UN Committee concerned about President’s office overseeing NGO affairs  

By Sanna Camara

Ooga 2

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern about reports indicating that activities by non-governmental organizations and civil society are closely monitored by the NGO Affairs Agency placed under the authority of the Office of the President.

This concern, among many others are contained in a report the Committee published on its concluding observations on the States it examined during its 68th session from 12-30 January. The Gambia was examined alongside Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Turkmenistan, Sweden, Mauritius, Tanzania, Jamaica, Uruguay, Colombia, Iraq and Switzerland.

Published yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, the report indicated that placing the NGO affairs under office of the President in The Gambia is resulting in many organizations exercising self-censorship.

Read the full text of the report below:

Legislation

The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Children’s Act, enacted in 2005. However, it is concerned that this Act fails to cover all areas under the Convention, including issues related to child marriage, female genital mutilation and child labour, and that it has not been effectively enforced and has not been sufficiently disseminated.        Comprehensive policy and strategy

While noting the adoption of a National Social Protection Policy 2015 -2025 and the development of a National Child Protection Strategy, the Committee notes with concern the delay in adopting the latter.        Coordination

While welcoming the 2010 presidential pronouncement on the establishment of the Ministry of Children’s Affairs, the Committee is concerned that:
(a) This Ministry is not yet operational;
(b) The existing Government institutions for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, such as the Department of Social Welfare and the Ministry of Justice, lack the necessary human, technical and financial resources, and the ‘sectoralisation’ of children’s issues and the overlapping mandates of the different institutions in these areas are major concerns; and
(c) There is a lack of effective coordination of the implementation of the Convention at the national and local levels.        Allocation of resources

The Committee notes as positive the increase in the government budget allocated to education between 2006 and 2014. It is, however, concerned that the percentage of government budget allocated to health and social welfare remains low. The Committee is further concerned about the lack of effective implementation of the legal provisions criminalizing corruption, in particular in the public sector.        Data collection

The Committee is concerned about the absence of a comprehensive system for disaggregated data collection and analysis on all children under the age of 18. The Committee is particularly concerned about the lack of data on child labour, as well as on child trafficking, child mortality, sexual abuses and exploitation of children, and child domestic violence. It is also concerned that data are not sufficiently shared with the public.Independent monitoring

The Committee is concerned about the absence of an independent institution for monitoring children’s rights.        Dissemination and awareness-raising

The Committee expresses its concern that knowledge of children’s rights remains limited, including among children, families and the public at large, in particular in rural areas, due mainly to the high level of illiteracy in the State party and the lack of systematic dissemination of the Convention.Training

The Committee is concerned that children’s rights have not been institutionalised in the initial pre-service training of many professionals working with children such as judges, lawyers, law enforcement officials, teachers, school administrators, health workers including psychologists, social workers, personnel working in all forms of alternative care, and traditional or community leaders.Cooperation with civil society

The Committee is concerned about reports indicating that activities by non-governmental organizations and civil society are closely monitored by the NGO Affairs Agency placed under the authority of the Office of the President, resulting in many organizations exercising self-censorship.        Children’s rights and the business sector

The Committee welcomes the measures taken by the State party to protect children from violations of their rights arising from tourism activities, including the adoption of the 2003 Tourism Offence Act, the establishment of Community Child Protection Committees across the country and the Adolescent Neighbourhood Watch Groups in communities around the Tourism Development Area; the development of the manual towards training and eradication of child labour and sexual exploitation in tourism industry; and the Tourism Code of Conduct into hotels, motels and restaurants within the Tourism Development Area. However, the Committee is concerned about the persistent violations of children’s rights arising from tourism activities.
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