*Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden Together with 8 others Arrive in Geneva, Switzerland to Defend Sierra Leone’s Commitment to Child Rights at the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child*
By Abdul Malik Bangura // Geneva, Switzerland
Sierra Leone Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Honourable Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden together with a team of eight (8) Sierra Leoneans have on Monday 12th September 2016, successfully jet in to the capital of Switzerland, which is Geneva, to submit the Ministry’s response to the list of issues relating to the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Sierra Leone to the United Nations Committee on the Right of the Child (CRC).
Most important of the many points that are to be delved into is the provision of information about the measures taken by the Government of His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma through her ministry to implement policies that protect and promote children.
Other significant points that Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden would brief the CRC on is information about President Koroma’s government budget allocation for child-related programmes. She would further explain the steps taken to ensure that all line ministries adopt child-friendly budgeting.
Minister Blyden, whose ministry covers the welfare of children across Sierra Leone would also brief the committee on progress achieved by her ministry over the years, in removing from the constitution all provisions that are discriminatory against children as well as report on provisions made to promote, protect and elevate the standards of children from both rural and urban Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is a body of 18 Independent Experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State Parties. It also monitors implementation of three Optional Protocols to the Convention which are on involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC); on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC) and on a communications procedure (OPIC), which allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights under the Convention.
All States parties are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how children’s rights are being upheld. States must submit an initial report two years after acceding to the Convention and then periodic reports every four years. During specially convened sessions, the Committee examines reports sent in for consideration. After examination, the Committee addresses concerns and recommendations to the specific State Parties under consideration. This is usually done in the form of “concluding observations”. This year’s CRC 73rd Session is taking place between 13th September – 30th September 2016.
In the year 1990, under the late President J.S. Momoh’s progressive leadership, Sierra Leone signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As part of its commitment, the government through the Line Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has produced the periodic treaty reports to the Committee monitoring the implementation of CRC treaty to ensure effective implementation. The last report submitted three years ago, was distributed by the UN last year and is now ripe for consideration with a list of issues brought up by the Committee, expected to be responded to by Hon. Minister Blyden.
Sierra Leone’s delegation, which comprises technocrats from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Coordinator of Ebola Orphans at the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors, a 15years old representative of the Children’s Forum Network and a representative of the anti-ChildFGM National Sowei Council, have been overwhelmingly welcomed in Geneva. The 73rd Session kicks off tomorrow 13th September.
Meanwhile, Sierra Leone will be the second State to face the CRC at this session and the Sierra Leone delegation will be deeply probed, grilled and their Reports subjected to intense scrutiny for two consecutive days; Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th September. The two days intense questioning of Hon. Blyden will be done publicly and will be televised Live from Geneva throughout the entire world via the UN Television network and on the official UN Website through a live stream webcast.