Currently, Hungary is not yet party to the Optional Protocol to the 30-year-old Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure. It is thus a significant development that upon Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely’s appeal, the Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Human Capacities has indicated: they have begun to prepare the decision necessary for Hungary’s joining the optional protocol.

The United Nations General Assembly approved the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November 1989: the assurance of and respect for the rights contained therein is the duty of all the states of the world. Having entered into force on 14 April 2014, the optional protocol to this document set up a mechanism of complaint procedures, which allows children, groups of children, and their representatives to lodge complaints with the Committee on the Rights of the Child if any of the states party to the Convention violates the rights of children. The objective of the document is to ensure that the individual child rights guaranteed by the Convention and its optional protocols could be enforced on an international level, too.

Logically, complaints may be lodged only against states which have joined the protocol. Although no legally binding decisions are made during the procedure, the conclusions reached may serve as important reference points for the judgement of the culpable state. Moreover, the optional protocol not only creates a sort of complaints mechanism, but it also reinforces the raison d’être of child rights, and may enhance the development of a child-centred approach in legislation and the application of law.

Hungary had already enacted the other two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child: the one on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and the one on Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Despite the possibility to do so since 2012, Hungary has not yet joined the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure. The majority of the European states – including all of Hungary’s neighbours – are already part of the mechanism.

According to the Ombudsman who has a particular responsibility for the protection of the rights of children, Hungary’s joining the complaints mechanism set up by the protocol would constitute an important secondary and complementary means for the legal protection of Hungarian children. All reasonable guarantees must be established in order to compensate for the vulnerable situation of children and to enforce their rights. As the Commissioner sees it, joining the complaints mechanism set up by the optional protocol would be just such a tool. If Hungary were to become party to the optional protocol in the year of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the date itself would add symbolic weight to the action.

In relation to the appeal of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the Minister of State for Family and Youth Affairs at the Ministry of Human Capacities indicated: professional considerations on child rights also point towards the decision that Hungary should join the countries that have already confirmed by their signature their commitment to the protection of child rights. Ombudsman László Székely welcomed the fact that upon his initiative, the competent Ministry has started the preparation of the government decision on joining the optional protocol. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights trusts that Hungary’s joining will effectively take place in the very near future.