Today, April 14, 2014, saw the third Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) enters into force. It allows children or their representatives to lodge a complaint with the Committee on the Rights of the Child of the United Nations if they consider that they have not been properly compensated for a violation of their rights in their own country. The procedure allows the Committee to consider any complaint on the merits and require written explanations from the countries involved.
The document provides a procedure for the collection of information by the committee about systematic violations of children’s rights by member states and the obligation of states to cooperate in this regard. The document not only creates another body to consider individual complaints on the part of the committee, but also gives a clear message that those complaints will be given due attention and importance.
The protocol was declared open for signing on February 28, 2012. The first countries to demonstrate a commitment to children’s rights and sign were Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.
The National Network for Children (NNC) believes that children need access to procedures for complaints in all areas of their lives such as family, alternative care and all institutions, agencies and bodies that are intended for them. Ratification of the Third Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provides such an opportunity for children.
Although, formally, Bulgaria’s domestic legislation (the Law on Child Protection and related regulations) provide for children to be able to submit personal complaints about violations of their rights to the child protection authorities, the National Network for Children considers that this is, as yet, more of a precedent than an established practice.
For the purpose of effective implementation of the UNCRC and the Third Optional Protocol, it is necessary to take additional measures – not only legal reforms, but also the development and approval of special procedures easily accessible to children for complaints relating to violations of children’s rights.
The National Network for Children proposes that the State Agency for Child Protection – as a specialized institution of the Council of Ministers for the management, coordination and control in the field of child protection, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – as a body to coordinate and carry out international cooperation in the country including in the field of children’s rights, initiate a working group together to develop a mechanism and action plan for Bulgaria’s accession to the Third optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a procedure for communication.
The union of civil society organizations working to improve the lives and welfare of Bulgarian children and families express the desire to participate actively in and to support the process of analysis, discussion and planning of concrete steps for accession to the Third Optional Protocol to the CRC.
Translator: Morgan James, volunteer