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What are General Comments?
General comments provide an authoritative interpretation of the rights contained in the articles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The main purpose of a general comment is to promote implementation of the CRC and assist States parties in fulfilling their reporting obligations. They are based on the Committee on the Rights of the Child’s experience in monitoring State party reports.
General comments are valuable contributions to the development and application of international law.They are a useful analysis and explanation of treaty obligations and can provide guidance with respect to particular issues. They can also draw the attention of States parties to inadequacies brought out in a large number of reports and make suggestions on improving reporting procedures. General comments can also reinforce links with other international instruments which are often referenced in the general comments.
Child Rights Connect has produced a fact sheet (in English, French and Spanish), which provides information for NGOs on how they can contribute to, and participate in, the elaboration of general comments.
General Comments Currently under Preparation
General comments are prepared on an ongoing basis by the Committee and take approximately eighteen months to draft. Currently, the Committee is working on general comments on:
- Article 3: The Best Interest of the Child
- The Right to Health
- The Right to Play
- Harmful Traditional Practices (in collaboration with the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women - CEDAW)
Draft general comments are circulated to a limited number of NGOs and independent experts for input and advice. They are not posted on websites or distributed widely. If you or your organization has expertise on a topic under consideration and you are interested in contributing comments on the draft, it is important to make this known to the Child Rights Connect for the Convention on the Rights of the Child and/or the Secretariat of the Committee.
Existing General Comments
As of March 2009, the Committee has adopted eleven general comments :
- The aims of education (2001)
- The role of independent national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child (2002)
- HIV/AIDS and the rights of the child (2003)
- Adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention (2003)
- General measures of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2003)
- Treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin (2005)
- Implementing child rights in early childhood (2006)
- The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel
or degrading forms of punishment (2006)
- The rights of children with disabilities (2006)
- Children’s rights in juvenile justice (2007)
- Indigenous children and their rights under the Convention (2009)
- The right to be heard (2009)
- Article 19: The Right of the Child to Freedom from all Forms of Violence (2011)
Using General Comments
General comments may assist stakeholders to better understand the provisions of the CRC. They may help in strengthening national advocacy and can be used as a framework for accountability. They can also be used by stakeholders to push for changes in legislation.
National courts may refer to general comments in order to clarify legislative provisions. In some cases, national courts have based judgments on treaty jurisprudence, including general comments. In addition, they may encourage States parties, UN agencies and NGOs to work on specific issues addressed in the general comment while moving towards full implementation of the CRC.