Human Rights Council Session

ACEI UN Representatives Justine Heckmann and Cassandre Guibord Cyr attended the 34th session on the Human Rights Council. Below is Justine’s summary from the Annual Day on the Rights of the Child, March 6, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland. 

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s 34th session was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva Switzerland from 27 February to 24 March. The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body responsible for strengthening and protectiing all human rights globally. The HRC holds three regular sessions a year, in March, June, and September. The Council addresses all human rights, including issues related to child rights.

Every year, the Council dedicates a full day during the March session to discuss a specific child rights theme. At the end of the session, it negotiates and adopts a resolution about the specific theme or about child rights in general. This year, the focus was on the protection of children’s rights when implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Below is a summary of highlights from the day.


Morning Session

Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, opened the day by highlighting the importance of investing in the SDGs, an investment that will benefit children’s future. Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, noted that the realization of children’s rights is linked to many of the SDGs. Mezmur emphasized that we should not only protect children’s rights but also promote them and allow child participation when possible. Marilena Viviani, Director of the Geneva Liaison Office of the United Nations Children’s Fund, noted that children from poor countries are twice as likely to die before the age of 5 and to leave school than children from wealthier nations.

During the morning session, states talked about what steps they have been taken to improve protection of children’s rights in their nations. Some states raised concerns about sexual violence against children and the lack of quality education. Others highlighted the obligation to finance the objectives to achieve SDGs. Croatia and Brazil announced that they will soon ratify the third optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (OP3 CRC) on communications procedure, allowing children to bring complaints about violations of their rights to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Afternoon Session

Marta Santa Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, talked about the importance of protecting children against violence. If violence is not controlled, children’s other rights are in danger. Every 5 minutes, a child dies because of violence.

States noted the importance of investing in children and youth. Some of the nations asked for assistance to support their implementation of policies for children, as they do not have enough resources. Other states talked about the importance of educating children about values, and preparing them to address the SDGs challenges.

Non-governmental organizations highlighted that governments must use a human rights-based approach; they need to have better justice system and ensure gender equality.

The panel concluded the annual day on the rights of the child by stressing the importance of education and training for children. Schools should be safe; if there is violence, parents will not send their children to school. Most importantly, political will is crucial to achieve the rights of the child and the SDGs.

For more information:

United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner: Human Rights Council 34th session, 27 February to 24 March 2017. The Human Rights Council (HRC) is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system. The HRC is made up of 47 United Nations Member States, which are elected by the UN General Assembly. Learn more about the Human Rights Council here.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child:

Anne Bauer