The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) visited Lesotho for three days from October 21 to evaluate if the country has capacity to host the Secretariat of the Committee. Lesotho’s Minister of Social Development Molahlehi Letlotlo said the visit is in pursuant to the government’s wish to host the headquarters of the international organizations to which it holds membership.
Letlotlo further pointed out that hosting the secretariat will give Lesotho the privilege and the dignity of being recognized internationally as capable of protecting the rights and welfare of the child and that other countries could learn from her.
The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (also called the ACRWC or Children’s Charter) was adopted by the Organization of African Unity (OAU now African Union [AU]) in 1990 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 CRC 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.
Evaluations may be initiated when the Committee of Experts has received a communication indicating a serious violation. Investigation missions are initiated either by a state referring a matter to the Committee of Experts, or the committee can undertake its own investigations, although the Committee may only visit a State Party if invited to do so by the government. To ensure the investigative mission team has background knowledge of the situation, a preliminary report according to certain guidelines and based on available information is prepared before each investigation. The mission will meet with available state and non-state organizations and people in the country where they will be investigating. Once the mission has finished its investigation, it has to release a preliminary result to the government and the media in the country of investigation. A final report is then prepared which incorporates the mission’s recommendations. This mission report must be attached to the progress report of the Committee to the African Heads of State and Government.
The country that has been investigated has up to 6 months after the adoption of a decision by the Committee of Experts to submit a written reply on what they have done regarding the requirements or measures in the mission report. The country’s response should also include information on any measures in reaction to the recommendations made by the Committee after the mission. CSOs and ‘specialised institutions’ like children’s CSOs could also be requested to provide information on the situation of children in that state.
As of January 2014, 47 member states of the AU have ratified the African Children’s Charter. There are 7 member states which have not yet ratified the Charter are: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan and Tunisia.
The Lesotho reports on findings is yet to be made public.