Notes on the role of cs os in child rights monitoring january 2008


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Notes on the role of cs os in child rights monitoring january 2008

  1. 1. Notes on the Role of CSOs in Child Rights Monitoring Notes on the Role of CSOs in Child Rights Monitoring, January 20081 IntroductionThe role of CSOs in child rights monitoring has drawn upon a number of sources. These include therecommendations of the CRC Committee in its consideration of official and supplementary reportssubmitted by the Ethiopian government and CSOs, the various reports issued by government andnon-government child rights actors in Ethiopia, and the organizational experience of CSOs/NGOs indesigning and implementing child rights interventions. The lessons drawn from these sources justifythe role of CSOs/NGOs on general grounds as well as a number of specific grounds including: lack ofcomprehensive information on the situation of children, the need to follow up on progress inimplementing the recommendations of the CRC Committee, and follow up on the implementation ofthe legal and policy framework on child rights.2 Overall RationaleChild rights violation is among the major challenges of democracy, human rights and development inEthiopia. Children are subjected to different types of abuses perpetrated by individuals, groups andeven by law enforcing organs. Despite the ratification of the UN CRC, children can be beaten,detained by the police, sexually harassed by their guardians and subjected to harmful traditionalpractices. Sometimes violations target special groups like street children, minority group childrenetc. Their types are also diverse and the number of children that are affected each year is significant.For example, a research undertaken by Save the Children Sweden in Ethiopia indicated that morethan 90 percent of students were punished by their teachers.1 Regarding sexual violence, of the 485young women questioned in one survey, 332 said that they had been sexually abused in one form oranother when they were a child.2 Apart from these concrete figures the majority of child rightsviolations are undocumented and unaccounted for, like the treatment of children arrested during thepost election violence following the May 2005 National Elections.Regardless of some progresses in protecting the rights of children, there are huge gaps between thepolicies of the government and actual realities on the ground. Understandably, it cannot be possiblefor a country such as Ethiopia to attend to all social problems with the limited resource. The point is,however, the country could have done better to protect the rights of children even with the currentresource it has at hand. Children could have been more protected from violence, the rights of suchmarginalized groups as street children and orphan and vulnerable children to basic education couldhave been better fulfilled if the education policy took the issue of diversity within children. The rightsof children would have been of high priority for the parliament and the media.The challenges in respecting, protecting and fulfilling the rights of children in Ethiopia are complex.They can be related to rampant poverty, cultural and attitudinal factors and institutional limitation1 Save the Children Sweden: Ending Legalized Violence Against Children, All Africa Special Report – a contribution to the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children, PP 24,2 African Child Policy Forum: Violence against Girls in Africa: A Retrospective Survey in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, PP.55, 2006.Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisSocio-Legal ResearcherE-mail: Page 1
  2. 2. Notes on the Role of CSOs in Child Rights Monitoringand etc. Still, lack of transparency and above all accountability (which are crucial elements of goodgovernance) are also among the important factors that need to be addressed. For example, there isno mechanism to monitor whether the expressed commitments of the government, such as theNational Plan of Action for Children, are implemented or to put relevant government ministries intoaccount if they failed to implement their plans. Even more, no body is there to question why prisonadministrations put children in adult cells, though the law of the land clearly states otherwise. Withthe exception of education and health, other sectors relevant to children are less visible in thediscussion agenda of the Ethiopian Parliament, which means the accountability mechanism relatedto such issues as children and the law, vulnerable groups such as street children, orphans etc is weak.Until now the government’s report on the implementation of the UN CRC is the only formalmechanism to check whether the State has carried out its obligations as a duty bearer towards therights of children. This mechanism can be more forceful only if complementary child rightsmonitoring system with wide scope and broad constituency is put in place. This has to be a home-grown mechanism that adequately appreciates the challenges in the child’s sector and human rightsin Ethiopia. As one can see from previous experiences the gaps in child rights monitoring can besummarized in the following points: Lack of child rights monitoring system, which is relevant to the specific situations of Ethiopia, that involves wider groups relevant to the rights of children; Absence of strong human rights and child rights institutions, which can be instruments to make child rights among the priority agendas of the country; and Lack of regular fora for open and constructive dialogue about the rights of children in the country among different actorsProducing periodic child rights reports, though important by its own right, should not be consideredthe end result of child rights monitoring. Rather the report should be taken as one of the outputs ofsuch system which includes constructive dialogue, capacity development of duty bearers to use therecommendations to improve the status of children and creating more space for children toparticipate in the monitoring process as active citizens. It is safe to conclude that these are largelylacking in Ethiopia.Similar to many countries, which entered into democratic processes, the Ethiopian government hasestablished national human rights institutions, namely the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission andthe Ombudsman, which have promoting human rights as their major agenda. At present theseorganizations are not strong to meaningfully contribute towards protecting the rights of citizens ingeneral and that of children in particular. For example, the Ethiopian Human Rights CommissionStrategic Plan 2006 – 2011 makes it clear that capacity limitation in diverse areas includingidentification of key roles and responsibilities, staffing, development of operational guidelines,complaint handling procedures etc are major strategic issues that need to be addressed so as tomake the Commission an effective organ for promoting human rights.3 This also holds true for theOmbudsman. In such institutional limitations, it is difficult for these human rights organizations to3 Ethiopian Human Rights Commission: Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Strategic Plan 2006 – 2011, Addis Ababa, 2006 PP.48.Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisSocio-Legal ResearcherE-mail: Page 2
  3. 3. Notes on the Role of CSOs in Child Rights Monitoringmonitor the rights of children. Hence, an initiative that aims at establishing child rights monitoringhas to accord due importance to the roles that these organs can play and to develop their capacitiesat the same time.One of the challenges in promoting the rights of children in Ethiopia has been weak civil societysector whose orientation is largely towards delivering service. Rights monitoring is a new area formany of the organizations in the sector and this gap deserves proper attention if child rightsmonitoring has to be broad based. Building the capacity of civil society organizations is more thanimportant because this is one of the core actors in the child sector. The diversity of the thematicareas that civil society organizations are engaged in, considering their closeness to grassroots issues,their relatively better position to mobilize resources and above all their comparative pioneering rolein human rights promotion make the sector the necessary partner in child rights monitoring system.Amidst these potentials, however there are also areas that need to be improved, such as inexperience in promoting rights, weak constituency in the same, lack of concerted and on-goingprogrammes in monitoring the rights of children.Unlike the UN CRC monitoring mechanism and other human rights monitoring works (like thosecarried out by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch), child rights monitoring in Ethiopiarequire fora, where constructive dialogue can take place among different actors. This is importantfor the specific situation of Ethiopia because the existing relation between government and non-government organizations is not solidly built on trust and partnership. Unless there are mechanismswhere all actors come together and engage in constructive dialogue, and if this does not lead tonurturing trust, any human rights monitoring report, child rights monitoring included, can result inunnecessary tensions that do not benefit children. Such dialogue fora are not there yet in Ethiopia;and they have to be created and strengthened.Child rights monitoring should be a multi-stakeholder initiative where the accountability of differentactors are identified in the recommendation parts of annual reports. This means there has to be aneffective follow-up system to see whether different actors have taken appropriate measures basedon the recommendations and even to share the challenges they encounter in due process. This isbecause the purpose of the monitoring exercise is to take action to improve child rights situation inthe country. The engagement of CSOs/NGOs in child rights monitoring aims at creating a strong childrights monitoring mechanism that ensures the accountability of different duty bearers, supportsorganizations and guardians to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of children as per the UN CRCand the African Charter for the Rights and Welfare of Children.3 The Lack of Comprehensive Information on the Situation of ChildrenAs noted above, the Ethiopian government has submitted a series of reports on the implementationof the UN CRC to the convention monitoring body. In its examination of these reports, theCommittee has consistently expressed concern over the lack of sufficient information on thesituation of children in Ethiopia. For instance, during its examination of the 2006 state party reportby Ethiopia the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed deep concern over the lack ofinformation in the State party report on the extent of the problem and the number of childrenGhetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisSocio-Legal ResearcherE-mail: Page 3
  4. 4. Notes on the Role of CSOs in Child Rights Monitoringaffected by child prostitution, traffic in children, exploitation of children by engaging them inprostitution as well as sexual abuse in its different forms. 4These concerns are also shared by the government as indicated in its periodic reports. In its secondfive year report, the government noted the absence of systematic data gathering and monitoringmechanism to indicate even crude estimate of the incidence of harmful traditional practices.5 Inaddition, limited efforts in gathering relevant and comprehensive information were among theproblems identified in the background assessments leading to the development of the existingNational Action Plans.6 Similarly, non-government actors have lamented the lack of comprehensiveand up to date data on the situation of children in Ethiopia.7The engagement of CSOs thus seeks to contribute towards addressing this information gap bymaking available comprehensive and up to date information on the situation of Ethiopian children.Moreover, the experience of CSOs/NGOs similarly indicates that accountability mechanisms tomonitor the behaviours and actions of different stakeholders in the child’s sector are absent inEthiopia. Therefore, an ongoing monitoring activity on accountability towards child rights could alsobe instrumental in encouraging duty bearers carry out their responsibilities as per internationalhuman rights standards.4 Follow up on Implementation of CRC Committee RecommendationsThe Committee on the Rights of the Child has in its examination of periodic reports submitted by thegovernment of Ethiopia identified a broad category of measures that need to be adopted inimplementing the Convention. These generally relate to developing a comprehensive strategy, theratification of the Optional Protocols to the UNCRC, coordination of implementation of children’srights, monitoring the implementation of the Convention, making children visible in budgets, trainingand capacity-building, cooperation with civil society, international cooperation, independent humanrights institutions, making the convention known to adults and children, and making reports underthe convention widely available. In connection with the most recent government report, theCommittee recommended measures to be taken in addressing sexual exploitation and abuse ofchildren especially girls, the right to survival of orphaned and vulnerable children is at risk, childlabor, and corporal punishment in schools, families and care institutions.8The implementation of these recommendations is an ongoing process involving a number of specificmeasures across sectors and levels of engagement. Current processes initiated by the governmentof Ethiopia based on its commitment to child rights and in response to the recommendations of theCommittee include legislative, policy, administrative and practical processes. These include:4 Ethiopia, the Second Five Year Country Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, April 20055 The Second Five Year Country Report on the Implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, April 2005 , p.336 MoLSA, National Action Plan on Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, December 2005, p.167 FSCE,20038 Committee on the Rights of the Child, 26th Session (2001) “Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Ethiopia”, 2RCO, Add.144, paras. 338 and 39Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisSocio-Legal ResearcherE-mail: Page 4
  5. 5. Notes on the Role of CSOs in Child Rights Monitoring The adoption of the two optional protocols to the CRC, the Protocol to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption;9 Consideration of the UN CRC and the ACRWC in the continued review of the overall legislative framework including on birth registration and protection of vulnerable groups of children; The development of policy documents on child labor and a number of other specific child rights issues; and Implementation of child rights awareness creation, capacity building and coordination efforts at federal, regional and other lower levels.The initiation of these and other efforts clearly show that the Ethiopian government is indeedcommitted towards the realization of child rights. Yet, one of the major problems in theimplementation of child rights in Ethiopia has been and still is the weak reporting system especiallyat the lower levels. As indicated in the various official and independent reports, the child rightsadministration system is facing serious challenges related to budgetary, administrative, structural,autonomic and other issues.10 The shortcomings of the National CRC Committee structure have alsobeen identified in detail in a recent independent study.11In this context, the reports submitted by the government within the CRC monitoring framework aswell as other processes may for the most part be considered a matter of formality. As such, it wouldbe difficult for the Ethiopian government to measure its own progress and for the CRC Committee tofollow up on the implementation of its recommendations through a report submitted every fiveyears. The proposed engagement of CSOs aims at addressing this difficulty through a continuousmonitoring process.9 NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, State Party Examination of Ethiopias Third Periodic Report, Session 43 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.10 MoLSA, Ethiopia’s National Action Plan for Children (2003 – 2010 and beyond), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 2004, p. 4311 Mekdes G.Tensay and Tsegaye Kasasa, Actual Status, Functioning and Capacity of the National CRC Committee in Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Ethiopia: An Assessment Report, Submitted to the Italian Cooperation Program Support of Children and Adolescents in Vulnerable Circumstances, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 2006, p. 33Ghetnet Metiku WoldegiorgisSocio-Legal ResearcherE-mail: Page 5