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Raising Child Statelessness and Slavery Conditions at the ACERWC, 32nd Ordinary Session in Addis Ababa

28 November 2018

Julie Barrière is MRG’s Legal Programmes Assistant and recently travelled to Addis Ababa to meet partners and experts from the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).

MRG and SOS Esclaves travelled to Addis Ababa to push for the implementation of a decision that was taken by the committee against Mauritania in December last year, in a case involving two young brothers, Said and Yarg Salem, that had been enslaved their entire lives. The case was brought before the committee by SOS esclaves and MRG with a Mauritanian lawyer in 2016. In a very strong decision, the Committee made multiple recommendations to the State of Mauritania not only on the brothers’ case but also more generally on the situation of children being enslaved and de facto stateless.

We also took the opportunity to support our partner SOS Esclaves in their request before the committee to obtain Observer status and just heard, as I write this piece, that it had been granted to them. It is a very big step for SOS Esclaves in terms of their collaboration with the committee as it will allow them to advocate more widely to advance the rights of children in Mauritania and to highlight the suffering endured by many children subjected to anchored discrimination based notably on their status of former slaves.

Attending the Committee’ session was extremely enlightening and enriching. We were able to attend multiple panels’ sessions notably on child marriages and forced migration to which we supported SOS Esclaves make intervention during the session.  The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) shared their Report on African Child Wellbeing 2018, which gathers numerous information to highlight persistent struggles and challenges as well as improvements made by African governments.

One of the most vibrant topics was a discussion on the draft General objectives number 3 ‘Every child’s birth and other vital are registered”. This topic is a very vivid challenge for most states on the African continent until this day. The discrimination or challenges to access civil registration has multiple consequences especially on public services access and basic rights such as education, health, accessing judicial and administrative institutions etc… SOS Esclaves gave a strong statement regarding the situation of children in Mauritania in that regard. This issue of statelessness will also be discussed before the UN Minority Forum taking place on 29-30thNovember 2018 in Geneva, which MRG and SOS Esclaves will attend.

I found the ACERWC session very inclusive of all participants, eachitem open for discussion to states’ delegations and then civil society organisations present, with civil society organising among themselves into a forum to speak in unison and put pressure on the committee for action. I was delighted to meet the partners face to face and have learned a lot about the complexity of slavery and discrimination in Mauritania, the relation with the government and with regional forums for advocacy, as well as the dynamic between CSOs.

I had the chance to be introduced to brilliant and inspiring experts of the ACERWC from various and fascinating background, all committed and in line for the protection of children’ rights.

Photo from left to right: Mrs Julie Barriere, Legal Programmes Assistant; Mr Elid Ould M’Barreck, Lawyer for SOS Esclaves; Mr Ahmedou Elwedia, SOS esclaves Vice President.

Note: The new website of ACERWC is