33rd Ordinary Session of the Committee.March 29th, 2019
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child held its statutory Ordinary Session from 18-28 March, 2019, at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa. The Session witnessed the presence of H.E. Amira El Fadil, Commissionner for Social Affairs, who congratulated the ACERWC for holding its 17th Pre-session and 33rd Ordinary Session. H.E Congratulated Hon Hermine Gatsing Kembo, who joined the Committee and expressed condolences for the sad demise of Hon Mohamed Hmeyada in her remarks. She further noted that realizing children’s rights needs coordination from all sectors and hence the Department of Social Affairs has been carrying out various activities in this regard. These include; the initiative to end Female Genital Mutilation, initiative to tackle malnutrition and the African Union Campaign on ending child marriage.
In her opening remarks, Hon. Goitseone Nanokie Nkwe, Chairperson of the Committee, stated that the Session will offer an opportunity to have discussions on emerging challenges against child rights in Africa. She noted that the Committee’s work in delivering its mandate has grown through time including in the State Party reporting mechanism. She reminded participants that during this Session, the Committee will be considering the State Party reports of Benin, Eswatini, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Senegal. She added that the Committee will also undertake preliminary review of the reports of Guinea Bissau and Mauritania in preparation for the consideration of the report in the upcoming Session.
At the core of this 33rd Ordinary Session was a Day of General Discussion on Online Child Sexual Exploitation in Africa (OCSE). Due to a lack of reporting systems the extent of OCSE in Africa is largely unknown. However experts believe that as new technology and internet connectivity is rapidly developing in Africa, so is OCSE. In order to contribute to the ongoing debate on addressing OCSE in Africa, the Committee aims through this Day of General Discussion to assess the current situation of OCSE in Africa and provide guidance to Member States on how to protect children from this emerging phenomenon in Africa. Hon. Goitseone Nanikie Nkwe, Chairperson of the Committee, noted that internet usage in the African continent has increased significantly. This increase in internet usage comes however with it a bigger risk of children being susceptible and sexually exploited online, she said. Panel discussion engaged the participants from a wide range of organizations such as UNICEF, ECPAT International, Interpol, Internet Watch Foundation, UNODC, ACPF and many more in providing a platform to better understand OCSE, identify the challenges in dealing with OCSE in the continent and thereby shaping the work of the Committee in dealing with OCSE; and to enable member states in making domestic and international decisions or investments to addresses OCSE. This discussion was made possible through a project run by the Department of Social Affairs to reinforce regional and national capacity and action against OCSE in the continent, which has been executed with financial support from the UK Home Office through the Commonwealth Grant. A draft declaration of the ACERWC on OCSE was discussed by the plenary for possible adoption by the Committee.
The Committee also had a Panel Discussion on AU’s Response on Children affected by armed conflict in Africa. The Panel Discussion was chaired by the Committee’s Special Rapporteur on Children and Armed Conflict, Hon. Benyam Dawit Mezmur and the Panelists included the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU and the UNECA, H.E. Amb. Bankole Adeoye, Representative from Peace and Security Department of the AU, Mr Simon Badza, and, Head of Advocacy and Campaign, Save the Children Somalia, Ms Jamillah Mwanjisi. The discussion highlighted the measures taken to address the situation of children affected by armed conflicts and to identify the gaps. As such, article 22 of the African Children’s Charter takes into account the aspect of prevention of conflict and International Humanitarian Law principles. The Committee is currently developing a General Comment on Article 22 and State Parties will be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft. H.E. Amb. Bankole Adeoye, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the AU and the UNECA, stressed that there is a need for real action needed for issues of Children Affected by Armed Conflict, indicating that there are over 350 million children in conflict; and that conflict poses significant psychological impact on children. He also pushed for the appointment of a Special Envoy on Children Affected by Armed Conflict by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat.
The Committee launched the study “Mapping Children on the Move within Africa” during the Session. In reviewing State Parties report on the implementation of the Charter, the Committee has identified children on the move as an emerging child protection issue in African, and therefore commissioned a study in view of making recommendations to tackle the problem in Member States. The Committee observed that there were challenges with regard to upholding the rights and welfare of children on the move and that there are gaps on the type of protection measures and treatment that is be accorded to such children within our beloved Continent.
The study presents key drivers of the children on the move, migration routes, challenges faced by children on the move, policy and institutionalized content protecting children on the move and finally the way forward.
The full program of the Session can be found here: