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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 to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OPAC) obliges member states to ensure that children under the age of 18 are protected from involvement in armed conflict.

OPAC requires member states to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment into their armed forces above 15. If a member state allows children under the age of 18 to volunteer for its armed forces, it must have safeguards to ensure they are not forced or coerced.

Member states also must:

  • take all feasible measures to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities
  • take feasible measures (including the adoption of legal measures) to stop independent armed groups from recruiting and using children under the age of 18 in hostilities.

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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