Defence for Children International (DCI) congratulates the outstanding expert and child human rights defender Benoit Van Keirsbilck, Director of DCI-Belgium, for his election as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), first-ever Belgian to be elected to this Committee. His experience, competence and empathy will be valuable assets within this treaty body in charge of monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by its States parties. As a global Movement, we wanted to thank Mr. Van Keirsbilck for his 35-year career dedicated to the promotion and protection of children’s rights at the national, European and international level. Mr. Van Keirsbilck has been a leading force for campaigns to release children deprived of liberty and advance access to justice for children. He was a member of the Expert Group in charge of the drafting of the Council of Europe Guidelines on Child-Friendly Justice. As a member of the Advisory Committee of the UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, he was the first one to believe in the drafting and realisation of the Study. This international acknowledgment comes as a result of his lifelong passion for children’s rights, his quality to connect, and his accuracy, together with his vision on the rights of children. Mr. Van Keirsbilck has been elected President of the DCI Movement for two consecutive terms and a member of the DCI International Executive Council (IEC) for 12 years (2005-2017). DCI strongly believes that he fully deserves this international recognition, which will reinforce even further the important role of this prestigious treaty body.
The 2020 elections took place on November 24th in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York, during the 18th Meeting of States Parties to the Convention. Mr. Van Keirsbilck was elected with 143 votes out of 195. The Committee was originally established by the UN to monitor the implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocols by its State parties. The Committee is composed of 18 independent experts, persons of high moral character and recognized competence in the field of human and children’s rights. The members of the Committee are elected for a term of four years.
There are many upcoming challenges for the Committee, among others, the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OPIC) which entered into force in April 2014 and has been ratified to date by only 46 States.
DCI is grateful to the Foreign Affairs in Belgium, Belgian Permanent Mission, and all DCI National Sections for the support and thanks Benoit Van Keirsbilck for running a very strong campaign. We also thank warmly Mr. Rifat Odeh Kassis who was the CRC candidate nominated by Palestine. Mr. Odeh Kassis has also been a former President of the DCI Movement, and a well-known expert in the field of children’s rights with extensive experience in the Middle East, as well as in Central Asia and Europe. Although the political context did not facilitate his election, Mr. Kassis’s great dedication and commitment to the rights of the child, combined with his expertise and international experience, make him still an excellent candidate to the Committee on the Rights of the Child in the future.
Moreover, DCI wishes to congratulate all the elected candidates and in particular the Chair of the CRC for his leadership and guidance during these difficult years for all human rights treaty bodies. We look forward to continuing a close collaboration with the CRC, and we are committed more than ever to foster greater respect for children’s rights enshrined in the Convention, jeopardized even more in the context of the current pandemic.
DCI wishes the Committee every success in the years ahead, especially at a time where funding delays and shortfalls have a damaging impact on the UN human rights system. As the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, highlighted in her letter in August 2020 to representatives of Civil Society organisations, there are two crises currently affecting the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, “COVID-19 and the regular budget shortfalls”, which “… should not paralyze the Human Rights System at a time when it’s most needed”. DCI is gravely concerned by several warnings sent by the Chairs of the UN Treaty Bodies emphasizing the urgent need for adequate funding. The backlog of reports has increased from 39 last year to 64, meaning it would take at least two years for a report to be reviewed once received by the CRC. Furthermore, the backlog of individual communications to the CRC remains a concern. Six years after its entry into force, there are no dedicated human resources for this mechanism. DCI calls upon States to take urgent action to address the situation, including through financial contributions to the regular budget, to ensure the mandate holders in the CRC can effectively carry out their work.
For more information:
Alex Kamarotos, Executive Director, Defence for Children International
+33607028641 (mobile or WhatsApp) or +41 76 625 82 44
Twitter: @DCIsecretariat, @DCIdirector