Rights of the child can now be asserted by children themselves
A group of children in Africa
© dpa / picture alliance
Germany has signed an international legal instrument to give children a mechanism which will allow them to stand up for their rights more effectively in future. It was at a ceremony in Geneva on 28 February that Germany became one of the first states to sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Family Affairs Minister Kristina Schröder attended the ceremony as the German Government’s representative.
The newly signed Optional Protocol provides for an individual complaints procedure intended to make it easier for children to protest against violations of their rights. In practice, it means that, if any country violates a right which is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child or one of its other two existing Optional Protocols, children and adolescents can take their complaints directly to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. This is on the condition that the case has been through the country’s own courts without success.
The Protocol also provides for protection for children who have brought a complaint before the Committee, to ensure that they do not suffer any negative repercussions. If particularly serious violations of the rights of the child are discovered, the Committee can investigate the claims even without receiving a specific complaint from a particular child.
An important step towards enforcing the rights of the child
Minister Schröder signing the Optional Protocol
This represents an important step in enforcing the rights of the child and raising their profile. This Convention was previously the last of the nine human rights conventions without such a procedure for complaints by individuals. The emphasis is now on the principle that children’s rights apply unconditionally and that countries need to uphold their obligations.
Although the recommendations issued by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are not legally binding, they do play a meaningful role in how their subjects are seen by states and civil society.
Germany is not only one of the first signatories but was also involved in the negotiations which led to this point, pushing hard to see a children’s complaints procedure established. When the UN Human Rights Council reached its decision and when the General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol on 19 December 2011, Germany was one of its main advocates.
The procedure for complaints by individuals will enter into force in Germany once the Optional Protocol has been ratified here and in at least nine other countries. Following today’s signing ceremony, the German Government is free to launch the ratification process.
Last updated 28.02.2012