UWC Professor gets highest votes to be in the UN Committee

Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, who is currently an Acting Director of the Dullah Omar Institute, Faculty of Law, at the University of the Western Cape was elected into UN Committee on the Rights of the Child with the highest votes of 152 states together with Mikiko Otani from Japan. Mezmur is being re-elected into the Committee for a second term. He currently serves as its Chairperson, a position he was elected into by his colleagues in the Committee last year May, when he became the youngest, and the first Chairperson of the Committee from Africa in almost 15 years.


The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 Independent Experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its 196 State parties. It also monitors implementation of two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

According to Prof Mezmur: “These elections have increasingly become almost ‘a 10 % inspiration and 90% perspiration’ process. They are too competitive. To be re-nominated and unreservedly and vigorously supported by the Government of Ethiopia was an honor in itself. To be re-elected with the highest votes coming from all corners of the world is in general a resounding vote of confidence on our political clout and the high level of expertise African countries increasingly provide to these bodies”.

With the new elections, for the first time in its history, the Committee will be composed of 7 Independent Experts from Africa.

“While members on the Committee serve in their individual capacities, we inevitably share our knowledge and experience from the continent’s legal, economic, social and cultural contexts in our collective efforts to create a world fit for children” Mezmur added.

“It is a well known fact that UWC has a long history of contributing expertise in the area of children’s rights in South Africa and Africa. The current votes are in part a re-confirmation that ‘we are not counting our days but making our days count’ at the international level too” he concluded.

All 196 States parties, including South Africa, are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of children are being implemented. States must submit an initial report two years after acceding to the Convention and then periodic reports every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”. South Africa is scheduled to send a high level and multi-sectoral delegation to appear before the Committee for review in September 2016.

Already, after consultation with CSOs and UN Agencies, the Committee has issued a document it calls “List of Issues” that asked the Government of South Africa to clarify issues, among others, on the implementation of National Plan of Action for Children, regulation of business enterprises in particular the extractive industries, birth registration, high prevalence of violence, xenophobic attacks on children, ukuthwala, children with disabilities, children living in informal settlements, as well as the effectiveness of measures to address child malnutrition, and children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Elected by secret ballot to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the new members will replace those serving until 28 February 2017.  The new members are:  Amal Salman Aldoseri (Bahrain); Olga A. Khazova (Russian Federation); Cephas Lumina (Zambia); Benyam Dawit Mezmur (Ethiopia); Mikiko Otani (Japan); Luis Ernesto Pedernera Reyna (Uruguay); Ann Marie Skelton (South Africa); Velina Todorova (Bulgaria); and Renate Winter (Austria).