NCC’s (Previously CCO’s) Functions
The CCO’s main function was to serve as a dedicated mechanism for receiving and resolving complaints from and about children, against maladministration by any federal agency and assist Pakistan in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). However, besides complaint handling CCOs work included the following:
Awareness Raising through a successful Communication Campaign in 2010, interaction with CSOs and Media through workshops and a more cost effective approach to awareness raising post 2011 through dissemination of CCO information material, interaction with Media people and online presence via its website and the CCO facebook page.
Expansion of CCO to WMS Regional Offices by designating Investigation Officers to handle child related complaints at the Mohtasib Secretariat’s Regional Offices in Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Lahore (Punjab), Quetta (Balochistan) and Karachi (Sindh). These Investigation Officers additionally link up with Civil Society Organizations in their respective regions to advocate for Child Rights and disseminate information about the CCO. The HCCO conducted regular visits to the Wafaqi Mohtasib’s Regional Offices to assess the work and progress of these IOs.
Capacity Building of Provincial Governments, CSOs and Media through workshops conducted in Provincial Capitals. Training and capacity building of Provincial Ombudsman Officers of Provincial Ombudsman Secretariat KPK was also undertaken. Besides this, Civil Servants are sensitized about Child Rights through lectures on Child Rights at the public Training Institutes in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Islamabad. The discussion on taking up Child Rights as a permanent subject in the Curriculum of Civil Academies is in progress with the Rector.
Monitoring Compliance of Federal Agencies with the NPA for Children and UNCRC through a Child Rights Steering Committee (formed under article 18 of the Establishment of the Office of the Wafaqi Mohtasib’s Order, 1983). The CRSC was initiated in 2010 but could not be continued in 2011, due to the absence of the Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman) who was to chair this meeting and the passing of the 18th amendment which shifted many federal subjects relevant to Child Welfare to the provinces, necessitating more focus and coordination with the provinces.
Provincial Focus post the 18th Amendment through policy advice to provinces on Child Protection laws and policies. The CCO contributed towards establishment of the Provincial Ombudsman, Child Protection Commission, Child Protection Law and the budget required for these, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Federal CCO also played an active role in approval of the Child Protection Policy for FATA and in developing bills for the Child Protection law and Commission in Balochistan. A regular Coordination forum has also been set up for meeting of Provincial Ombudsman Secretaries and Federal CCO, for joint effort and furthering synergies between the Federal and Provincial CCOs in Child Welfare.
Researches have been conducted and valuable recommendations elicited from them on the status and way forward of child rights in Pakistan. These are: The State of Children in Pakistan (latest), International Study of Best Practices in Monitoring Children’s Rights and the Baseline Study on the Status of Compliance of Federal Agencies Responsible for Child Protection with the UNCRC.
Children’s Advisory Committee was formed, comprising Of Children from suburbs of Islamabad and Islamabad Model Schools – voicing their issues. The Children’s Advisory Committee enables the inclusion of children’s views in the Protection and Promotion of Child Rights.
CCO after two years of Inception
The funding of the federal CCO was significantly reduced in mid - 2011 after completion of the two and a half years of project phase – as the absence of the Federal Mohtasib delayed fresh commitments. However, UNICEF continued to support the federal CCO with a reduced budget. This reduction in budget translated in reduced staff and activities of the federal CCO. The funding of the Provincial CCOs is also meagre, requiring more funds to fully function. This eventual reduction in financial support of the CCOs was owed to the fact that these offices are reliant on donor funding and there is the need for ownership from the government and thus institutionalization of the project within the Government.
At this very stage, it was critical to carry out a needs assessment of the CCOs and chalk out a way forward for the functioning and progression of the offices. A consultancy on the ‘Way forward of CCOs and a Child Ombuds – System in Pakistan’ was thus commissioned.
Consultancy on the Way Forward of CCOs and a Child Ombuds –System in Pakistan
Mr. Hjermann, the former Child Ombudsman of Norway who has served for eight years, was hired by the federal CCO for this consultancy.
The Consultancy report was submitted in March 2013. The recommendations of the report, in summation, proposed the need for a Child Ombuds – System in Pakistan in the future and currently, an interim period for the CCOs. The interim period proposed modifying and strengthening of the CCOs through; renaming the CCOs as Commissioner for Children - National and Provincial Commissioners for Children and appointment of Commissioners for Child Rights to head the offices at the Federal and Provincial level, greater focus on systemic issues, coordination of these offices, more participation and inclusion of Children in their work and the National Commissioner for Children to be the coordinating person for the Provincial Commissioners for Children.
The report highlighted the need for additional human and financial resources for the CCOs to undertake the developments required in the interim phase.
Endorsement of the Recommendations of the Report
The recommendations of the Consultancy report were fully endorsed by the Federal and the Provincial Mohtasibs. The Federal Mohtasib agreed to provide staff and budgetary support to the Federal CCO.
Notification of HCCO as National Commissioner for Children
The Head of federal CCO was thereafter, within 24 hours of the endorsement of report recommendations, appointed as National Commissioner for Children by the Federal Mohtasib and the provinces were expected to follow suit. The Federal CCO has now been named, ‘National Commissioner for Children’.
National Commissioner for Children in Future
The federal CCO has been upgraded, under the notification of the Head of CCO as the National Commissioner for Children. The office of the National Commissioner for Children (previously the CCO), in light of the recommendations of the Consultant’s report, will now function with a broadened mandate - work on individual complaints as well as systemic issues, take initiative of suo moto cases, more coordination with the provinces for joint initiatives and sharing of best practices, re - designating Investigation Officers for handling Children’s Complaints at the Wafaqi Mohtasib Regional Offices and greater involvement of Children in the office’s work.