African Committee of Experts on Rights and Welfare of Child (ACERWC)Visits Sudan

Sudan Government Commits to Implement the Friendly Settlement Agreement Between Sudan and the African Union

Sudan was one of the First Countries to Sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Haffiya Abdalla

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child(ACERWC)visited Sudan last week to stand on the situation of children in the areas of South Kordofan and the Blue Nile State, which have been affected by war and all means of violations in the previous period, and a large number of citizens were affected by the conflicts, along with schools and health centers, as well as severe damage to children.

Acting Secretary-General of the National Council for ChildWelfare (NCCW) Najat al Assa confirmed the government’s commitment to implement the friendly settlement agreement between Sudan and the African Union “We are committed to continuing the protection of children in all the States, especially children in the areas Controlled by armed Movements”

The Director of the Social Development Sector in Blue Nile State, Mutasim Badr Medani, chaired the joint meeting of the African Committee of Experts and Welfare of the Child headed by Mr. Robert Doya, the government agencies, and organizations working in the field of childhood, in the presence of Nimat Adam Khalil the Secretary-General of the Council for Child Welfare in the state and representatives of the National Council for Child Welfare.

Mutasim Badr pointed to the work of the social development sector, with its various components, in harmony to promote and protect children, with an independent council for child care in addition to the relevant departments represented by the Department of Women, Family and Children in addition to social care and the Unit for Combating Violence against Women and Children

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the African Experts Committee, Mr. Robert, has provided comprehensive enlightenment on the objectives of the committee’s visit, which is to follow up the complaint made by several organizations about the existence of violations of children in conflict areas, and Sudan’s government’s decision to enter into a settlement by the agreement signed in December last year.

He noted that the committee’s visit comes to determine the extent of the implementation of the settlement, especially since one of the most important requirements is for the Sudanese government to submit reports on the level of implementation every 6 months.

Robert added that the issue of the settlement depends on the federal government enactment of laws, while state governments and civil society organizations are working to address the settlements that have been made.

He appreciated the existence of mechanisms at the center and state levels to implement what was agreed upon, noting that the African Committee of Experts is committed to 4 basic principles in its work, including the well-being of children and their participation in the decisions making in the issues related to them, and the non-discrimination in children’s issues and rights.

On her part, the Secretary-General of the Child Welfare Council, Nemat Adam Khalil, affirmed the council and its partners’ readiness to implement the settlement similar to what was done in the implementation of the joint action plan to protect children in conflict areas and commended the growing roles of childhood partners in the state, and their readiness to implement the settlement, pledging presentation of the proposal to form committees concerned with implementation for the state government to immediately start its implementation.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) consists of 11 Experts who are mandated by the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to monitor and report on the fulfillment of child rights in Africa. Experts are nominated by Governments and elected by the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union for a term of five years, but serve on the Committee in their capacity. The Committee reviews reports and complaints concerning State Parties to the Charter undertake investigative and fact-finding missions and interpret the provisions of the Charter through general comments, resolutions, and declarations. The Committee generally meets twice per calendar year and is supported by a Secretariat hosted by the Department of Social Affairs within the African Union Commission.

Promotion and Protection:

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) is established by article 32 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). It is mandated under Article 42 of the ACRWC to promote and ensure the protection of the rights of the child enshrined in the ACRWC.

The core aspects of the ACERWC’s mandate are:
Promotion and protection of the rights enshrined in the ACRWC, particularly to collect and document information, commission inter-disciplinary assessment of situations on African problems relating to rights and welfare of the child, organize meetings, encouraging national institutions working on the rights and welfare of the child, and where necessary give it views and recommendations to governments;
Formulation of principles and rules aimed at protecting the rights and welfare of the child;
Monitoring the implementation of the ACRWC; and
Interpretation of the ACRWC at the request of a State Party, the institution of the AU, or any other person or institution recognized by the AU.

Conventions and protocols:

Sudan was one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990. Sudan has formed a technical committee to prepare its fifth and sixth periodic combined report on the implementation of the CRC, with submission planned for March 201640. It has also signed and/or ratified other international instruments concerning children’s rights and protection

On the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), Sudan raised the reservations that it, ‘Does not consider itself bound by Article 10 regarding the protection of privacy, Article 11 (6) regarding the education of children who become pregnant before completing their education or Article 21 (2) regarding child marriage’41. Sudan signed and ratified the 2004 Arab Charter of Human Rights in 201342. Conventions and protocols that Sudan has not upheld to date

National legislation on children The Government of Sudan (GS) has made efforts to improve the legislative framework, to harmonize it with international standards, and to develop child protection mechanisms to create a protective environment for children. Sudan’s Interim National Constitution 2005 (INC) was the first national legislation in Sudan to recognize children’s basic rights. Following the separation of South Sudan, the GS initiated the drafting of a new constitution. This process started in 2011 as a joint programme between the Ministry of Justice and UNDP. Public education activities on constitution-making were developed across all 18 states, with other initiatives also underway by academic institutions and non-governmental organizations NGOs (e.g. the University of Khartoum, the Ahfad University for Women, the Al-Ayyam Centre, and the Constitution-Making Initiative).

The ongoing National Dialogue is a forum that offers the chance for political and civil society organizations to present their views on issues for inclusion in the new constitution. Sudan achieved a milestone through the enactment of the Child Act in 2010, preceded by a comprehensive participatory process to determine the Child Act’s scope. The INC and other legislation support it, while the Act supports the implementation of international treaties at the national level, and ensures that national child-related legislation conforms to the CRC. It defines a child as every person who is not above 18 years old, criminalizes child exploitation and abuse, raises the age of criminal responsibility from seven to 12 years, and establishes a comprehensive Justice for Children System.

The Child Act’s achievements were recognized by the UNCRC in 201044, but the Committee pointed to discrepancies over the definition of the child: ‘While welcoming the definition of a child as every any person under the age of 18 years under the Child Act (2010), the Committee is concerned at the lack of consistency in the State party’s legislation and practice concerning the definition of the child. In particular, the Committee is concerned that adulthood is, in practice, determined by reference, inter alia, to the attainment of puberty in conformity with sharia law. The Committee emphasizes that the incorrect determination of childhood has serious implications for the protection of children’s rights, particularly concerning juvenile justice and child marriage. In 2013, the Constitutional Court resolved the important legal inconsistency between the Child Act 2010 and the Criminal Law 1991 concerning the death penalty and age of the child. Its ruling affirmed that in any case concerning children the Child Act should be applied, not the Criminal Law46. The Child Act 2010 has not criminalized female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

National strategies/plans for children Sudan has developed several child-related policies and plans, some of them at the state level by extrapolation from national legislation. These plans are the official yardsticks to guide the organization and management of child protection interventions. The Ministry of Welfare and Social Security (MWSS) or the National Council for Child Welfare (NCCW) have the coordinating roles for many of them. National Strategy for the Reintegration of Children Associated with Armed Forces and Groups 2008: Led by the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Commission (DDRC), and offering a framework to crystallize interventions and reintegration programs throughout Sudan (based on 2007 Paris Principles to protect children from recruitment by armed forces/groups).

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (also called the ACRWC or Children’s Charter) was adopted by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1990 (in 2001, the OAU legally became the African Union) and was entered into force in 1999. Like the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Children’s Charter is a comprehensive instrument that sets out rights and defines universal principles and norms for the status of children. The ACRWC and the CRCs are the only international and regional human rights treaties that cover the whole spectrum of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights.

It calls for the creation of an African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Committee of Experts). Its mission is to promote and protect the rights established by the ACRWC, to practice applying these rights, and to interpret the disposition of the ACRWC as required of party states, African Union (AU) institutions, or all other institutions recognized by AU or by a member state.

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