The concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child are the main outcome of a country session. They are compiled in a public document, which indicates the progress achieved by the reviewed State, the Committee’s main areas of concern and recommendations to the State to improve the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and/or its Optional Protocols, as well as the date for the submission of the next State report. They are adopted by the Committee for all the States reviewed during a session on the last day of that session.
The concluding observations are based on the issues discussed during the dialogue with the reviewed State. This means that if an issue has not been raised during the country session, it cannot be included in the text of the concluding observations.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
1. What are the concluding observations?
The concluding observations is a public and official document of the UN that the Treaty Bodies, including the CRC, produce at the end of every session for every State under review.
With the concluding observations, the Committees assess the State’s human rights record and recommend measures for enhanced implementation of the rights in question.
It provides an opportunity for the delivery of an authoritative overview of the state of human rights in a country and for the delivery of forms of advice which can stimulate systemic improvements.
2. How concluding observations look like?
Since October 2016, the Committee issues a new type of Concluding Observations systematically for all the States that have been reviewed at least twice.
In the new format of Concluding Observations:
- The Committee identifies up to 6 issues that require “urgent measures”, while reminding the importance of all recommendations in the introductory paragraph to the chapter “Main areas of concern and recommendations”.
- The Committee provides the context paragraphs with its concerns before the recommendations only for the topics requiring urgent measures. For the other topics, the Committee tries to integrate its concerns in the recommendations.
- The follow-up section is shortened and the Committee does not mention non-child rights instruments and laws.
The aim of this new format is to produce more action-oriented recommendations and to improve their quality, while reducing their length. It is also a way to push States to implement some of the recommendations in a more urgent manner.
All those States who are reviewed for the first or second time receive the same type of Concluding Observations that the Committee has been issuing until October 2016.
You can access all the CRC concluding observations on the website of the Committee.
3. When and where can I find the concluding observations on my country?
Soon after the session, the English version of the concluding observations is uploaded on the website of the Committee and sent to the State concerned and the United Nations General Assembly. The concluding observations are then translated into French and Spanish (the other 2 working languages of the Committee), and Arabic, Chinese or Russian if one of these languages is more relevant for the Reviewed State.
4. What can I use the concluding observations for?
The concluding observations highlight the main areas the reviewed State should address and provide concrete recommendations to implement in order to improve the situation of children’s rights.
They are therefore a very useful public document for children’s rights defenders to monitor the State’s actions and follow up to the Committee’s recommendations, for example:
➢ They can be used as a roadmap of State’s actions for the next 5 years.
➢ They can be used as an advocacy tool to put certain issues on top of the State’s agenda.
➢ They can be used to establish a dialogue and cooperation with the State on the implementation of certain measures recommended by the Committee.
You may not be able to monitor how your State follows all recommendations. If you need to limit the number of recommendations you will monitor, you may want to look in particular for:
- Recommendations which are linked to your priority areas or themes and that you can monitor as part of your existing work plan.
- Recommendations that require some action or collaboration from NGOs for the State to implement them.
- Recommendations marking a new advancement in the interpretation and application of children’s rights;
- Recommendations whose implementation may be favoured by a number of factors, such as the political interest of the government to prioritise them.
- Recommendations whose implementation can be measured.
- Recommendations that would be ignored by the government without your action.
The follow up of the Committee’s recommendations is the primary obligation of the State. Children’s rights defenders can collaborate with the government to that end but should not act in lieu of the State.
5. How can I find the information I am looking for in the concluding observations?
The concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child are usually divided into the clusters listed in the reporting guidelines for the State report. Each cluster is then divided into sub-headings identifying the specific issue at stake. For each identified concern, the Committee makes at least one recommendation to the State.
The date for the submission of the next State report to the Committee can be found in the last paragraph of the concluding observations.
6. Share your views on the concluding observations with the Committee
The Committee always welcomes feedback from civil society, including children, on its concluding observations, especially with regard to their relevance and accuracy.
If you would like to provide constructive comments for the next review, please analyse the full document in depth and compile your views in written, as detailed as possible.
As Child Rights Connect’s role is to facilitate the sharing of substantive knowledge between civil society organisations and the Committee, we invite you to send us your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title “Feedback on Concluding Observations – [name of the State concerned] – [number of the session concerned]”.
We will share your feedback with the Committee’s Secretariat on your behalf, as well as keep track and take it into account in our work.
If you feel that the Committee has missed an important children’s rights issue, you may want to consider engaging in the CRC reporting cycle earlier in order to influence the concluding observations, by submitting an alternative report, or participating to the country pre-session, for instance.
7. Do States have to implement the concluding observations?
The concluding observations of the CRC and all the other Treaty Bodies are not legally binding and so they are not enforceable on national level. However, when a Treaty enters into force in a State it becomes legally binding for the State. At that point, the State must comply with the obligations under a treaty and be accountable about it.
A few examples of how States talk about the concluding observations:
- Canada: “The treaty body’s requests, views and recommendations are not legally binding on Canada. However, Canada takes its human rights obligations very seriously and will carefully consider the treaty body’s requests and views“, as you can read here.
- Netherlands: “Since the Netherlands signed it in 1995, it has been obliged to keep to the rules laid down in this convention”, as stated here.
- Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s Human Rights Support Unit of the Ministry of Justice explains in this press release that “Afghanistan’s commitment to implementing the Convention on the Rights (CRC) is based on the article 7 of the Constitution, stipulating that “the State shall observe the United Nations Charter, inter-state agreements, as well as international treaties to which Afghanistan has joined, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights […] The Human Rights Support Unit of the Ministry of Justice made a presentation on the immediate actions to be undertaken by the Government, which derive from the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The outcome of the discussions on the priority lists will lead to drafting of a Plan of Action to fulfill the Government’s obligations in implementing the Rights of the Child in the country”.
- The Holy See: “The Holy See highlights that the Committee makes certain recommendations that disregard principles of international law that underpin every treaty […] In a clear and open violation of the “ordinary meaning” of the terms of the CRC “in their context and in the light of its object and purpose”, the Concluding Observations advocate for “abortion””, as written here.
8. What happens after the concluding observations are issued?
The following official step of the CRC reporting cycle is the submission of the next State report to the Committee on the rights of the child. While there is no other official measure undertaken by the Committee or the State between the concluding observations and the State report, the period of time between the two is meant to allow enough time for the State to follow up on the Committee’s recommendations and improve the situation of children’s rights at home.
This period is generally referred to as the “follow-up” period. Scrutiny and publicity may help attract public attention and ensure that the concerns raised by the Committee will be on the country’s agenda, so you may wish to plan for a press conference around the time of the adoption of the concluding observations. Civil society actors can encourage their State to translate the Concluding Observations into the national language(s), if applicable, and disseminate them in the wider society.