The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child during the 91st session in September 2022 considered the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of Ukraine and alternative materials submitted by civil society representatives. As a result of the session, the Committee published recommendations in which it expressed concern about the plight of Ukrainian children suffering from the war.
In view of the exceptional situation that has developed in Ukraine due to the armed attack by the Russian Federation, a number of the Committee’s recommendations relate to the situation of children’s rights after 24 February 2022, while others address general problems (the previous consideration in the UNCRC took place in 2011).
Thus, the Committee, noting the devastating impact of hostilities on Ukrainian children and serious obstacles to the implementation of all the rights of the child defined by the Convention and its optional protocols, recognized as effective the measures taken by Ukraine to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular, the adoption of Law No. 936-VIII aimed at strengthening the social protection of children and supporting families with children, and the introduction of the concept of the “best interests of the child” into the legislation. The Committee also welcomed such measures taken by the Ukrainian authorities since the beginning of the armed attack by the Russian Federation on February 24, 2022, as the creation of a Coordinating Group for the Protection of the Rights of the Child in conditions of martial law.
While appreciating the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to mitigate the adverse effects of the armed conflict on children, the Committee noted that it is seriously concerned by the numerous confirmed reports of grave violations of children’s rights since the beginning of the war, including the killing of children, the massive and uncontrolled movement of children within the country and abroad, as well as the destruction of houses, schools, hospitals and other important infrastructure facilities of Ukrainian settlements, committed mainly by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and its satellites. The Committee pointed out that many children were trapped in areas of active warfare without access to food, water and basic medical care. On a daily basis, they risk becoming victims of shelling due to the difficulty of evacuating from such areas. In this regard, the Committee urged Ukraine to take all measures necessary to minimize the impact of the armed conflict on children and to prioritize children and families with children in its evacuation plans from war-affected areas and in its negotiations on humanitarian corridors.
The Committee specifically noted that since the outbreak of hostilities, many children with disabilities who need serious support have been left behind in Ukrainian orphanages and boarding schools, which are understaffed and in poor condition. With the closure of boarding schools and institutions due to the fighting, many children with disabilities were sent home without a proper assessment of their family situation. Taking into account the information from NGOs, the Committee urged the Ukrainian authorities to seek support from allied states, UN agencies, civil society and other stakeholders involved in humanitarian activities in order to timely identify and respond to the needs of children with disabilities who find themselves in combat areas. In this regard, the Committee called on the Ukrainian authorities to develop a public policy plan for the full inclusion of all children with disabilities in all areas of their lives, to adopt an early identification and intervention program for difficult situations related to children with disabilities, and to combat discrimination and stigmatization against children with disabilities.
Welcoming the adoption of the anti-discrimination law and the Strategy for promoting the rights and opportunities of persons belonging to the national Roma minority in Ukrainian society for the period until 2030, the Committee nonetheless called on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure access to rights for all children without discrimination of any kind, take effective measures to combat racism and xenophobia among young people, including by supporting children’s and youth organizations that promote intercultural dialogue, tolerance and respect for diversity, and strengthen monitoring of the situation of children from vulnerable groups, including Roma children, and on this basis develop a comprehensive strategy containing specific and targeted actions to eliminate all forms of discrimination against children. In particular, the Committee recommended that the citizenship law be amended to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship for children, in particular Roma children, who may otherwise become stateless. The experts emphasized that all Roma children should be provided with birth registration, even if their parents were undocumented, and any penalties for late registration of children should be abolished against Roma parents.
Noting that some schools have already resumed face-to-face education after being suspended due to hostilities, while others have continued online education, the Committee recommended that the Ukrainian authorities take the necessary measures to improve the accessibility and quality of education, especially for Roma children and children without registration, and to ensure, to the extent possible, that children belonging to minority groups in government-controlled territories have access to education in their mother tongue.
Proceeding with the topic of protecting the rights of Roma children, the Committee referred to cases of hate speech and violence, including violent attacks on Roma settlements in 2018, which affected both adults and children. The Committee called on Ukraine to take measures to prevent such incidents and bring those responsible to justice. The Committee expressed its concern about the practice of early marriage among the Roma. The experts recommended that Ukraine legally abolish all exceptions allowing the marriage of children under the age of 18, as well as take measures to prevent child marriage and raise awareness among children and parents about its harmful consequences.