Engaging in the Reporting Cycle of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
“National actors, such as national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society organizations play an integral role in the cyclical engagement with the treaty body reporting process, through providing information, creating awareness and follow-up on the implementation of recommendations.”
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2012)
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (the Committee) is the body set up by the United Nations (UN) to monitor the progress that States make in fulfilling their obligations with regards to children’s human rights. These obligations are defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and two of its Optional Protocols – the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict (OPAC) and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC).
The Committee monitors this progress through a reporting cycle. During each cycle, States submit written information to the Committee on children’s rights in their countries. This information is included in the “State report”. The Committee reviews these reports, as well as additional information it receives, discusses the information with the national government during a meeting called “Session”, and makes recommendations or “Concluding observations” to help States improve the situation of children’s rights.
Children’s rights defenders, like children, NGOs, national human rights institutions and children’s ombudspersons, have an important role to play in this cycle. For example, they can:
- Provide comments on the State report or additional information about issues that it does not address;
- Help the Committee identify issues to ask the national government about during the review;
- Support the government in following-up to the recommendations of the Committee;
- Provide information to the Committee on how its recommendations are being implemented by the government.
Practical Steps to Engage in the Reporting Cycle
The reporting cycle is on-going. This means that you can start your engagement at any step of the process, even if you were not involved in the previous step. Once you engage, however, we encourage you to do so in the mid to long-term, and ideally at least until the next cycle starts, to ensure maximum impact. Each cycle lasts approximately 5 years.
The steps of the cycle change based on the methodology used: the Standard Reporting Procedure or the Simplified Reporting Procedure. Check the comparative table of Standard and Simplified Reporting Cycles, as well as the deadlines for submissions and word limits under both cycles.
Click on cycles to see what you can do.
Standard Reporting Cycle
The cycle starts when the national government submits its State report on how it has implemented its children’s rights obligations to the Committee. The date of submission determines the timeline of the following steps. The State report is a public document that is uploaded on the Committee’s website.
Check when your national government’s report is due and learn what you can do if the State report is overdue or has already been submitted.
Any children’s rights defender independent from the government can submit written information to the Committee to complement the State report. This is called an alternative report. Children’s rights defenders can ask the Committee to publish their report on its website or keep it confidential. Learn more about the type of information you can submit and how to do so.
Children themselves can also submit information to the Committee through an alternative report, a video, a drawing, or through any other means. Learn more about how children can submit information.
The pre-session is a one week meeting period that takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. 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.
Based on the information received through the State report, alternative reports and the pre-session, the Committee establishes a list of issues that require additional information (e.g. clarifications, data and statistics), which is sent to each State which submitted a report before the session that will review them.
These lists of issues are public documents accessible on the Committee’s website, under the relevant session page. They are drafted in one of the Committee’s working languages, namely English, French or Spanish and an official deadline for the government’s written replies is set. Children’s rights defenders can also provide comments to the list of issues or raise additional points not included in the list of issues by sending additional submissions to the Committee before the session.
Learn more about the list of issues and how you can use it.
Governments are asked to answer the Committee’s list of issues at least a couple of months before the session (the exact deadline can be found in the list of issues). These written replies are published on the Committee’s website when they are received by the Committee.
Learn more about the written replies of the State to the Committee.
At this stage, children’s rights defenders, including those who did not submit an alternative report or did not participate in the pre-session, can send additional submissions to the Committee to comment on the State’s written replies and/or send new or updated information to the Committee before the session, for example.
Learn more about additional submissions of children's rights defenders to the Committee.
The session is a three week meeting period that takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. During the session, the Committee meets with government representatives from the countries up for review to discuss how each State is fulfilling its children’s rights obligations.
The Committee bases the discussion on many things, including: the State report, the government’s written replies to the Committee’s list of issues, the alternative reports, information shared during the pre-session and children’s meeting, and other relevant documentation received or consulted by the Committee.
A country session is a public meeting between the Committee and the State representatives of the country up for review, during which they have an “interactive dialogue” about the situation of children’s rights in the country. Anyone, including the media and children’s rights defenders, can attend the meeting as an observer. But no one other than the State representatives or the Committee can speak during the meeting. The meeting can be watched online live or after the meeting.
Learn more about the format of the session and how you can be involved.
After each session, the Committee drafts concluding observations on the situation of children’s rights in each of the countries it has just reviewed. These concluding observations are based on the dialogue between the Committee and the State and can only mention issues discussed during the country session. They constitute a public document, which contains a summary of the dialogue, the Committee’s recommendations to the State and the date for the submission of the next State report.
Learn more about the concluding observations.
Between two State reviews by the Committee, there are no official follow up measures undertaken by the Committee. The State is expected to follow the recommendations made by the Committee and report on their implementation in its next report. All interested actors can monitor the State’s implementation of the Committee’s recommendations and contribute to their follow up.
Learn more about what you can do during this follow-up period.
About the Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines the universal basic rights of all persons under 18 years old and what States and adults should do to make sure children enjoy these rights.
When a State ratifies the CRC, it commits to promote, protect, respect and fulfil the rights of all children under its jurisdiction – i.e. who live in a territory controlled by this State. It becomes a State party to the CRC with the responsibility to implement the rights guaranteed in the CRC at national level and to report periodically on such implementation to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
Key Facts and features of the CRC
- Adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 September 1990.
- Is the most widely-ratified – i.e. accepted – international human rights treaty with 197 States parties.
- Covers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
- Created the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to monitor how States parties implement its provisions.
About the Optional Protocols to the CRC
The CRC has 3 Optional Protocols, which expand upon the obligations set out in the CRC or the competences of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child:
- The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC).
- The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC).
- The Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPIC).
Each of these Optional Protocols are separate legal instruments which must be ratified independently of the CRC and are only applicable to States that have ratified them.
The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC)
The Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) further clarifies the scope and meaning of articles 34 and 35 of the CRC and how States should deal with these crimes and support the victims.
It requires States Parties to submit a specific comprehensive report (also called “initial report”) to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on their implementation of OPAC provisions two years after their ratification of OPAC. Once this initial report is reviewed by the Committee, information about the implementation of OPAC provisions should be integrated into any report the State submits to the Committee under the CRC “integrated report”.
The Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflicts (OPAC) strengthens article 38 of the CRC by raising the minimum age of direct participation of children in hostilities from 15 to 18 years old and forbidding the compulsory recruitment of children into State armed forces.
It requires State Parties to submit a specific comprehensive report (also called “initial report”) to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on their implementation of OPAC provisions two years after their ratification of OPAC. Once this initial report is reviewed by the Committee, information about the implementation of OPAC provisions should be integrated into all reports the State submits to the Committee under the CRC as an “integrated report”.
The Optional Protocol on a communications procedure provides new competencies to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, such as the possibility to receive and examine individual complaints alleging violation of rights covered by the CRC and/or the OPSC and/or the OPAC, or inquire about grave or systematic violations of children’s rights.
It does not create additional reporting obligations for the State party.
The Role of Children’s Rights Defenders in the CRC
Article 45 of the CRC gives children’s rights defenders a particular role in monitoring its implementation, including the right to participate in the reporting process. This role has also been extended to the CRC’s Optional Protocols.
It is extremely important for the Committee to receive specific, reliable and objective information from children’s rights defenders in order to make a comprehensive and independent assessment of the progress made and difficulties encountered in the implementation of the CRC and its Optional Protocols.