debate on the above topic, participants highlighted the following:
The following recommendations were finally made:
PLENARY SESSION 5: Preparation for 2006 Review of the African Common Position on Children
Moderator: Prof. Tshiwula – ACERWC
Rapporteur: Dr. Abiola - Plan International
Participants were briefed on the African Common Position – Africa Fit for Children which was Africa’s contribution to the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children. The Common Position which is made up of a Declaration and a Plan of Action was elaborated at a Child Forum held in Cairo, Egypt in May 2001. The Common Position mandates the AU Commission to conduct a mid-term review in 2006 to assess progress achieved in the implementation of the Plan of Action. In this regard, a conference would be convened next year to bring together Member States, more specifically, Ministers in charge of children issues, and other stakeholders to evaluate the achievements.
It was highlighted that:
It was agreed that a Steering Committee would be put in place to:
a) work out the modalities;
Members of the Steering Committee would, among others, include a Member of the ACERWC and a Representative from Egypt which hosted the first Child Forum.
In her closing remarks, the AU Commissioner for Social Affairs expressed her thanks, gratitude and appreciation to all the participants for their time and invaluable inputs in the Workshop. She noted that this was a testimony of individual commitment to the cause of Africa’s children. She reiterated that the roles of CSOs and other Organisations were appreciated and expressed the wish to continue that partnership. She called on participants to support the Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in carrying out its mandate. Finally, she wished the participants, who had come from abroad, a safe journey back home. The Vice-Chairperson of the ACERWC also commended the participants and technical staff for their worthy contributions.