General Comment No. 7

Since the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) came into force, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has identified specific issues based on State party reports that require further clarification. One way of creating clarification is through the development of a General Comment on children's rights within a specific content area. The UNCRC's mandate is enshrined under articles 42-45 of the CRC, making the Committee an integral part of the Convention. As a part of its mandate under CRC article 45(d), the UNCRC issues General Comments to guide governments to better understand, implement and monitor the implementation of the Convention in their respective country. General Comments are developed through consultation with relevant experts or during the UNCRC days of general discussion. They represent authoritative guidance to State parties based on the expertise and experience of the Committee.

To date, the UNCRC has adopted nineteen General Comments, with others currently in preparation. These General Comments focus either on specific provisions of the Convention or general problems of implementation; for example, the aims of education, children with disabilities, and freedom from all forms of violence. General Comments are intended specifically to help State parties analyse their problems, enhance implementation with respect to specific issues, and improve reporting to the UNCRC.

Limited information exists on the use of General Comments by State parties. Often, General Comments are not known and not distributed. If they are read, they are regarded as theoretical in nature, because they address problems or issues in general. The key two-part challenge therefore becomes how to support the realisation of child rights within the States party to the CRC and how to facilitate State parties in meeting their specific legal obligations under the CRC with regard to the topic discussed in a General Comment.

General Comment No. 7 was drafted and adopted in 2005 in response to the observation by the UNCRC that young children, under the age of eight years, were essentially and often entirely overlooked in State parties' reporting on progress towards implementing the CRC. Where young children were discussed, references were limited to child mortality, birth registration, and basic health and welfare. Reports neglected broader considerations of the realisation of child rights for young children as active social participants and rights holders. An inadequate awareness of young children's rights by State parties implies that governments simply overlook their obligations towards young children. They regard young children more as objects of care and need than as rights bearers. They do not regard young children as active subjects participating in their own development and in the social lives of their families, peer groups, and wider community (refer to the Obligations chart below to better understand social ecologies with positive obligations towards young children).

OBLIGATIONS CHART WITH RESPECT TO THE YOUNG CHILD
SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE AND OBLIGATION:
GETTING IT RIGHT FOR CHILDREN, A PRACTITIONERS' GUIDE TO CHILD RIGHTS
PROGRAMMING (INTERNATIONAL SAVE THE CHILDREN ALLIANCE, 2007)