United Nations Human Rights Council

We will be discussing the following topics during the committee sessions of the UNHRC. For more information about the UNHRC, please check out the offical page of the UNHRC. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to e-mail us so we can get you in touch with the chairs!

Topic A: The Protection of Unaccompanied Refugee Children

Every year a high number of unaccompanied refugee children arrive in European countries. At the same time experience has shown that the treatment they receive upon and after arrival is, at best, still not adequate and, at worst, potentially damaging. The way in which these children are treated upon arriving in Europe requires special attention in terms of protection and care, particularly in the present environment of restrictive asylum and immigration practices. 

Unaccompanied refugee children are under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from their parents, or their previous legal/customary primary caregiver. Some children are totally alone while others may be living with extended family members.  All such children are entitled to international protection under a broad range of international and regional instruments, most notably the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child, further elaborated in General Comment No.14 and General Comments No. 6 the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the Hague Conventions for the Protection of Children. However, these instruments have not been sufficiently integrated into national legislation and practice. Unaccompanied refugee children may be seeking asylum because of fear of persecution or the lack of protection due to human rights violations, armed conflict or disturbances in their own country. They may be the victims of trafficking for sexual or other exploitation, or they may have travelled to Europe to escape conditions of serious deprivation.

There is still a widespread denial of their rights as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Many unaccompanied refugee children are detained, some are returned to their country of origin without due consideration of whether this is a durable solution in the best interest of the child. Procedures for assessing age are not child centered and no methods provide scientific certainty, service provisions are often inadequate and substandard to that offered to citizen children. Asylum determination procedures are most often not child focused and in effect separated children are subjected to adult procedures and are often transferred to other EU states under the provisions of the Dublin II regulation. Some children, particularly those who are forced to enter Europe illegally or who are victims of trafficking, are treated as criminals and often the best interests of children are usually subjected to the requirements of immigration control. Unaccompanied refugee children are rarely consulted and their voice is seldom heard.

Topic B: The role of free press in promoting good governance

A free press is the one which is independent of the state ownership of media and in which official censorship is reduced or eliminated. Good governance represents the public decision making process and the implementation of such decisions. The idea underlying good governance is that the government should meet the needs of people. It also implies that rule of law should be maintained in society instead of some arbitrary scheme of power. Free press compliments the idea of good governance by effectuating freedom of expression, highlighting the response of masses and act as a journalistic means of holding the government accountable. By highlighting the ‘say’ of masses a free press not only realizes freedom of expression but also becomes the source of assessment against government’s performance. Moreover, due to least (if any) interruption from government, the free press can give coverage to a wide array of topics making it possible for the government to identify the gaps in governance. Therefore, free press is crucial to the idea of good governance.

Freedom of expression is regarded as human right under Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), European Convention on Human Rights, African Charter on Human & People’s Rights, and the American Convention on Human Rights. Due to independence from ownership by state, free press is independent of any influence from the government officials. This enables it to give maximum coverage to the response of masses. Such a press then becomes the independent source of public assessment of officials’ conduct. This is then helpful in identifying the gaps in governance. This compels the officials to improve the governance. Therefore, free press has become a source for people to express their opinion freely on any subject matter. Without free press it would be difficult to give effect to freedom of expression and achieve good governance.