UN experts on children’s rights visit


The experts during their meeting with Vice-President Faure yesterday

Dr Jean Zermatten from Switzerland, chairperson of the UNCRC, and Dr Agnes Akosua Aidoo from Ghana, the rapporteur of the committee and country rapporteur for Seychelles, were here to follow up and support the implementation process of the concluding observations and recommendations for Seychelles that the committee made after its review of the national report and the fruitful dialogue held with a high level delegation from Seychelles in Geneva in October 2011.

The two child experts were accompanied at State House by the director and communications officer of the National Council for Children (NCC) Ruby Pardiwalla and Jean Claude Matombé.

Speaking to the media after meeting Mr Faure, Dr Zermatten said the mission here has allowed them to assess the progress achieved and the obstacles encountered by Seychelles so as to help it better carry out the recommendations and meet its obligations.

They have also met and held workshops with different stakeholders concerned with the welfare of children, including ministers, attorney general Ronny Govinden, members of the National Assembly, members of the Judiciary including the Chief Justice Fredrick Egonda-Ntende among others and also observed the Family Tribunal in action and held discussions with its chairperson. They also visited Au Cap primary school and the President’s Village, and interacted with children from all 10 secondary schools in the country.
Commenting on some of the issues they have observed, Dr Zermatten said “the situation of Seychelles is very good in different fields such as health, education but like in all countries there are gaps where progress needs to be made”.

“We believe the training of professionals is a key issue for the implementation of recommendations. There are lots of professionals and other people who are very much engaged in working with children but we believe they need better training on the principles and provisions of the convention. They also need to learn how to work together in better coordination for the benefit of the children,” said Dr Zermatten.

He said Ms Aidoo met children because they are the ones concerned by the convention and what they have to say is very important.

He noted that the children have raised the issue of corporal punishment which is still widely used here.

Sexual violence is also an issue which was raised by the children and Mr Zermatten said it is a matter of concern for the UNCRC and he said he will insist with the state party to not only promote legislation but a lot more needs to be done to change behaviour to ensure children are protected.

At the end of their mission, the two experts issued a communiqué with the following being among the observations made:
• Seychelles’ commitment to human rights including children’s rights is well-known and has been noted.

• The country has ratified most of the core human rights instruments and the UNCRC committee appreciates the high priority given to children by the state party.
• Among the positive achievements in the legislative, policy and strategy areas, we will highlight the adoption of the Education Act (2004), the Children’s Act (2005), the National School Nutrition Policy (2008) and the Welfare Agency Act (2008). We wish to emphasise in particular the importance of the Seychelles Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (2010) which will ensure that every Seychellois child will have a good start in life.

• The latest good news from Seychelles is the ratification by the country at the end of 2012, of the Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography which Seychelles signed in January 2001 and we are pleased that Seychelles is considering signing and ratifying the third optional protocol on communication procedures.

• As in all other countries, the implementation of the rights of the child under the convention is an ongoing process with positive results and challenges. In Seychelles, we note that the state party has done a lot for its children to enjoy their rights in the various areas provided by the convention, especially in education and health.

• However, there are gaps and challenges and the country cannot rest on its laurels until all children have the opportunity to realise their rights. The areas that require urgent action are in legislation (reviewing the Children’s Act to ensure that it is fully in compliance with the principles and provisions of the Convention: in particular the minimum age of marriage for girls which is currently between 15 to 17 years with parental consent needs to be raised to 18, to be the same as for boys and to remove the gender inequality), in allocation of resources (there is a need to allocate resources to the maximum extent possible in line with article 4 of the convention for the social sectors that work towards the survival, development and protection of children). There is also a need to make children visible in the budgeting process and allocations and to provide information on the percentage of the budget allocated for children and its impacts in the implementation of their rights.

• In data collection, Seychelles needs to build capacity and establish a comprehensive data collection system capable of analysing and evaluating data and information on progress achieved in the realisation of children’s rights. Data and information are also necessary for policy formulation and strategy development to meet the needs of children and for monitoring and evaluation.

• On sexual abuse and exploitation, the committee noted the lack of data and analysis on the problem. The report states that the mission has confirmed that the problem is widely known to be quite prevalent in the country. But it should not be accepted since it leads to serious physical and psychosocial harm of children and impedes their harmonious development as envisaged in the convention.

The committee is therefore urging Seychelles to undertake a comprehensive study on the nature and extent as well as the root causes of sexual abuse and exploitation of both boys and girls under 18 and adopt effective preventive and protective measures.

Considering the multiple impacts of child abuse and exploitation on the well-being and future of the children, as well as on the society at large, stronger measures need to be taken to report, investigate and prosecute all cases in an expeditious manner.

The experts concluded by saying Seychelles has a strong political will and most of the means to put children at the centre of its development agenda.

“We remain ready to cooperate with the state party in this effort,” the report states.