The session is a three week meeting period that usually takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2020, the CRC Committee held an extraordinary session in Samoa. 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 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.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child
1. When and where does the session of my country take place?
The session is normally scheduled 6 months after the Committee’s pre-session with civil society under the standard reporting cycle, and 3 months after the Committee’s pre-session with civil society under the simplified reporting cycle. 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 session weeks are published on the Committee’s webpage.
Country sessions take place in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Palais Wilson or at the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG), in Palais des Nations.
You do not need to come to Geneva to follow your country session: it is webcasted live on UN Web TV and the videos are then archived for future viewing.
2. Who can come to the country session? Can children come?
Any interested observer, including representatives of NGOs, UN agencies, National Human Rights Institutions, students, journalists, and children, is allowed to come and attend the country session, provided they ask OHCHR for the necessary accreditation. The only limitation to the number of participants is space in the rooms.
Detailed information about the procedures to follow and the contact person can be found here.
With regard to children’s participation, it is worth noting that country sessions are not really child-friendly. Since children will not be allowed to intervene during the meeting, it may be more appropriate and interesting for them to follow the dialogue online or watch selected extracts afterwards, see FAQ 6 for more information.
It is essential that children who engaged in previous steps of the reporting cycle are supported to follow the country session and provide feedback to accompanying organisations and the Committee on how their views were reflected during the dialogue between the Committee and the State, in the most appropriate way according to their evolving capacity.
3. What happens during a country session?
The session is a question and answer meeting that will feed the Committee’s concluding observations, and it is structured as it follows:
Opening remarks and first set of questions: After brief opening remarks by the Chairperson, the head of the State delegation introduces the delegation and makes a short opening statement.
The country rapporteurs or task force members, followed by other Committee members, asks a series of questions on the first 5 clusters of the Convention.
Following the questions, there is a 10-15 minute break for the State party delegation to organise their answers.
Answers from the government and second set of questions: After the break, the government responds to the Committee’s questions. The Committee asks follow-up questions during the responses. About half an hour before the lunch or evening break, the Committee begins its 2nd round of questions on the 4 other clusters.
How is a country session structured? As the CObs will only reflect the issues raised during the dialogue with the State party, it is important for civil society to monitor the meeting. During the breaks of the country session, you can approach Committee members to inform them about your comments on the dialogue. The Committee members decide on how to use this information during the dialogue with the State.
There are no official clusters of questions for the two Optional Protocols. If either one or the two Optional Protocols are examined, the Committee usually dedicates 3 hours to each Protocol.
Following the second set of questions, the Committee breaks for lunch/evening at 1pm/6pm and resumes the session at 3pm/tomorrow.
During the break the government has time to prepare their responses to the questions, and consult with their colleagues in the capital, if possible and needed. This set of answers may address some of the questions left over from the first set of questions as well.
Final questions and concluding remarks: During the last part of the session, the Committee tries to make the government respond to the main pending questions, if there are any. The floor is therefore mainly for the delegation and the Committee intervenes with follow-up questions only.
To have a better idea of what a session looks like, you can look at the current archives of other sessions: UN Webcast.
4. What can I do during the country session if I come to Geneva?
During the breaks, you can approach the country rapporteurs/members of the task force and other Committee members if you want to convey a message or comment on the dialogue. The Committee members will decide how to use this information. Please, remember that if an issue is not raised by the Committee during the dialogue, it cannot be included in the Concluding Observations.
If you are in Geneva but your colleagues could not come, they can watch the webcast of the session live and transmit their questions and comments directly to you. You will, in turn, be able to transmit them to the Committee members during the breaks.
You should not assist your government delegation in responding to the questions. Your independence could be questioned if you were seen doing so. You can obviously seize the opportunity to approach the delegation and have meetings with them, but you should not be involved in their dialogue with the Committee.
Observers cannot intervene during the session.
5. What about the fear of reprisals?
If you plan to attend the session in person, bear in mind that the State party representatives will be present in the room. The recommendation is therefore to follow the dialogue online on the UN Webcast, in case of concerns.
You can also find the contacts of the focal point of the Committee, as well as more information on preventing and addressing acts of intimidation and reprisal (at any step of the process), here: www.ohchr.org/en/treaty-bodies/preventing-and-addressing-acts-intimidation-and-reprisal-cooperation-treaty-bodies
6. 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 session. Therefore, you must find your own funds. Child Rights Connect does not fund participants to the session.
7. I cannot come to Geneva for my country’s session. Is there a way to follow the session remotely?
You can follow the session online:
- All country sessions are webcasted live and then archived by session number on the UN Webcast
- Child Rights Connect also covers each country session on social media via its Twitter and Facebook accounts
The webcast is a useful advocacy tool. It is an opportunity to bring part of the reporting process home, to raise awareness at national level and to organise capacity building activities.
The idea is to monitor how the Government is responding to the Committee’s questions in fulfilling its child rights’ obligations. It is also a way to follow whether the issues, concerns or recommendations you might have raised during the pre-session or through your written submissions are taken into consideration in the dialogue.
We advise you to watch the webcast of a recent session to get inspired by the activities you would like to organise around it, how you can best benefit from it and what is technically feasible.
We have collected examples of concrete activities organised by organisations:
- Reuniting children and/or NGOs, Ombudsperson or Representatives, press and media… to watch the webcast, discuss the content of the dialogue and debrief together
- Sending live comments to your colleagues attending the session or to Child Rights Connect to possibly approach the Committee and convey messages to them on your behalf
- Giving group or individual press interviews
- Sharing live comments through social media
- Drafting press releases
Please consider the following:
- The length of the session: one entire day/two half days. Children might have to miss school to be able to follow proceedings
- The language is quite technical and not everyone is familiar with the reporting process. It is then required to provide background information, short briefing on the reporting cycle, to guide or animate the discussions
- As per the materials, you will need a good internet connection and a computer. Possibly a beamer or a large screen and speakers if you wish to project the video
- Mitigation of any risks at national level, such as preventing of reprisals for organising such a meeting
- Participation of some stakeholders might involve costs (transportation, lunch, etc.)
Please, share your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org
8. What is the outcome of the country session?
For each country session, the Committee drafts and adopts Concluding Observations.
9. Is there any public report of country?
A summary transcription, called “summary records”, of each country session is produced by the United Nations and published after the session on the Committee’s session page. It can be found under the corresponding session number, as part of the documents available on each country reviewed. There is no other or more detailed public report of the country session.
Child Rights Connect produces its own summary country reports, highlighting reporting status, main issues discussed and main recommendations included in the Concluding Observations. The reports can be found in Child Rights Connect’s overviews of each session and pre-session.
At the time of the session, there are only few limited advocacy entry points (see FAQ 4 –What can I do during the country session if I come to Geneva?).
But there are a number of advocacy activities that can be undertaken during the period between the country pre-session and the session. Check our page on the Pre-Session for more information about those.