The Ministry of Social and Family Development invites the public to provide feedback on the draft 4th and 5th Periodic Report on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The consultation documents are hosted on the Government e-consultation portal, REACH from 28 August 2017 to 15 September 2017.
The UNCRC is a treaty which comprehensively provides for the rights of children. It sets out the standards for healthcare, education, legal and social services for children. It also affirms four basic principles: a child’s right not to be discriminated against, a child’s right to survival and development, a child’s right to be protected and participate actively in his/her community, and for the best interests of the child to be the primary consideration in all decisions and actions affecting the child.
Singapore acceded to the UNCRC in October 1995. Singapore also ratified the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in December 2008.The Convention requires States Parties to periodically submit reports to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, on measures taken to give effect to the rights recognised under the UNCRC and on the progress made on the enjoyment of those rights. Singapore submitted its Initial Report in 2003 and the 2nd and 3rd Periodic Report in 2009. This 4th and 5th Periodic Report is for the reporting period of 2009-2016.
The draft 4th and 5th Periodic Report is available on REACH. It seeks to:
a. Affirm Singapore’s commitment to advance children’s rights in line with principles of the UNCRC;
b. Describe how Singapore has made progress in enhancing children’s rights through improving the protection, care and holistic development of children;
c. Emphasise that the safeguarding and promotion of children’s rights in Singapore is a collective effort, where the government works in tandem with the community;
d. Address the concluding observations made by the Committee on the 2nd and 3rd Periodic Report.
Members of the public are welcome to submit comments on the draft Periodic Report by emailing their feedback to: UNCRC_consultation@msf.gov.sg by 1800 hours, 15 September 2017.
- What is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)?
The UNCRC is a treaty which comprehensively provides for the rights of children. It sets out standards for the provision of healthcare, education, legal and social services to children. It comprises 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and sets out the civil political, economic, social and cultural rights of children.
There are three Optional Protocols to the Convention. They are the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OPSC) and Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure.
- What is the Committee on the Rights of the Child?
The Committee is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the UNCRC by its State Parties. It also monitors State Parties’ implementation of two Optional Protocols to the Convention, - the OPAC and OPSC.
(Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. See http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIndex.aspx)
- What are Singapore’s obligations under the UNCRC?
Singapore acceded to the UNCRC in October 1995. This reflects our commitment to undertake appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures to give effect to the rights recognised under the Convention. It is also a commitment to work in the best interests of the child when designing and administering programmes and services.
Singapore ratified the OPAC in December 2008, which came into force in January 2009. OPAC comprises 13 articles and seeks to ensure that children below the age of 18 years are not recruited into armed forces and do not take part in direct hostilities.
All States Parties, including Singapore, are required to submit periodic reports to the Committee, to explain the measures taken to effect children’s rights, and highlight progress made on the enjoyment of these rights.
- How is the UNCRC monitored, implemented and promoted in Singapore?
An Inter-Ministry Committee on the CRC (IMC-CRC) was set up to look into the implementation and promotion of the UNCRC and to report on and monitor its implementation. The IMC-CRC comprises representatives from various government ministries. It seeks the views of the non-governmental sector on issues pertinent to children and the UNCRC.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development works closely with civil society organisations such as the Singapore Children’s Society to promote the UNCRC to the public through community-based events and activities.
- What are some of the key areas of progress mentioned in Singapore’s 4th and 5th UNCRC Periodic Report?
Some key areas of progress are stated in Table 1.
Table 1: Key Areas of Progress on the Rights of the Child
- Enhanced the Children and Young Persons Act, Administration of Muslim Law Act, Employment Act, and Child Development Co-Savings Act
- Enacted new legislation, such as the Protection from Harassment Act, Prevention of Human Trafficking Act and Early Childhood Development Centres Act
- Enhanced practices and legislation in line with the principle that the child’s best interests are paramount.
- Made strides in building an inclusive society through the third Enabling Masterplan and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Strengthened efforts to deepen racial harmony by signing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Civil Rights and Freedom
- Support for children’s expression of views within measures prescribed by law.
Violence Against Children
- Enhanced assessment tools and frameworks for child protection.
- Intensified public education to raise awareness on family violence and strengthened help channels for persons exposed to family violence.
Family Environment and Alternative Care
- Enhanced marriage and parenthood measures to better support parents in having and caring for their children.
- Increased provision of affordable and quality centre-based infant care and childcare, with additional support for lower-income families.
- Enhanced protection of the interests of children affected by divorce through introduction of divorce-related specialised services and programmes.
- For children who cannot remain with their natural families, expanded alternative family-based care options such as foster care, and diversified residential care options to cater to children’s different needs.
- Introduced interventions towards family preservation and reunification, for families whose children were exposed to child abuse and neglect.
- Reviewed the programme for children who are assessed to beyond parental control to emphasise the responsibility of the family and the role of community-based support.
- Ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and enacted the International Child Abduction Act to strengthen efforts to prevent illicit transfers and non-return of children.
Disability, Basic Health and Welfare
- Extending the right of compulsory education to all Singaporean Primary 1 children with moderate to severe special educational needs from 2019.
- Set up a continuum of support programmes for children with disabilities to provide them with a conducive and inclusive learning environment.
- Enhanced mental health/wellness measures.
- Improved social security schemes.
- Better protected children from drug abuse through amending the Misuse of Drugs Act to target those who recruit young or vulnerable persons into drug trafficking, and establishing an Inter-Agency Taskforce to tackle drug abuse.
Education, Leisure and Culture
- Established more diversified education pathways to cater for children’s varying ability levels.
- Changed scoring system for Primary School Leaving Examinations, which will take effect from 2021, to engender a less stressful and more creative learning environment for students.
- Set up the Early Childhood Development Agency to improve quality of child care.
Special Protection Measures
- Strengthened legislation that deals with exploitation through enactment of the Prevention of Human Trafficking Act.
- Enhanced measures to combat trafficking with accession to the UN Protocol on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and ratification of ASEAN Convention Against TIP.
- Built up capabilities for early detection of child trafficking among enforcement officers.
- Better support for children during investigations with appropriate adult support and victim care.
- Introduced more upstream measures to prevent youth from falling into crime.
- Implemented a triage system for young offenders to be assessed for timely intervention and support.
- Expanded rehabilitation options for young offenders through broadened diversionary programmes to steer youth away from the criminal justice system.
- What are concluding observations?
Concluding observations are observations and recommendations issued by a treaty body after consideration of a State Party’s report. Concluding observations refer both to positive aspects of a State’s implementation of the treaty and areas where the treaty body recommends that further action needs to be taken by the State. The treaty bodies are committed to issuing concluding observations which are concrete, focused and implementable and are paying increasing attention to measures to ensure effective follow-up to their concluding observations. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the treaty body that considers and issues concluding observations for UNCRC periodic reports.
The last set of concluding observations made by the Committee are addressed in the current report.
- How will the feedback from this consultation be used?
The IMC-CRC will review the feedback to strengthen our efforts and incorporate into the Report prior to its submission to the Committee in November 2017.