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Optional protocols to UNCROC

Human rights treaties are often followed by Optional Protocols which may either provide for procedures with regard to the treaty or address a substantive area related to the treaty. Optional Protocols to human rights treaties are treaties in their own right, and are open to signature, accession or ratification whether or not the country is a party to the main treaty. The Optional Protocols to UNCROC provide more detail and expand obligations beyond those under the main treaty.

There are three Optional Protocols to UNCROC:

  • Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
  • Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Pornography and Child Prostitution
  • Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure.

Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) seeks to protect children aged under 18 from involvement in armed conflict.

While children aged 16 and 17 may be voluntarily recruited into the army, member states are required to “take all feasible measures” to ensure that they do not take a direct part in hostilities.

OPAC also reminds member states that children under 18 are entitled to special protection. If a State’s voluntary recruitment age is under the age of 18 it must also include sufficient safeguards. The Optional Protocol further bans compulsory recruitment below the age of 18. States parties must also take legal measures to prohibit independent armed groups from recruiting and using children under the age of 18 in conflicts.

New Zealand signed OPAC on 7 September 2000 and ratified this Optional Protocol on 12 November 2001.

What reports has New Zealand submitted on the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict?

Where can I find out more?

Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography

The Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC) supplements UNCROC by providing States with detailed requirements to end the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. It also protects children from being sold for non-sexual purposes, such as other forms of forced labour, illegal adoption and organ harvesting.

New Zealand signed the OPSC on 7 September 2000, and ratified this Optional Protocol on 20 September 2011.

What reports has New Zealand submitted on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography?

New Zealand submitted the Initial Report on the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC) to the Committee on 22 July 2014. You can access the document here:

Where can I find out more?

Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure

The Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPCP) provides two new ways for children to challenge a State’s violation of their rights.

  • A communications procedure: children themselves, or their representatives, can bring complaints about violations of their rights to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Child (the Committee).
  • An inquiry procedure: when reliable information is received, the Committee can examine a State party for grave or systematic violations of child rights.

What rights can the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure help protect?

The Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPCP) can address violations of rights included in the three main United Nations treaties on children’s rights: the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC).

However in order for a complaint to be heard by the Committee:

  • the State must have ratified OPCP and
  • the State must have ratified the treaty that contains the right allegedly violated and
  • the complainant must have exhausted all domestic remedies.

Is New Zealand a party to the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure?

The Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPCP) came into force on 14 April 2014 after ratification by ten states. New Zealand has not signed or ratified OPCP.

Where can I find out more?

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