UN experts urge final push for universal ratification of Optional Protocols to Convention on the Rights of the Child

Joint statement by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child

New York/Geneva –Universal ratification of the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) and on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) is closer than ever, UN experts have said.

“Sixteen years after the Optional Protocols were adopted by the UN General Assembly, they continue to generate tangible progress in the protection of children’s rights worldwide and have been ratified by most UN Member States,” the UN experts said in a statement to mark the anniversary of the texts’ adoption on 25 May 2000.

“Now, with implementation under way of the Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children, universal ratification should be a priority for all,” the experts urged.

“Since 2014, there have been 13 new ratifications to OPAC. There is momentum among Member States to better protect children under 18 from recruitment and use in conflict,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “I encourage all those who have not yet ratified OPAC to join the community of States Parties who agree that children do not belong in armed groups or security forces in conflict.”

Ms. Zerrougui called on all Member States to fulfil the promise made to children by ensuring that national legal frameworks are aligned with international standards and by promoting accountability for those who violate children’s rights.

“Since the launch of the UN campaign for universal ratification, there has been a steady increase in the number of ratifications to the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which is now in force in 173 states. Guided by the global commitment to end all forms of violence against children highlighted by SDG target 16.2, 2016 can mark the start of a new era in protecting children’s rights from abuse and exploitation. It is high time to end violence against children. It is high time to bridge international standards and action on the ground and to translate international commitments into reality, leaving no child behind,” highlighted Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais.

“Ratifying the Optional Protocols is an important first step. States then have to report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on what they are doing to implement them,” said Committee Chair Benyam Dawit Mezmur. “Currently 68 States still have to send us their first reports under OPSC and 45 under OPAC, and around a third of these reports have been overdue for more than 10 years. We urge all States Parties to report on a timely basis,” he stressed.

OPSC: The Protocol on the sale children, child prostitution and child pornography provides detailed guidance to support States in the implementation of their obligations to prohibit, criminalize, prevent, and ensure accountability for offences of sexual violence and exploitation. Furthermore, States must provide access to child-sensitive justice, as well as recovery, reintegration and compensation for child victims of sexual exploitation and sale for the purposes of forced labour or illegal adoption, among others.

OPAC: The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict is a commitment that States will protect children under the age of 18 from taking part in hostilities and will set the minimum age for conscription at 18. OPAC also prohibits the recruitment and use of children under 18 by armed groups. The Protocol encourages States to take all possible measures to prevent underage recruitment, including by adopting legislation to prohibit and criminalize the recruitment of children under 18.

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For additional information please contact:
Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Miguel Caldeira: caldeira1@un.org / +1 917 367 6132
http://srsg.violenceagainstchildren.org/

Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Stephanie Tremblay: tremblay@un.org / +1 212 963 8285
https://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/

Committee on the Rights of the Child Liz Throssell: ethrossell@ohchr.org / +41 22 917 9466
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx

Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified to date by 196 States):
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (ratified to date by 173 States): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPSCCRC.aspx

Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (ratified to date by 165 States): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/OPACCRC.aspx