GPD inputs into the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s New General Comment

22 May 2019

GPD has provided an input into the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s proposals for a new General Comment on children’s rights in the digital environment.

General Comments are documents published by the UN Treaty Bodies which interpret different rights contained within their respective treaties, or their application to particular thematic issues, as well as setting out the obligations and responsibilities of different actors. The Committee on the Rights of the Child—the Treaty Body for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)—has published over 20 General Comments since 2001, covering issues such as children with disabilities, the right of children to healthcare, and the impact of the business sector on children’s rights.

Earlier this year, the Committee announced that it would develop a new General Comment on children’s rights in the digital environment, and published a concept note setting out its proposals for what the General Comment would contain. In response to some of the questions asked in relation to that concept note, GPD has submitted an input into this initial phase of the General Comment’s development. In our submission, we make a number of recommendations to the Committee:

  • The General Comment should look at the range of children’s rights that are impacted by digital technology, both positively and adversely, through the actions of state actors and companies; there should, however, be a particular focus on the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
  • When looking at “harms” from which children should be protected, the General Comment should ensure it focuses on the specific harms identified in the CRC through Articles 19, 34 and 36 (such as physical, mental and sexual violence and abuse, or different forms of exploitation) to mitigate the risks of misinterpretation or misuse of the broader term of “harm”, which have been seen in many states as a justification for restricting children’s rights.
  • Measures taken to restrict online content should be fully consistent with the right to freedom of expression as set out in the CRC. To help ensure that this is the case, the General Comment should mirror the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34 on the right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

While this first phase of the consultation process has now closed, the Committee will be publishing a draft of the new General Comment in early 2020. There will then be a further opportunity to provide comments and feedback on the draft before it is finalised later that year. More information can be found on the Committee’s website here.