MDAC hails new voice for children at the UN

On 19 December 2011 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This will enable children to make a legal complaint to the UN if their CRC rights have been violated and if they have taken their complaint through domestic legal procedures. 

This is an historic step in facilitating access to justice for all children, including those with disabilities, who have now been provided with a mechanism through which the Committee on the Rights of the Child can adjudicate and remedy claims that a state has violated the rights of an individual child or group of children.

Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, welcomed the development, saying that the Optional Protocol, “will help to bring to an end the invisibility and conspiracy of silence surrounding incidents of violence against children”. Children with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual disabilities, frequently suffer violent violations of their rights such as neglect and abusive institutional care. This new mechanism will enable MDAC to help NGOs bring these cases to the formal attention of the UN.

This mechanism will also help children to claim their human rights and act to ensure that States are sanctioned when they fail to implement the CRC. These instances may include children with disabilities who are denied access to inclusive education, compelled to live in institutions rather than at home, or provided with unequal access to medicine or healthcare because of perceived disability. 

It is already possible for children with disabilities to make complaints to other UN bodies, for example the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities or the Committee against Torture. MDAC works with other human rights organisations to ensure that these bodies create progressive and synthesised international human rights jurisprudence, particularly as regards the rights of persons with disabilities. In October, MDAC coordinated a statement by an array of NGOs focusing on strengthening the individual complaint system across UN bodies.

The new Optional Protocol to the CRC will come into force three months after the tenth State ratification. MDAC intends to work with its NGO partners on advocacy to ensure that governments ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as practicable. Once in force, MDAC will be utilising the mechanism to shine a light on the invisible abuses which many children with disabilities suffer on a daily basis.


For more information on how you can join this advocacy, please contact Ngila Bevan, MDAC Project Manager – UN Litigation and Advocacy,



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