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FMSI child rights training workshop for “link” persons

07/06/2012: Switzerland

Going to Geneva meant more than attending the two UPR sessions on the Philippines and Algeria we have already spoken of. Another important rendez-vous for FMSI was on 30 May, at Palais Wilson, headquarters of the UNO Committee on the Rights of the Child. Here quite a different experience of examining a country took place : a specific topic (the rights of children and  adolescents), examined not by the delegations from many countries, but by a committee of 18 experts.

The country under examination was Cyprus, whose delegation was led by the  Vice Minister of Work and Social Assistance, George Papageorgiou,  with the Permanent Ambassador to the UNO and several other personalities. Cyprus is a country with legislation respecting the rights of the minor: it has accepted the two optional protocols, possesses a National Committee for the Rights of Minors which meets every two months, has instituted a Children’s Parliament so that their views may be heard. It has just approved a new academic law which gives children more responsibility  in what concerns their own cultural and social growth …  and it is the first European country to have approved a law for the prevention of domestic incidents.

After the presentation, the 18 members of the CRC (Committee on the Rights of the Child) had the floor. Briefly but efficiently, they expressed congratulations, asked questions, requested clarifications, and mentioned weak points, such as recourse to corporal punishment, child discrimination (born out of wedlock, minorities …), suicides of minors, domestic violence, restrictions on effective religious freedom, lack of precise data on claimed improvements …

All were able to see how seriously and thoroughly this examination was conducted, but one  question was left hanging : what is the role of the NGOs ? What can FMSI do in this examination ? the response was given by Mr Awich Pollar, a Ugandan lawyer in his second term as member of the Committee. During a conversation with the liaison persons of FMSI, he explained how the  CRC worked. Among other things, he said that much of the information coming to the Committee about the countries examined comes exactly from the reports of the NGOs. In fact, there is a meeting behind closed doors between the Committee and the NGOs before each exam session, in order to collect precise data from the people working on the spot.

During a subsequent meeting with Lisa Myers, who works with the Centre of co-ordination of NGOs for the rights of minors, we learned about the great importance of working as a group of NGOs rather than individually. Our report on a specific country is then shared and integrated in the co-ordination centre, so that the points of view and experiences of other organisations directly engaged with children and young persons can be taken into account at the same time as the   great organisations such as Unicef,  Save the Children …

To insert our « recommendations » in this group or in others, to act as « lobbyists » (=suggest, draw attention …) for the situations we wish to contribute to resolving, with the experts and the permanent delegations of states, such is the specific work of FMSI in the context of the CRC and, in general, the essential reason for the existence of an office in Geneva, and not only in Rome or elsewhere.

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