The entry into force of the Third Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure (OPIC) in 2014 was groundbreaking as it allowed children to lodge complaints with the UN about violations of their rights, if violations cannot be addressed effectively at national level. However, to advance access to justice for children, it is important to increase States’ ratification of the OPIC and to work for its effective implementation at the national level.
According to the United Nations Treaty Collection (UNTC), in 2024, ten years since the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, 52 States have ratified the OPIC, 15 have signed but not yet ratified it, and 131 have taken no action.
Did you know?
The last country to have ratified the OPIC was Kazakhstan on February 7, 2024. According to article 19.2 of the OPIC, the Protocol will enter into force for the Republic of Kazakhstan on May 7, 2024.
How can a State ratify the OPIC?
The OPIC has been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and opened for signature and ratification by any State, which has ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) or the Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on the sale on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC).
What does ratification of the OPIC mean?
In order to become a party to OPIC, States must demonstrate, through a concrete act, their willingness to be legally bound by the provisions of the OPIC. This willingness can be expressed in two different ways:
- By signing and ratifying the OPIC
- By acceding to the OPIC
Both procedures have the same legal effect, and can be carried out at any time at the United Nations headquarters in New York, USA.
Note: The process of treaty ratification or accession is determined by national law in each country, generally in the national Constitution. Often, the government can decide to sign a treaty without further consultation, while ratification or accession generally needs to be approved by the national Parliament.
Signing and ratifying the OPIC
When a State signs the OPIC, it signals its intention to become a party in the future. The State agrees that it will not do anything inconsistent with the object and purpose of OPIC. However, at this stage, the State is not yet legally bound by it and individuals under its jurisdiction cannot yet submit communications or information on grave or systematic child rights violations to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
After signing the OPIC, a State should proceed to ratification of the instrument, thus becoming a State party that is legally bound to implement its provisions.
! Note: a State can sign and ratify the OPIC at the same time.
Acceding to the OPIC
Which State representatives can sign, ratify or accede to the OPIC?
Other representatives, such as the Ambassador of the State’s mission before the UN in New York, can sign, ratify or accede if they are in possession of the appropriate full powers emanating from one of the above-mentioned authorities.
OPIC becomes applicable for a State that has ratified the instrument, 3 months after its ratification.
Article 19.2 of the OPIC.
For more information, please refer to: When can the OPIC be used?
UN Treaty Week
Each year, the United Nations organises a Treaty Event to encourage States to ratify international treaties in the context of the General Assembly. Heads of State or Government or Foreign Ministers or other duly authorised state representatives have made use of this unique opportunity to express support for the multilateral treaty framework and the rule of law.