Mezmur, who has served on the UN Committee for almost a decade including a stint as its vice chair and chairperson, says that the body plays an important role in monitoring children’s rights in member states. “Every country is different, with its own opportunities, but also challenges,” he says.
Countries submit regular reports to the Committee on progress and setbacks in areas concerning children, and later send delegations to Geneva to answer what can sometimes be difficult questions and engage in a constructive dialogue with the Committee. Then, if violations exist — which Mezmur adds that no country is immune to — the Committee helps the country to discuss and identify solutions. “It’s constructive in the sense that it’s not an adversary process like a court. We are not doing a naming and shaming exercise, and we are not going to be passing judgments. We will be giving recommendations. It is a very collaborative process, but that doesn’t mean that sometimes the questions cannot be sensitive.”
Recently, South Sudan — the latest country to have ratified the convention — submitted its initial report to the Committee. Among others, Ukraine also entered a report, registering concern about the toll of Russia’s invasion on the life, education, and physical and mental health of its children.
Both countries are facing ongoing crises, but Mezmur warns that neither wealth nor the absence of active conflict inoculates nations from decisions and actions that can harm children. “There are instances where children that have been affected by armed conflict elsewhere enter a country and ask for asylum and become refugees. There are also issues pertaining to the manner in which a country sells small arms, and how this in turn affects children in armed conflict in other parts of the world.”