Much of the child-protection framework in Jamaica exists as a result of the country’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention enshrines the fundamental rights of all children globally and establishes the responsibility of States in safeguarding those rights. Despite ratifying the Convention in 1991, the protection of child rights and the administration of juvenile justice in Jamaica have been notoriously flawed. In 2013, the Government openly admitted in the House of Representatives that the country had been in breach of the Convention and other child-protection standards for over two decades. Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, promised compliance by the end of 2014. Jamaica is currently undergoing its third and fourth periodic review under the Convention by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – the treaty-body established to monitor the implementation of and adherence to the Convention across the world. After reviewing the government’s report (Jamaica missed it’s 2008 reporting deadline by three years), and receiving information from civil society and other international actors, the CRC has published its List of Issues for Jamaica, raising important questions about Jamaica’s road to compliance. Very briefly, the reporting cycle includes the following.
- A State-Party Report, detailing the steps taken by the government to comply with the Convention.
- Reports from NGOs and International bodies on the state of child
- A Pre-sessional with NGOs and IGOs in which the CRC receives deeper insight into the issues
- The publication of a List of Issues, outlining the major concerns of the CRC related to child rights and the implementation of the Convention ← CURRENT STAGE
- A response by the government to the List of Issues
- An in-person session between the government and the CRC
- The publication of Concluding Observation which summarize the success/failure of the state-party in implementing the Convention and outlines the necessary measures to be taken in order to achieve compliance. The Concluding observations form the basis for each subsequent reporting cycle. The State-Party reports must respond to the issues raised. In 2003, the CRC’s Concluding Observations revealed major structural shortcomings and blatant violations of the Convention.
Jamaica has until October 15, 2014 to respond to the List of Issues. The CRC has raised questions related to: the effectiveness of the three primary child protection offices – the Child Development Agency, the Office of the Children’s Registry and the Office of the Children’s Advocate – such as the available financial and human resources and inter-agency coordination; the completion of long-awaited policy and legislative reforms that were promised by the Jamaican government; and the impact of special protection measures to combat issues such as child labor, trafficking and violence against children. The List of Issues is included below. The full, original document can be accessed here.