What is a communication
A communication refers to a ‘complaint’ brought before a treaty body alleging the violation of a right contained in the treaty. Communications are important because through the adjudication process, tangible meaning is given to the provisions of the treaty, which may otherwise remain theoretical and abstract.
Article 44 is the basis for individual complaints/communications under the ACRWC. Article 44 of the ACRWC provides that the “Committee may receive communications, from any person, group or non-governmental organization recognized by the Organization of African Unity, by a Member State, or the United Nations relating to any matter covered by this Charter.” Thus, individual communications can be presented by a larger number of physical persons and moral entities. It is also interesting to note that “[a] communication may be presented on behalf of a victim without his agreement on condition that the author is able to prove that his action is taken in the supreme interest of the child”.
This is intended to address situations in which the “best interest of the child” principle under the African Children’s Charter would override other circumstances. Consequently, the Committee may admit a communication from a non-signatory state to the Charter in the overall best interest of the child.
The issue of admissibility of communications by the Committee is addressed by the “Guidelines for Communications” as opposed to the Charter’s provisions. Accordingly, the Guidelines provide that in order to take a decision on the admissibility of a communication, the Committee shall ensure that the communication is compatible with the provisions of the Constitutive Act of the African Union or with the ACRWC; the communication is not exclusively based on information circulated by the media; the complainant must show that the same issue has not been considered according to another investigation, procedure or international regulation; the author has exhausted all the available appeal channels at the national level or when the author of the communication is not satisfied with the solution provided; the communication is presented within a reasonable period after appeal channels at the national level have been exhausted and, that the wording of the communication shall not be offensive.
Besides, submitting communications before the Committee, Civil Society organizations become very important in a situation where a State concerned in a communication refuses to respond to the compliant leveled against it. In such a case, CSOs become an avenue through which the Committee can obtain additional information relevant to the admissibility and determination of the communication.