The pre-session is a one week meeting period that takes place in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). During the pre-session, the Committee meets with the children’s rights defenders they have decided to invite, based on the alternative reports they have received, to prepare for the country session with State representatives.
A country pre-session is a 2.5 hour confidential meeting between all Committee members, children’s rights defenders invited by the Committee and UN agencies representatives, like UNICEF, to discuss the situation of children’s rights in a given country. It is an opportunity for civil society to share information and concerns before the Committee’s country session with the State representatives of the country concerned.
Learn more about the format of the meeting and what you will be expected to do if you are invited to a country pre-session by the Committee.
Children can also meet Committee members in a separate confidential children’s meeting if they request so in advance. Learn more about this meeting and how to request one.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Pre-session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
1. When does the pre-session take place?
The pre-session is scheduled when a State report is received by the Committee. The Committee meets three times a year for 4 weeks each time. The first three weeks are the session and the fourth one is the pre-session. The dates of the pre-session week are published on the Committee’s webpage. The date and time of the country pre-session are confidential and are communicated to the selected participants only. The country pre-session normally takes place 6 months (2 sessions) in advance to the related session.
2. Why is the country pre-session confidential and closed to selected participants?
All country pre-sessions are confidential because the Committee wants to ensure that every participant can speak freely about the real challenges in a country. It has shown to be the most effective way to prevent reprisals against those who provide sensitive information to the Committee. Country pre-sessions are closed because the Committee wants to have an informal interaction with all the participants. It is rather a small working meeting and therefore the Committee tries to invite those who can give the most comprehensive overview of the children’s rights situation in a country. The principles of confidentiality applies to all States, even if there are no major concerns.
3. Who is invited to a country pre-session?
Based on the relevance and scope of the alternative reports received on time, the Committee invites representatives of selected organisations, bodies or groups to attend a country pre-session. Usually, those who provide more comprehensive information, such as national coalitions of NGOs, Ombudspersons for children and National Human Rights Institutions, are invited to the pre-session. Children’s groups and organisations are also invited to this meeting. If children attend and they would like to request a separate private meeting with the Committee (the so-called “children’s meeting”), they need to send a request letter to the Committee beforehand.
4. Can you attend as observer?
No observers are allowed in the room and all participants must actively engage in the dialogue.
5. How does a country pre-session work?
Each country pre-session is divided into 4 main parts:
1. Oral presentations by the participants
Participants invited by the Committee make short oral statements. The length of the oral statements might vary according to the speaking time allocated to each organisation participating in the pre-session.
2. Round of Committee’s questions
The Committee’s country rapporteurs (2 members) or task force (3-4 members) ask a series of questions to the participants, which are not limited to the issues raised in their reports or oral statements.
3. Preparation and organisation of the answers
Participants have 15 minutes in total to prepare answers to the questions raised. They can decide on the order they will use to answer and who will answer which question. Participants may work together with other organisations to divide up the answers.
Tip: Participants need to take good notes of the questions asked by the Committee members
4. Interactive dialogue with the Committee
Once the preparation time is over, participants are given the floor to answer the Committee’s questions. All Committee members can intervene at any point with additional or follow-up questions.
6. What is the difference between country rapporteurs and task force?
For every country pre-session, the Committee appoints either 2 Country Rapporteurs or 1 Task Force of 3-4 members. This happens at the end of the previous session, about 3 months before the country pre-session. Both the Country Rapporteurs and the Task Force have the mandate to lead the dialogues with the State and children’s rights defenders. However, when a Task Force leads the country pre-session, the Chair might limit the number of questions raised by other members during the round of questions.
7. How can I know who are the country rapporteurs or members of the task force?
The Committee does not publicise the names of the Country Rapporteurs and Task Force members, but Child Rights Connect provides this information to all the pre-session participants and OHCHR does it upon request.
8. What is the difference between the country pre-session and the children’s meeting?
The country pre-session is an official meeting of the Committee with simultaneous interpretation provided by the UN and has a specific format. All the 18 Committee members have to attend the meeting. The children’s meeting is an informal 1 hour child-friendly meeting with no interpretation and with an open format. It is up to the children to decide how to handle the meeting. Not all the Committee members attend the children’s meeting, but usually the country rapporteurs and task force members do. Children’s meeting do not happen systematically and need to be scheduled in advance by the Committee Secretariat. Therefore, a formal meeting request is necessary. Both meetings are confidential meetings and take place in the Committee’s meeting rooms.
9. How to request a children’s meeting?
The request for a children’s meeting must be made to the Committee’s Secretariat through the online platform while submitting the report.
The format could be a meeting in person in Geneva, or a meeting via phone or video conference.
The Committee decides whether to accept or not the request.
10. Can adults attend the children’s meeting?
The children’s meeting is for children who are under the age of 18 at the time of the meeting. If young adults were involved in preparing the children’s submission when they were under the age of 18, they can, like any other adult representative, either provide the children with support during the children’s meeting — if the children want so — or take part in the country pre-session. The Committee can limit the number of adults present in the children’s meeting, if these are not chaperones of the children.
11. I am chaperone of a child attending the pre-session, what should I know and do?
Playing the role of chaperone is a twofold responsibility. On the one hand, you have to ensure that children are safe and protected in compliance with your child protection policy; on the other hand, you have to create an enabling environment for the children by addressing the barriers to their participation. Please, read carefully this one pager on the role of the chaperones in relation to the pre-session. Please also note that children can decide if they want their chaperones to be part of the children’s meeting with the Committee or not.
12. How can I confirm my participation to the country pre-session if I am invited?
As soon as you receive an invitation to attend your country pre-session, you need to start your registration process. Child Rights Connect, in collaboration with the Committee’s Secretariat, provides an online registration platform and a timeline that have been tested over the years to ensure a smooth and efficient logistical organisation for all the parties involved. You will be invited to register through our online platform by a certain date. If you are not able to meet the deadline, you can still register, but must do so directly with the Committee’s Secretariat and we will no longer be able to assist you in the process.
13. Will the Committee fund the costs of my participation?
The Committee does not have funding to support the participation of children’s rights defenders in the pre-session. Therefore, you must find your own funds. If you are an NGO and you have failed to raise funds, you can apply for Child Rights Connect’s funding.
14. How many participants can attend the pre-session?
Given the confidential and interactive nature of the meeting, the Committee usually invites only a small group of civil society representatives per country pre-session (about 12 participants). Based on our experience, organisations that have submitted a comprehensive report on a broad number of issues (e.g. a coalition of NGOs, an ombudsperson for children) should register 2 persons. 1 person is sufficient to represent an organisation that has submitted a thematic report.
2-3 children per group of children who have been involved in an alternative report generally ensure a good representation and fits well within the pre-session and children’s meeting’s settings. There is no formal limit to the number of child representatives, but, as stated in the Committee’s working methods on child participation in the reporting process, “in exceptional cases, the Committee reserves the right to limit the number of children who are invited”.
15. What are the selection criteria for adults?
Registered adult participants should:
- Be fluent in the understanding and speaking of one of the United Nations official languages, namely English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese or Arabic.
- Have been actively involved in the preparation of the alternative report submitted by the organisation;
- Be ready to actively participate and answer the questions asked by the Committee (no observers are allowed);
- Have extensive knowledge of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, if relevant, and how they are implemented in the country, especially with regard to the national legislation, government policies and programmes and the priority areas and major gaps;
- Be willing to collaborate with other representatives in the room (e.g. UNICEF, Ombudsman, etc.); and
- Commit to the confidentiality principle.
If you register 2 participants, they should have complementary expertise to cover a broad range of topics.
16. What are the selection criteria for children?
In accordance with the Committee’s requirements, children should select their representatives themselves through consultations, direct elections, and open competition or through informed consent to an adult’s selection.
Registered children participants should:
- Have been involved in the elaboration of children’s views to the Committee (e.g. children who have drafted a report, have participated in the consultations for the elaboration of a report, have produced or contributed to the production of a video, etc.);
- Be trained about their rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, if relevant;
- Be informed about their participation in the reporting process of the Committee (scope, purpose, impact, modalities, barriers, risks);
- Be willing to participate;
- Understand that they would participate as a representative of a group of children and be able to represent different groups and concerns of the children in their country (special efforts should be made to ensure that children in marginalized and vulnerable situations are represented);
- Be able to draw on their knowledge, skills and abilities to express their views on relevant issues; and
- Be respectful of their peers’ views.
2 delegates aged 15 and 19 were chosen to meet with the Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2005. The delegates were chosen by the children that had prepared the report for the Committee. A meeting was held to discuss the election rules, and to come up with criteria for the delegation members such as commitment to children’s rights, being actively involved in preparing the report, feeling comfortable talking in English, and being willing to talk in public. A ballot paper was designed and sent out to all the voting children. The 2 elected children joined the NGO delegation that travelled to Geneva and took part in all the events relating to the CRC reporting process in Hong Kong and in Geneva. Hong Kong Committee on Children’s Rights
Funky Dragon, the children and young people’s assembly for Wales, sent 3 children to Geneva to present 2 reports to the Committee – Our rights, our story, which set out the findings from research with 11 to 19 year-olds, and Why do people’s ages go up and not down?, research with 7 to 10 year-olds. A steering group of 20 Funky Dragon members was set up to manage the research with children. The steering group’s job included recruiting staff; writing research questions and designing research activities; coming up with logos and promotional materials – including 2 films; collecting and analysing data; discussing the research findings with all the members of Funky Dragon; and writing the final reports for the Committee. The steering group had enough money to send 3 children to Geneva. The steering group held a vote to decide who would go because more than 3 children volunteered for this job.
For more case studies, check our pocket guide for children to report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, p.46.
17. How can participants to a country pre-session prepare beforehand to ensure a successful meeting with the Committee?
Given the format and length of country pre-sessions, it is essential for the participants to coordinate beforehand to ensure effective time management and avoid duplication of issues and answers. To facilitate this, Child Rights Connect has established a system of country focal points for each country pre-session in coordination with the Committee and its Secretariat.
Once the final list of participants is available, Child Rights Connect will ask all participants to each country pre-session to nominate one country focal point, who will act as the liaison between Child Rights Connect (along with the Committee), and all of the participants of pre-session from that country.
Child Rights Connect provides targeted advice and technical assistance through the country focal points, while basic information and advice is made available to all the participants.
This system is now the standard process to organise country pre-sessions. This means that everyone participating in a country pre-session will need to coordinate with the relevant country focal point prior to the meeting, whether they registered for the meeting through Child Rights Connect or not.
Thanks to the country focal point system:
- All participants know each other before the country pre-session.
- All oral statements are shared before the meeting so that participants know what issues others plan to raise, and what the participants’ areas of expertise are.
- Oral statements at the start of the country pre-session are not repetitive and are kept to their shortest, which allows more time for questions and answers.
- Participants know which topics or themes they will cover and are able to prepare in advance.
- Participants manage to answer most, if not all, of the questions asked by the Committee despite the short time available for preparation during the meeting.
18. Can I publicise my participation if I am invited to the pre-session?
Yes, you can say that you are invited to the pre-session (before the pre-session) and that you attended the pre-session (after the pre-session). You can publish your report and also share the topics and issues you raised during the pre-session/children’s meeting. However, there are some practical DON’Ts that must be respected:
- Do not publicise the names of the other individuals/organisations attending.
- Do not disclose the exact dates of the meetings.
- Do not publicise what has been said by other participants, including Committee members .
- Do not take pictures during the meeting.
- And do not take pictures of other participants without previous authorisation.
- Do not invite journalists to the meetings or to the UN buildings.