UWC professor re-elected to UN committee

Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur.

A professor from the University of the Western Cape has been re- elected to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Professor Benyam Dawit Mezmur, acting director of the Dullah Omar Institute, Faculty of Law, at the university, was elected to the committee with the votes of 152 states.

This is Professor Mezmur’s second term on committee. He currently serves as its chairman, a position he was elected to by his colleagues in the committee last year, when he became the youngest chair of the committee ever – and the first from Africa in almost 15 years.

“These elections have increasingly become almost ‘a 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration’ process; they are very competitive. To be re-nominated and unreservedly and vigorously supported by the government of Ethiopia was an honour in itself.

“And to be re-elected with the highest votes coming from all corners of the world is a resounding vote of confidence in our political clout and the high level of expertise African countries increasingly provide to these bodies,” said Professor Mezmur.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child consists of 18 independent experts. It monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its 196 state parties. It also monitors implementation of two optional protocols to the convention: on involvement of children in armed conflict; and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Professor Mezmur has taught in Ethiopia and South Africa. He also held fellowships and teaching positions at institutions across Africa.

Seven independent experts from Africa will be serving on the committee for the first time in its history.

“While members on the committee serve in their individual capacities, we inevitably share our knowledge and experience from the continent’s legal, economic, social and cultural contexts in our collective efforts to create a world fit for children,” he said.

“It is a well known fact that UWC has a long history of contributing expertise in the area of children’s rights in South Africa and Africa,” said Professor Mezmur, who heads the Dullah Omar Institute’s Children’s Rights Project, undertaking research, advocacy, and technical support activities related to the formulation and implementation of law and policy.

“The current votes are, in part, further confirmation that ‘we are not counting our days but making our days count’ at an international level too,” said Professor Mezmur.