(in order of presentation at the conference)
· Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe
Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I begin with a story?
Once upon a time there was a continent ravaged by the most damaging war of all time. Human madness had destroyed everything. Houses, factories, libraries, districts and entire towns were razed to the ground. What was worse, some human beings denied others their dignity and, for a moment, in the silence that followed the explosion of the bomb, humanity seemed to be lost for ever, carrying along with it the millions of victims of the Second World War.
Then, faced with the rubble, people decided to rebuild the schools, the factories, the cathedrals, the museums and the towns. It was no easy job, but it was done. However, how can broken lives be rebuilt? What material can replace lost dignity? What paint can cover up the traces of the horror imprinted on our souls?
Is there a crane capable of lifting the weight of guilt? Will these new walls protect us from our nightmares, from fear of the other?
Among the finest and most ambitious projects that came into being in the wake of the war, I definitely prefer the building of Europe, since, despite all the difficulties, we succeeded in finding the materials we needed - the strength and the willpower – to meet the greatest challenge of all - that of building a union of nations, a union which grows closer and stronger every day.
Since 1949 the Council of Europe has been striving to build a Europe founded on three pillars: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. To succeed in our task, we have developed a very varied range of highly sophisticated tools - legal instruments, monitoring mechanisms, assistance programmes, awareness-raising tools, forums for debate and innovation.
The Council of Europe has become the home of democracy and of human rights, but a home is well-designed only when the architect succeeds in harnessing intangible elements (space and light) for the well-being of all who live there. Today, I wonder whether, in striving to go far and fast with our projects, we have not overlooked children.
Is the home we are building safe, comfortable, fun, accessible, comforting, beautiful and ... liveable for the 155 million children in Europe?
I ask this question even though the Council of Europe is doubtless the organisation with the greatest experience of developing standards and promoting sector-based strategies for child protection in Europe.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Children are vital, and so are their rights.
Since its formation the Council of Europe has drawn up many legal instruments of prime importance to the protection of children's rights, such as the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to cite but three. Thanks to these instruments, States have been obliged to adopt measures - including legislation - constituting significant progress in the protection of children's rights. Their interpretation is increasingly based on the most frequently ratified convention world-wide: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a fantastic example of complementarity between two kinds of instrument (one global and the others regional).
I nonetheless remain convinced that these conventions should have a far greater impact. To achieve that, adults must cease to regard children as "mini-persons" with "mini-rights". Children must also be aware that these conventions and rights exist and be more easily able to rely on them.
In addition to our conventions, there are the recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. The list is very long, and the subjects dealt with extremely varied, albeit always of crucial importance. Although it is difficult to asses the impact of all these legal instruments, they undoubtedly serve as guidance for the legislation and policies of all our member states.
However, the role played by the Council of Europe does not end there. In our building work, law is a very important raw material, but it alone cannot bear the full weight of our home, since law is not an end in itself but a tool for achieving our objectives. We must establish institutions, devise policies, invest in research, education, training and awareness-raising, and develop new tools with which to meet new challenges - and that is also the role of the Council of Europe!
Yet, despite almost sixty years' building and reconstruction efforts, Europe is still not our children's home. As the results of the consultation we held in Ljubljana last summer show, violence against children continues to exist, is growing and is assuming new forms. No country is free of it and no country has done everything possible to solve the problem. We have accordingly decided to devote all our energies, resources and expertise to promoting respect for children's rights and to combating violence against children.
This determination and this espousal of children's cause by the Council of Europe were recently confirmed at the highest level on the occasion of the organisation's Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in Warsaw last year.
The programme we are launching today is our organisation's response to this immense challenge, to the mandate we were given by the summit to build a Europe for and with children.
Building a Europe FOR children is a huge undertaking. The shelves in your offices are doubtless crammed with legal instruments, declarations, recommendations, reports and proposals. At the same time, I suspect that your budgets are still very meagre ….
With this new programme, the Council of Europe wishes to move on to the operational stage, to begin the real site work. In Europe we already have most of the raw materials; we have the best architects and some excellent craftsmen. We have a quite clear idea of what must be achieved. We must therefore begin to build and we have accordingly set ourselves two main objectives: promoting children's rights and eradicating violence against children.
Firstly, we intend to launch a major campaign for the promotion of children's rights:
Our aim is to:
– help States honour their commitments under the main international legal instruments;
– promote inclusion of the "child" dimension in all areas of policy-making and help establish integrated national child protection strategies;
– enhance knowledge of children's rights among children themselves and all those in day-to-day contact with them or who decide their future (authorities, parents, teachers, doctors, welfare workers, law professionals, the media, etc.);
– make it easier for children to assert their rights: develop information resources and judicial and other procedures suited to children of different ages and in different situations;
– promote ratification and application of existing instruments and develop new standards where necessary. In particular, I believe we must devise standards to guarantee that children's rights are fully respected in judicial procedure in general and in the juvenile courts system in particular.
Our second objective is the eradication of violence against children.
We intend to monitor implementation of the recommendations made in the United Nations' study on the subject, focusing on six priority areas - school, resident institutions, the family, the community, the media and cyberspace.
Our action will be founded on four pillars (the "four Ps"): protection of children, prevention of violence, prosecution of criminals and participation by children.
– The first principle: protection of children
Protecting children who are in extreme distress or in danger requires both emergency measures and long-term policies capable of tackling the roots of the problem. Social exclusion, poverty, illness, disability and war are real-life situations which make children even more vulnerable and require reinforced protection measures. The Council of Europe is not a humanitarian aid or emergency relief organisation. Our strongpoint remains the background work of creating conditions conducive to equitable, sustainable economic and social development. Through our policies in the fields of social cohesion, education, youth and culture, we hope to help enhance the protection of children at risk due to difficult economic, political or social situations.
– The second principle: prevention of violence
In the context of our programme "Responses to violence in everyday life in a democratic society" (2002-2004) we identified twelve principles that should serve as guidelines for national and local policies aimed at preventing and reducing violence. Over the coming three years we will be testing the application of these principles and assessing the outcome. Our aim is to propose model violence prevention strategies to the national authorities.
The tools developed will be aimed, above all, at overcoming the divide between the law and reality.
Take the example of corporal punishment.
We have standards - legal instruments and decisions by competent bodies - condemning this unacceptable form of violence, which is tolerated (and sometimes even welcomed) within families, schools and detention centres. We will run a campaign to outlaw corporal punishment in all member states. However, apart from the purely legal aspects, we must bring about a change of attitudes and help parents raise their children without violence. Our positive parenting project will be one of the three themes addressed by the Conference of European Ministers of Family Affairs being held in Lisbon in May. This subject is particularly close to our hearts, which is why we have proposed discussing it at this conference.
– The third principle: prosecution of the perpetrators of violence
The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of violence against children is unacceptable. A society which allows criminals (such as child traffickers or paedophiles) to go unpunished is quite simply an accomplice to the offence.
Unfortunately, taboos, tolerance, society's indifference and the victims' silence help to increase the number of offences that go unprosecuted. In addition, account must be taken of the fact that criminal procedure is far from suited to the needs of child victims. Application of certain principles of criminal law (such as the limitation period) should take into consideration a child victim's circumstances and the seriousness of the offence.
It is also essential to ensure reparation of the damage suffered by victims, and the State should guarantee compensation where the perpetrator of violence is insolvent.
Prosecution of criminals and reparation of damage suffered by victims are therefore part of the foundations of the home we are building. We cannot economise on them without risking its collapse. The Council of Europe has the expertise and the tools needed to devise standards in this field, and I intend to spur it to act.
The debate taking place on the possible preparation of an international legal instrument to combat sexual exploitation and abuse of children is already a major step forward.
– The fourth principle: participation by children
Ladies and Gentlemen, and here I address myself in particular to the young participants in this conference,
I wish to conclude my speech today by referring to the noblest of our four principles: participation by children.
This is a subject on which I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we genuinely want to build a Europe WITH children. The bad news is that we don't know how to go about it.
That is why we have proposed holding a round-table discussion on participation by children. We want to know your opinions, learn about your experience, hear your wishes, understand your fears and share your ideas. We are aware that this is a huge challenge, but we have three years in which to tackle it. By 2008 we hope to have developed methodologies, tools and networks capable of guaranteeing effective participation by children, including those who do not attend school or who are socially excluded. Our primary aim is to involve children in the running of our programme.
We are delighted that young people are taking an active role in this conference. Whereas we are only just starting our proceedings, they have already completed the first part of their programme, as they have been working on their contribution to the conference since Sunday. They have also had to take time out from school right in the middle of the year. Thank you very much for your efforts.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is a hill in Stuttgart known as the "Monte scherbelino", where over 1.5 million cubic metres of debris from the town were dumped after the Second World War. This raised the height of the hill by 40 metres, and it now offers the best panoramic view of the reconstructed city. The hill has become a symbol of human beings' destructive and creative capacities.
The Council of Europe is also a symbol of reconciliation and European unification. But we are not alone.
The European Union is also an outstanding result of Europe's will to lay sound foundations for the economic and social progress to which our citizens aspire. If the European Union and the Council of Europe have the same symbols (the European flag and anthem), that is because we are destined to share the same values.
With the forthcoming publication of its Communication on the Rights of the Child, the European Commission is about to take an important step forward in this field. It is not by chance that we are travelling the same road at the same time. Let us set the best course together, so as to arrive more quickly at our destination!
I also hope for fruitful future co-operation between the Council and the large family of United Nations agencies. The Council of Europe's standpoint is the same as that of the other major guardians of children's rights - Unicef and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I am delighted by the presence here today of two Regional Directors of Unicef, Maria Calivis and Philip O'Brien, and I know we can count on their friendship. Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is sorry not to be able to attend, but she has sent us a message of support, which you can consult.
It is true that the programme we are launching today can succeed only with the support and co-operation of the organisations whose very role is to protect human and children's rights. I am convinced that the process we are initiating today will enable us to strengthen our ties, and above all to be more effective in performing our respective roles.
Mr Minister of State,
You have chosen children's rights as the theme of the first major event you have hosted since your accession to the Council of Europe. I am moved by the symbolic value of this conference and extremely grateful for the efforts made to organise it. On behalf of the Council of Europe and all the participants, representing 45 countries, thank you for your hospitality and welcome.
Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to conclude with a simple saying, which perfectly enshrines the spirit of the task before us:
"A man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child."
On my way here this morning, my thoughts were filled with the suffering and injustice which so many of the world’s children have to endure, victims of poverty, famine and conflict, but also of the violence of Mafia rings, which escape punishment for their crimes by circumventing laws and borders alike.
Many also suffer from prejudice, racism and the backsliding of certain societies in which moral references are becoming blurred and the fundamental values of human rights and the rule of law – the Council of Europe’s values – are increasingly spurned, ignored or flouted.
Some are also victims, I am afraid to say, of their own families, of the alcoholism and unhappiness of parents lost in the moral maze, and of rules, including school rules, that are outdated or poorly interpreted. And such brutality is unleashed upon some children that it may even result in their deaths.
They suffer because of our thoughtlessness, and we need to react now, to spare them further suffering.
The more dependent, weak and vulnerable children are, the more they need respect, for themselves, and for their rights to life, to a family, to care and to education, regardless of their appearance, origin or status.
Let us return for a moment to our own childhood, to our first memories, to the doubts we felt and to the fears and anxieties that sometimes dwelt in us, to our outbursts of emotion and to the dreams that we nurtured. Let us recall the marvellous bond of trust we had with our parents, the affection that we so naturally felt for our friends and family, and the happy innocence which guided our first steps into the web of human relationships. How ever-present our need for protection and tenderness was at that stage! No child has any desire to be ill, to suffer, or to be hungry, beaten, abused, sold or killed.
We political leaders, representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations, experts on, and campaigners for, the promotion and protection of children’s rights, and journalists and communications professionals are gathered here in Monaco today to hear one another’s views and listen attentively to the children and young people who have joined us, some of whom worked so hard yesterday, and again this morning. It is important, after all, for the children and young people who are taking part in this meeting to be listened to and heard, and for us to take their views into account.
We are not here to persuade one another of the validity of the causes that each of us has chosen to defend, or to reflect once again on the plight of the world, on the benefits and disadvantages of globalisation or on climate change, but to work together within the bounds of our own resources, experiences and commitments to seek practical solutions to the various very well-defined problems highlighted with such clarity and relevance in the reports drawn up for this conference by the Council of Europe’s experts and by other specialists.
I thank you for the confidence you showed in me by asking me to preside over the proceedings, which I will do with conviction, paying full heed to your concerns, aspirations and recommendations.
I will do this as much in my capacity as a champion of children’s cause as in my capacity as a mother, whose life and choices are guided chiefly by the desire to protect my family and its stability, and to secure the happiness and the future of my children.
My position as president of the World Association of Children’s Friends, AMADE-Mondiale, since 1993 has taught me how dramatic a situation many of the world’s children are in and how difficult and complex it is, despite all the laws and international instruments that our governments have adopted, to protect children against violence and abuse of all types, including the sexual abuse inflicted on all too many of them.
As was the case with the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines or the International Criminal Court, I would like a coalition of international associations and organisations to be set up as quickly as possible to encourage and support those governments which undertake to adopt specific measures to prevent the most serious crimes committed against children from going unpunished – measures such as extending or doing away with the time limits for the prosecution of offences, stepping up judicial co-operation or adopting a model or framework law to strengthen action against trafficking in children, including that done with the help of the Internet.
The three-year programme which the Council of Europe is launching here in Monaco provides an outstanding opportunity to increase awareness of the challenges we face and form an “alliance of wills” to implement, promptly and effectively, the measures which we can set out in our conclusions.
I hope that this programme will prompt us to establish a fully-fledged co-operation network to help us to continue and intensify the campaigns we have been conducting, sometimes with very little publicity, often for many years and occasionally with an unpleasant feeling that we stand alone – a feeling that can border on disillusion at times and induce bitterness.
It is our duty to share our experiences, to work together to pinpoint the reasons for our successes and failures and, during the round table sessions, to hold exchanges of views which I firmly believe will enable us to make progress in many areas.
This conference may be a chance to learn more about recent initiatives or innovative projects currently being carried out by governments and charitable humanitarian organisations and associations.
AMADE-Mondiale, over whose destiny I preside, has prepared for your attention an information document describing our main activities in Africa, Asia and Europe, which are often conducted with the assistance of our local offices and as part of joint projects involving other associations.
I would like briefly to draw your attention to three of these activities to which I am particularly attached:
· The “New smile on life” programme: This project is intended, through surgeon training, to increase the number of operations on children whose cleft palates prevent them from being properly breastfed and mark them out for exclusion and discrimination.
· “Schools opened to the wind”: These schools are for children who live on the streets, providing them in their home areas not just with education but also with meals and appropriate care.
· “Alliance for bases clean-up” (ABC): The aim of this programme, based on information campaigns, is to achieve a total clean-up of US military bases and the elimination of the dangerous toxic waste around theses sites while helping those children whose illnesses have been caused by the resultant contamination.
In accordance with the wishes of my mother Princess Grace, who founded the association and was its first president, AMADE-Mondiale also endeavours to encourage research and discussion on subjects raised by scientific and technological progress, in the light of fundamental ethical and moral principles.
It was as a result of this that, in April 2000, following painstaking preparation and extensive consultation, AMADE-Mondiale teamed up with Unesco to hold an international colloquy attended by leading figures from the world of genetics, medicine, research and law.
The resulting Monaco Statement: Considerations on Bioethics and the Rights of the Child and the proceedings of the colloquy were both published.
More recently, in April 2003, the Government of Monaco helped to hold an international round table attended by experts, lawyers, specialists and diplomats on “Crimes against the child, crimes against humanity”. This provided an opportunity to investigate the various approaches that might be considered to combating impunity for certain particularly serious violations of the rights of the child.
My brother, Prince Albert II, also spoke on this subject in May 2002 at the Extraordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly on children, drawing world leaders’ attention to the matter in the following terms:
“Is it not our duty to try to improve the tools at our disposal, including legal instruments, removing the current limitations of time and borders on prosecution and punishment of these unnatural crimes against children by classifying them as crimes against humanity?”
I wish you an outstanding and rewarding time in Monaco and sincerely hope that our work and the Council of Europe’s three-year programme will be successful. I would also like to congratulate and thank the Council for taking this initiative and for showing such an exemplary and steadfast commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of the child.
As my father, the late lamented Prince Rainier III, was in the habit of saying, you do not have to be big to do great things or to act in large numbers to enjoy success.
We have a duty to succeed in the task that lies ahead of us. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote, isn’t every newborn child a god taking the form of a person?
Bogdan Panait, Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe;
State Secretary for Children’s Rights, Romania
It is an honour and a privilege for me to represent the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe at this Launching Conference of the Programme “Building a Europe for and with children”.
The Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, which took place in Warsaw on 16-17 May last year, reconfirmed the role of the Council of Europe, as an essential component of the European political and security architecture and a unique framework to promote and defend human rights, advance democratic principles and values and foster the rule of law throughout Europe.
In this context important decisions concerning the issues to be discussed at this Conference were taken. I quote from the Action Plan adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the Summit:
“We are determined to effectively promote the rights of the child and to fully comply with the obligations of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child. A child rights perspective will be implemented throughout the activities of the Council of Europe and effective coordination of child-related activities must be ensured within the Organisation.
We will take specific action to eradicate all forms of violence against children. We have therefore decided to launch a three year programme of action to address social, legal, health and educational dimensions of the various forms of violence against children. We shall also elaborate measures to stop sexual exploitation of children, including legal instruments if appropriate, and involve civil society in this process. Coordination with the United Nations in this field is essential, particularly in connection with follow-up to the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.”
Since the adoption of the Action Plan, the Committee of Ministers has taken a number of decisions relating to its implementation. It has approved the three year programme: “Building a Europe for and with children”, identified the necessary resources within the budget and approved the creation of a coordination unit within the organisation.
As has already been stressed by the Deputy Secretary General, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio, the Summit insisted on the implementation of a child rights perspective throughout the activities of the Council of Europe. The Programme on children will partly be implemented through the relevant intergovernmental steering committees which will include items relating to children in their respective agendas. These activities range from manuals on children’s rights education to the drafting of new legal instruments. But more generally a child rights perspective shall be guiding all activities of the organisation.
In this context, I would like to stress that the Council of Europe is the main standard setting organisation on children’s rights in Europe.
The Council of Europe has drawn up several legal instruments which protect children from violence and confer a number of other rights on them: among these are the European Convention on Human Rights, the revised Social Charter and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Both the European Court of Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights have developed case-law with particular emphasis on children, for example concerning the prohibition of corporal punishment and other forms of ill-treatment of children. I would like to add that the Committee of Ministers supervises the implementation of the judgments of the Court and the decisions of the European Committee of Social Rights and that it considers this to be one of its most important tasks.
Another significant Council of Europe treaty, the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights, guarantees the exercise by children of certain procedural rights in family court proceedings.
Furthermore, a couple of the recent legal instruments adopted by the Committee of Ministers provide protection for children against sexual and other forms of abuse in certain contexts. The first one is the Convention on Cybercrime, which contains a provision relating to the prohibition of the production, dissemination and possession of child pornography through or on a computer system. The second instrument is the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, adopted at the Third Summit. This convention contains a number of provisions with the particular aim of protecting children from being trafficked and of providing adequate protection and assistance to children who have been victims of trafficking.
I might add that the Committee of Ministers only a couple of weeks ago, adopted terms of reference for a Committee to evaluate the need for an additional international legal instrument for the protection of children against sexual exploitation, that would fill any existing lacuna. This activity follows from the Action Plan adopted at the Summit.
The Committee of Ministers has also adopted a number of important recommendations concerning children’s rights. Other recommendations contain provisions providing specific protection for children in various contexts. In the first category of recommendations, I would like to highlight the one from 1985 on violence in the family, the one from 1990 on social measures concerning violence within the family, and the one from 1993 on the medico-social aspects of child abuse, which emphasise the general condemnation of corporal punishment and other forms of degrading treatment as a means of education.
More recent recommendations concern the protection of children against sexual exploitation, new ways of dealing with juvenile delinquency and the role of juvenile justice and the rights of children living in residential institutions.
Work is now progressing rapidly on a draft recommendation on victims which will deal with issues relating to persons vulnerable to victimisation, especially repeat victimisation. It will refer to victims of organised crime, including trafficking in human beings, and to the creation of specialised centres to help victims of crimes such as sexual violence and domestic violence.
Essential parts of the programme that we are now launching relate to the Council of Europe’s standard setting role, including awareness raising and information on the existing international and European legal instruments in the field, as well as assistance to member states with the implementation of these instruments. The programme will also focus on the implementation or revision of existing instruments and on the possible elaboration of new ones.
Conferences of Specialised Ministers will play an important role for the implementation of the new Programme. The Conference of European Ministers responsible for Family Affairs, to be held in Lisbon on 16-17 May, will deal with issues relating to parenting in the best interest of the child and to family policies in the light of demographic changes in Europe and different patterns of family life.
Later this year, the Conference of European Ministers of Justice, to be held in Armenia, will deal with the topic “Victims: place, right and assistance” and will cover both penal and civil aspects of the question of victims as well as issues relating to particularly vulnerable groups of victims, including children.
As Chair of the Committee of Ministers, Romania has made its contribution to the implementation of the Council of Europe's goals and priorities, as adopted in the Action Plan. A conference on children’s rights was organised in January 2006, focusing on the Romanian experience in connection with the examples offered by other countries and with international and European standards.
Your Royal Highness, Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the Council of Europe member states taken as a whole, the population below the age of eighteen is around 155 million individuals. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by all member states and they are all expected to develop national action plans to ensure its full implementation. The Heads of State and Government present in Warsaw considered that the complexity of the issues at stake called for a comprehensive strategy to coordinate the efforts of all key actors and to mobilise resources.
The presence here, at this Launching Conference, of high level representatives from such a large number of member and observer states, is a clear indication of our commitment to the issues to be discussed and of our expectations and hopes as regards the Programme we are now launching. But what I will find particularly interesting will be to hear the expectations, hopes and concerns of the young people present at this Conference. Let me also express the hope that you will be with us throughout the Programme and that your viewpoints and your ideas will be taken on board.
Finally, I would like to thank the authorities of Monaco for the excellent organisation of this event and, in particular, thank Her Royal Highness, Princess Caroline of Hanover, for her personal commitment to this cause.
At the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe (Warsaw, May 2005) it was agreed that “Building a Europe for and with Children” was to be one of the priorities for the organisation’s member states.
I. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which I have the honour of representing, has long been active in promoting the cause of children.
Children’s rights have always been part of the Assembly’s focus. However, children’s issues became a real concern in the 1990s and in 1996 the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee set up its Sub-Committee on Children.
Since then, this sub-committee has sought to nurture a genuine culture of children’s rights in member states. For example, since 1996 more than twenty resolutions, recommendations and reports have been adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly, primarily at the initiative of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.
But it is not the only one: other committees such as the Legal Affairs Committee, the Committee on Equality between Women and Men and the Committee on Migration have also incorporated the children’s dimension into their activities.
II. Our aim is to make children a political priority
I have to be honest with you: it is not easy to make children’s rights a major political issue. Regrettably, the fate of children is not a matter that brings with it a great deal of political capital and accordingly it does not seem to arouse the passions of politicians and governments.
While protecting children’s rights is a challenge for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, it is also a duty. The prime role of the Council of Europe is to ensure respect for human rights. And children are human beings who also have rights that must be upheld.
Giving children greater political visibility was the main aim of the Parliamentary Assembly’s first major text entirely devoted to children – Recommendation 1286 on a European Strategy for Children. This text was drafted with the help of Unicef and international experts in the field of children’s rights and contains numerous ideas which were innovative at the time and which remain extremely topical.
A few years later, in 2002, the Assembly’s Social Affairs Committee wanted to turn the ideas contained in the 1996 proposals into practical obligations for member states in the form of Recommendation 1551, entitled “Building a twenty-first century society with and for children”. However, the 1996 Strategy has not, as was hoped, yet given rise to many additional activities within the Council of Europe. Rather, ten years on, it seems to be the European Union that is now drawing on the ideas it put forward. This is a sign of another potential area for joint and co-ordinated activities between our two organisations at a time when there is a considerable tendency to be in competition with each other.
If we are to build a Europe for children, we have to pool all our efforts and set priorities at European level.
One of the first priorities is to give children a voice and greater visibility
Children have rights and should be able to voice their concerns when these rights are not upheld. At national level, this means having legislation that genuinely protects children and appointing in each country a mediator or ombudsman for children (as the Assembly called for in Recommendation 1460 (2000)).
The globalisation of trade, the complexity of inter-state relations and the use of new technologies all complicate the task of those defending the cause of children.
A European network of children’s ombudsmen has been set up and is attempting to address these challenges by exchanging information and co-operating effectively. Shouldn’t we be giving stronger support to what they do?
To do this, we should perhaps contemplate appointing, at European – and why not Council of Europe – level, an independent, European children’s ombudsman tasked with promoting children’s rights and able to act on their behalf.
At the initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe a few years ago appointed a Commissioner for Human Rights.
The first Commissioner, Mr Alvaro Gil Robles, carried out this role with acknowledged success. Today this task is in the very competent hands of Mr Thomas Hammarberg, who I am very happy to see with us here today.
Children’s rights have not been totally absent from the work of the Commissioner, but it has to be said that they have been a fairly small part of his activities which have focused more on human rights in conflict regions or on the rights of those imprisoned.
This is not a criticism. The work carried out by the Commissioner for Human Rights is vitally important and admirable. But one man alone cannot do everything. What is needed is a separate and more specialised position.
In addition to giving children visibility at European level and speaking out on their behalf, this “Commissioner for Children’s Rights” could be responsible, among other things, for:
- promoting awareness and implementation of the various conventions on children’s rights,
- advising and assisting the various players in the field of children’s policies,
- assessing the impact on children of the policy choices made, and
- drawing up specific strategies to promote education in peace and non-violence.
A second key priority is to ensure that children are at the centre of development aid policies for non-member countries
Europe is not isolated from the rest of the world. The life and fate of children in non-Council of Europe member states very often depend to a large extent on the activities of European countries, whether by their governments, companies or nationals.
This often results in economic exploitation, forced child labour, prostitution brought about by sex tourism, etc.
The situation of children in the rest of the world is the concern of us all.
If what we have to say about children’s rights is to be credible, it must be co-ordinated and the commitment of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to the cause of children must go beyond the strictly European framework.
We in the Assembly believe that European states must ensure that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is upheld throughout the world, they must fight against the exploitation of children and protect them against armed conflict.
The Assembly has also called for an increase in aid to developing countries and a flexible approach to debt repayment.
In particular it has urged the international community to work out development aid policies for conflict-stricken countries to bring an end to the use of child soldiers (Resolution 1215 (2000)), to take steps to demobilise those enlisted, provide them with physical, psychological and social rehabilitation, and reintegrate them into civilian life, and in particular into a suitable education system.
Lastly, the Assembly has called on member states to give priority to the protection and rights of children in their national development aid policies and to insist that beneficiary states uphold the rights and interests of children as a condition for any technical and financial assistance.
By way of illustration, we should remember that there is a growing number of children affected by HIV or Aids, or who have lost a father or mother to the disease, in the developing world and especially in Africa. Incidentally, the Assembly’s Social Affairs Committee has just initiated a report on this matter.
Every 15 seconds, Aids kills a mother or a father. There are more than 15 million AIDS orphans throughout the world.
In the vast majority of cases, these children have no means of education, which often has to be paid for in their country, and have no parents who can pass on their knowledge and skills.
What, therefore, can western development aid do for these forgotten generations who do not have the educational tools to be able to make use of such aid?
This is an enormous challenge that the Council of Europe cannot disguise.
Yes, we need to build a Europe with and for children, but it must be a Europe that shows solidarity with the children in the rest of the world.
Anissa Temsamani, member of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe
Your High Royal Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A great Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, once wrote: “The whole world is not worth a single tear of a child”. These words were written more than a century ago – before the two world wars, before the Bolshevik revolution and the communist regimes, and before the triumph of democracy on this continent, which we are enjoying today.
Yet, despite our democratic achievements, we are here because the situation of children in Europe urges us to act to prevent the persistent ill-treatment, abuse and violence against our younger generation, and to defend the children’s rights as human beings. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ten children die every day from ill-treatment in OECD member states. In France alone, 75 000 children are ill-treated every year, and two children die every day from cruel treatment. Human Rights Watch has stated on many occasions that children were “easy targets” for abuse and violations of their rights – be it domestic violence or violence in schools – including corporal punishment – street violence or police brutality, child labour or sexual exploitation and child pornography.
We must recognise that children are the most vulnerable group of society requiring special attention – even more so when they are children whose parents belong to other groups subjected to discrimination such as migrants, refugees, or national minorities. At the same time, we must reaffirm that children are full-fledged citizens who enjoy equal rights as any human beings, and it is our political and moral duty to make sure that these rights are fully respected – including the right to be free from violence.
We have a good legal basis: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by almost all governments – with the regrettable exception of the United States and Somalia – and the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees equal rights for everyone, without the discrimination on the basis of age. The challenge is, however, to apply these treaties in practice, and at all levels – national, regional and local. The programme “Building Europe for and with children”, which we are launching today, serves just this purpose – to bring together all actors involved in children’s welfare, to combine our efforts in protecting their rights and freedoms and involving them to the fullest in our democratic societies.
Regional and local authorities of Europe, and the Council of Europe Congress representing them, on whose behalf I speak today, have an important role to play in this process, and can make a valuable contribution to implementing the programme. Certain chapters of this Programme have a direct relevance to local and regional government: the prevention of neighbourhood violence and work in communities, prevention of violence in schools, action concerning street children, to name but a few. Awareness-raising is another important aspect where local and regional authorities can be of great importance, engaging local NGOs and media to provide adequate information on the situation in specific communities and residential institutions. In addition, we propose creating local free-of-charge telephone hotlines and shelters for battered children, which would allow a child to address directly social workers. Local authorities can also assume the responsibility for training of community workers and parenting counselling, especially in cases of family violence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We in the Council of Europe Congress see local and regional authorities as being the first line of defence of children’s rights – because abuse of children and their exploitation happens in local communities, which should be the first to know about it and to react to it. It is clear, of course, that national governments should give local authorities proper means to implement their programmes for children, including local action to enhance the youth participation in community life – which is one way of preventing crime and violence among young people. Our Congress has adopted several resolutions and recommendations on youth participation and the role of young people as citizens, dating back to 1999, not to mention the European Charter on the Participation of Young People in Local and Regional Life, revised in 2003.
Local authorities also have a crucial role to play in dealing with disadvantaged neighbourhoods, where children are particularly exposed to violence. Our Congress has done a great deal of work on this issue, starting from a recommendation to Council of Europe member states on policies for deprived children and their families, adopted in 1999, and, recently, launching the so-called Berlin Process to mount action for disadvantaged urban areas. The most recent conference on this subject was held at the Council of Europe headquarters in Strasbourg at the end of January this year.
We should also look into the idea of establishing and developing a Europe-wide network of ombudspersons for children at regional and local level, already existing in some countries. It is especially important because children do not have direct access to courts, and the parents who may represent their interests are sometimes themselves the source of their children’s rights violations. Such a network could operate in close cooperation with the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
Coming back to the famous phrase of Dostoevsky, I would like to stress that the fact that we are here today shows our full awareness of the need to act so that children in Europe – and elsewhere – do not shed tears from pain, fear, poverty or exclusion. The programme which we are launching today will address this need, and I wish all of you – all of us – every success in carrying it out. Let us act together to make sure that children shed only tears of joy.
Gérard Greneron, Council of Europe INGO Conference
Your Highness, Your Excellency,
Madam Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe,
Distinguished representatives of the Council of Europe,
Ladies and gentlemen,
My INGO colleagues,
This inaugural conference of the programme “Building a Europe for and with children” is the first step on the way which it is proposed that we travel together for the next three years.
The lead for this programme was given in Warsaw last May by the 46 Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe convened for their Third Summit. They decided on the implementation of a Council of Europe programme to further children’s rights and protect them against all forms of violence. The idea that the rights of the most vulnerable require special protection was slow to emerge, and it was in the 20th century that the international community took this avenue.
Let us refresh our memory by recalling the date 20 November 1959 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the first Declaration of the Rights of the Child which carried on the good work of the Geneva Declaration adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. Finally in 1989 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which became legally binding on States on 2 September 1990.
It seeks to lay down a true worldwide law of childhood. Of the 54 articles in the Convention, 41 deal with the actual rights of the child. Embodying the rights defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it strengthens some of them and adds certain specific rights.
It comprises civil rights, social rights, cultural rights and political rights that meet three criteria: protection, provision and participation.
Among the Council of Europe instruments, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter – the latter in Articles 7 and 17 – also protect children.
Instruments that set forth and uphold the rights of the child might lead us to believe that children today are safe from all forms of violence whether physical or psychological.
Alas, that is not so!
In order to attain the goal which has been set for us by the Council of Europe, “Building a Europe for and with children”, we must work together, all we governmental or parliamentary representatives, experts of the Council of Europe, the European Union or the international institutions, representatives of international and national non-governmental organisations, and of course children.
If we are to win the bet laid with us, we must sincerely want the child to become an agent and to act. Children must accordingly be made associates in the organisation of projects where they can find their proper place. The adult’s role is thus one of attendance on the child, not of deciding everything in its stead.
The two days of seminar that preceded this conference, during which the young participants prepared their contribution, fits into this strategy perfectly. I am convinced that their work will significantly enrich and inform the proceedings.
The other themes before us for discussion concern the approaches to be used and the partnerships to be formed for combating and eradicating all forms of violence against children by breaking down the wall of silence.
Violence is many-sided and denotes the acts, done to children, of striking or beating, poisoning, burning, inflicting blows, biting, shaking, throwing to the ground, choking, or using any kind of force or constraint.
Another aspect of physical violence against children is the use of violence with discipline as its justification. Research nevertheless shows that discipline by physical means is not an effective way of exerting a favourable influence on a child’s behaviour.
These studies ought not to be interpreted as calling parental authority into question but as seeking the best way to enforce it.
Finally, sexual violence towards children wears different faces and in this age of digital technology employs the fastest means of dissemination. Children can be rapidly exposed to a contact, activity or action of a sexual nature, and to documentary material in the class of common or child pornography.
The Council of Europe Conference of INGOs and its freshly elected bureau have entered into this multi-year programme with enthusiasm and determination. The Conference will play an active part, and a useful one, in the design and implementation of the cross-sectoral programme in conjunction with its “quadrilogue” partners in the Council of Europe.
The INGOs of the Council of Europe, which stand for the expression of democratic pluralism, aided by their expertise in their fields of proficiency, their extensive range of action, their diversity and their direct link with the public, will make every effort to enrich this programme and to promote it by exploiting their ability to mobilise public opinion.
With that in mind, the President of the Conference of INGOs, Annelise Oeschger, unfortunately prevented from attending, has asked me to pass on her best wishes for the success of the proceedings of the launching conference. She has also entrusted me with the monitoring of the entire programme and with co-ordinating the work of the Council of Europe INGOs. I shall apply myself to this with the support of my colleagues in the INGOs.
People are wont to say that the child is a future adult human being. Let us all be quite sure that for this futurity to be better, we must conjugate it in the present tense.
On behalf of Unicef, I would like first to pay a tribute to the Council of Europe for organising his milestone event and to Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio for gathering together all the stakeholders committed to “Building a Europe for and with Children”.
It is four years since the UN Special Session called for “A World Fit For Children”. The Programme being launched today represents one of the most important initiatives in that same spirit, aiming to translate the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child into the daily lives of children.
The partnership between the Council of Europe and Unicef is a long standing one. And there is, if I may say so, a natural complementarity in the work of our two organisations. We very much look forward to combining our strengths again in this new initiative.
15 years have passed since the Convention was adopted. Since then, an entire generation of children has been born and has grown up. Here in Europe, the Convention had enormous support and many countries worked hard to translate its principles into genuine, lasting improvements for children. Mind-sets have changed as well. To-day children rights are increasingly seen as the unifying element in a whole range of policies and action.
And yet… if I were to offer a one-line on the implementation of the Convention, it would be: “Remarkable Progress – marred by striking omissions”.
I would like here, briefly, to highlight some of these gaps:
1. It is true we have made great strides in involving children in decision making, listening to them and sharing respect for their views. Where we have not done so well – and where we continue to fall short – is in translating their views into concrete action. Nor have we given enough attention to the voices of the most vulnerable.
2. We have also seen progress in promoting the notion of the “Best interest of the Child”. The principle of the best interest of the child is no longer an “add on”. Indeed, children have become a vantage point from which to scan public policy. Most legal safeguards are in place but those accountabilities of professionals - that would mandate them to identify early signs and address acts of violence against children - are not yet in place.
3. Many Constitutions across the region enshrine the principle of non-discrimination yet there are still many children whose interests are ignored. These include children belonging to ethnic groups; children growing up in residential institutions; children in remote rural areas and unaccompanied young people who cross borders only to find themselves non-citizens in unfamiliar lands.
4. The right to survival and development is also violated if we just look at the shocking figures of children under the age of 14 who die every day as a result of violence. In addition, in several countries, access to universal services such as education and support for early childhood is slipping back.
5. Monitoring of child rights continues to be one of the weakest links. Although independent monitoring processes such as the ombudsperson offices continue to play a most valuable role, there are wide gaps in the area of data, tools and methodologies to make violations visible.
So, if – as mentioned earlier- the Report Card on child rights reports some “striking omissions”, the Programme being launch today (with its two main areas of action) has the potential and ingredients to address many of the existing gaps and violations. And let me use this platform to re-commit Unicef’s full support to partnering with the Council of Europe and others to implement this common agenda.
Europe has the capacities to become the first region in the world to create a Region Fit For Children. This would be a momentous achievement. It would unite the countries of the region around a visionary goal. And by dint of this triumph, the people of Europe would show that a “world for children is a world fit for all”.
Message from the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Marc Danzon
Your Royal Highness, (Princess Caroline of Hanover)
Your Excellency, (Minister of State of the Prinicipality of Monaco)
Deputy Secretary-General, (Ms de Boer-Buquichio, CoE)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Health as defined by WHO is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being to which every citizen and every child around the world is entitled. Health is a fundamental right for every child and adolescent around the world.
The right to enjoy the “highest attainable standard of health” is enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and is the ethical and legal basis for our work. The opportunity for children and adolescents to grow and develop in a social and physical environment that provides equitable access to health, social and legal services should be a fundamental policy objective for all countries.
However, social and economic inequalities, a lack of awareness of children’s basic rights, unhealthy and unsafe environments, social norms and traditions which support emotional and physical punishment, as well as interpersonal violence are among the many threats which deprive children of this right.
In the WHO European Region (with its 52 Member States) children’s health is influenced by multiple factors.
Let me give you a few specific examples from the area of environment and health:
· On injuries: road traffic injuries and drowning, for example, are the first and third leading cause of death, respectively, in children aged 5-14 years.
· On violence: child mortality from homicide is nearly three times higher in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) than in the European Union. Infants and very young children (0-4 years) are at greatest risk, with homicide rates in that age group more than double those among 5-14 year olds.
· Above the age of 14 years, self-inflicted injuries (including suicide) are the second leading cause of death.
Let us also not forget that children pay a high price for adults’ inability to provide for a safe environment: for example, it is estimated (depending on the source used) that between 4 000 and 14 000 deaths in children aged 0-4 years annually are attributable to outdoor air pollution.
In addition, there are marked inequalities in the health of children and adolescents.
In general, children in the CIS are worse off than their peers in the European Union. Children in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) in the European and Central Asian Region are much more likely to suffer ill health than their peers in high-income countries (HIC) in the region. They are more likely to suffer from the consequences of unsafe or unhealthy environments and poverty. They are more likely to be killed or die as a result of violence. For all injuries, for example, children in the age group 5-14 years in LMIC are 4.2 times more likely to die than those in HIC.
The same pattern of inequality in children’s health can be found within countries: children in low-income population groups or lower social classes are especially vulnerable to risky situations, unsafe environments and risky behaviour, much more so than their peers in high-income population groups or higher social classes. In the United Kingdom, one of the wealthiest countries in the Region, children from low-income social classes have a threefold higher risk of a road traffic injury than children from high-income social classes.
Deaths of children and young adults in the European Region, which I am referring to, are extreme events and only the visible tip of the problem: for every lost life, for every child or adolescent who dies, hundreds more need support and services. Hundreds more are enduring days, weeks and months of ill health and suffering, and may be left with a long-lasting physical or psychological health problem or even disability.
We all want Europe to be a safer and better place for children.
What can we do to face the current challenges?
Following the motto “Building a Europe for and with children”, we - representatives of Member States, public and private institutions, civil society, children and parents, and policy-makers - can help transform policy into action. We can strive towards better coordination and collaboration. We can use opportunities and we can build our action on existing policies and commitments. We can capitalize on successful experience and good practice.
The World Health Organization has made a big effort, together with all its Member States and other stakeholders, to contribute to this development.
The Children’s Environmental Health Action Plan for Europe (CEHAPE), adopted by the 52 European Member States of WHO in Budapest in 2004, is an important framework for advocating for the rights of children to live and grow in a healthy environment. During the process leading up to the development and approval of this instrument, a systematic attempt was made to involve young people in the process of making policy on the environment and health and in the official committees and fora.
Participation by young people started at the Budapest Conference itself, with a Youth Parliament and 30 official youth delegates from Member States. A Youth Declaration was presented to the ministers. This called for youth representation on the European Environmental Health Committee (EEHC) and on the CEHAPE Task Force. The third meeting of the Task Force was held last week in Dublin, with the active participation of young people.
In September 2005, a European Strategy for Child and Adolescent Health and Development was adopted by the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, after a two-year process of consultation with Member States. The purpose of the strategy is to assist Member States in formulating their own policies and programmes. A toolkit was also made available to accompany the strategy, providing resources to help countries develop their own proposals for child and adolescent health and development. The strategy and associated tools will enable Member States to determine any gaps in their plans and clarify their priorities for future investment. Furthermore, the document provides an umbrella strategy for the large number of evidence-based initiatives currently being promoted by the WHO Regional Office to support the health and development of children and adolescents.
Also in September last year, the WHO Regional Committee passed a resolution to prevent injuries and violence in the WHO European Region (EUR/RC55/R9). WHO made its message clear: injuries are no accident, and the majority of them can be prevented! This resolution is therefore a commitment by WHO and its 52 European Member States to work on a comprehensive set of actions to respond to the challenges that injuries pose to children and young adults. They include national plans of action, strengthening of capacities, monitoring of progress, as well as networking and partnerships across sectors.
In November last year, national focal points for violence and injury prevention appointed by ministries of health met in the Netherlands, to initiate networking and information exchange across the Region. “A life without violence and injuries in Europe (LIVE)” is the common vision which they agreed upon to guide their future action.
Your Excellencies, distinguished guests,
The physical, mental and social well-being of children in Europe is our capital and basic investment for the future. Not only does it mirror the current state of public health, social and economic development, and the realisation of human rights, it also shapes and projects the status of the generations and population to come.
This conference is part of an important process towards a common goal: to promote children’s rights and reduce violence against children in Europe. The conference is both ambitious and practical. It aims to integrate children’s views, to discuss new challenges, and to pinpoint the action needed to achieve this goal.
I wish you success with this conference and look forward to contributing to its follow-up in the Region.
Independent Institutions for the Protection of Children's Rights in Europe as experienced by ENOC and the Polish Ombudsman for Children
Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Gentleman,
Today I would like to speak to you from an Ombudsman's perspective and share with you how the European Network Of Ombudsmen for Children wish to contribute to “Building a Europe for and with Children”.
The convention on children's rights as a document of international law provides a comprehensive yet complex overview of the issue of the protection of children's rights. The convention describes the legal status of the child which is based on the following rules:
· the child is an independent subject yet because of his or her immaturity, both physically and psychologically, requires specific care and legal protection;
· the child as a human being is entitled to his or her identity, dignity and privacy;
· the family unit is the best environment in which the child can grow up;
· the state has a responsibility to support the family and only in exceptional circumstances will it replace the family's function;
For the full implementation of the convention's rights, an independent national institution for the protection of the rights of children is necessary, working alongside the Government. Together, these two bodies will guarantee full implementation of the legal requirements described in the convention and will undertake independent monitoring of the activities regarding children's welfare.
In many countries, institutions protect children's rights, but the welfare of children is not their sole objective. The experiences of both ENOC and the Polish Ombudsman for Children prove unequivocally that an independent institution is required to facilitate and monitor the protection of children's rights in their entirety. These institutions must hold relevant qualifications and have procedures in place to deal with problems should they occur.
This independent institution should not replace the authorities or institutions to whom the legislator has given the task of helping the family and the child; but offer support and guidance when necessary. ENOC's standards reiterate this. In October 2000, from the fundamental principle adopted by the UN General Assembly, that is “the rules that are connected to the national institutions”, ENOC formulated the minimum standards required for institutions to protect children's rights. These institutions should be independent national or regional bodies or created to defend, monitor or protect the best interests of the children; or they may be a part of the office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights, but particularly focusing on the rights of the child.
To qualify for membership in ENOC, institutions must be able to demonstrate:
· that the institution is established through legislation approved by Parliament;
· that the institution has the specific function of promoting children's rights and interests;
· that there are no provisions in the legislation which limit the institution's ability to set its own agenda in relation to this specific function, or which prevent it carrying out significant core functions as suggested in the Paris Principles;
· that the institution must include or consist of an identifiable person or persons concerned exclusively with the promotion of children's human rights;
· that arrangements for the appointment of ombudspeople, commissioners and members of a commission must be established by an official act, setting out the duration of the mandate and any arrangements for renewal;
· and lastly that the institution must not be subject to any financial controls which affect it's independence.
So far, ENOC's experience demonstrates the necessity of maintaining the highest standards of independence for the national institution. Meetings are held on an annual basis and working contact within the ENOC network demonstrates the importance of a permanent debating forum for the issues associated with chidren's rights in both a national and international dimension. Last year’s annual meeting was held in my capital – Warsaw. It was devoted to discussion and knowledge sharing with children themselves participating and being involved in the decision-making processes where matters affected them. We addressed the rights of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin, including refugees and asylum seekers. The issue of victims of child trafficking was also high on our agenda.
It was important last year to discuss the most effective way to inaugurate new independent institutions in other countries which protect children's rights.
Both the experiences of ENOC and my own in Poland of building up the office of the Ombudsman for Children show that a guarantee of independence from the administrative authorities is essential.
Looking to the future, ENOC is in the process of setting up a central secretariat which will provide all of our members easy access to information and we will share knowledge of our experiences and achievements throughout Europe and one day, hopefully, around our world.
Mexico thanks the Council of Europe for this invitation to participate in one of their conferences for the first time, and present the “Mexican experience on the protection of minors and families”.
As you know, we are a democratic and federal country consisting of 32 autonomous states, inhabited by 103 million people.
It is an honour to lead the National Agency for Family Development, which is the national institution responsible for public policies that aim to promote family and community integral development, fight the causes and effects of vulnerability, and generate social capital.
In 2004, we carried out a study of the Mexican family to learn about the nature of its composition with a view to designing appropriate public policies.
More than 60 government and academic institutions, researchers and members of civil society participated in this research, which was a successful experience of co-ordination and connection among institutions. Results reveal that Mexico is a country of families. We have 20.6 million families, an equivalent of 96% of our population. One home is inhabited by several generations: children, parents, brothers and sisters, all live together.
More than 80% of the population state that they consider the family the most important value in their lives. We can say that we are a country of people that live in the family. We are also a country of young people: children and adolescents under 18 compose more than 42% of the population. This is why the government has made childhood a priority issue, and has signed the international UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Our President, Vicente Fox Quesada, and his government support the National Development Plan, which focuses on the importance of childhood and encourage us to create the conditions needed for our children to develop in a physically- and emotionally-secure environment that will guarantee their well-being, education, health and fairness.
In addition, in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly for Childhood, Mexico joined the 2002-10 Inter-institutional Action Programme, and has integrated its principles and actions into government structures in an effort to build a country appropriate for the development of children and adolescents.
We have the same border problems as other nations: our northern neighbours are the United States of America and to the south we have Belize and Guatemala. We have migration problems brought on by people seeking jobs. We acknowledge that we are a country from which people migrate. In light of this, we not only take steps to protect our Mexican children, we also provide care for the children of migrants who are in transit through our territory.
Migration is a phenomenon that lacerates and hurts because it directly affects families, causing their disintegration, and thereby provokes the abandonment of a great number of children and adolescents, leaving them in a vulnerable and risky situation – open to abuse and even to trade. Mexico is paying special attention to this problem and is introducing a programme for migrant children, either from Mexico or from a foreign country, providing care and attention until the children concerned are returned to their family. We also provide legal advice to defend their rights.
The problems affecting our nation are those affecting the world in general. We have not escaped conflicts generated by unemployment, drugs and demographical growth.
Modernisation and globalisation have led to progress, but also to problems such as pornography networks. We acknowledge that media and cybernetic advances are essential tools for development and for the preventing criminal acts. However, they are also instruments used to commit illicit acts and set up organised crime networks abusing the weak.
To combat this problem, in observance of the 1996 agreements of the World Congress of Stockholm and the 2001 agreements of Yokohama, Mexico has elaborated the “National action plan for prevention, attention and eradication of commercial sexual exploitation of children”. The aim of the action plan is to implement prevention policies and policies to care for and protect children or adolescents and their families that have been or are in danger of sexual abuse.
Concerning the legal framework, we travel to numerous cities to encourage local legislators to undertake legal reforms, increase punishment for sexual offences, broaden the list of illegal offences for acts committed against minors, increase the development of professional institutions to deal with the defence of minors and families, in order to improve the application of the law.
We consider that a family approach is very important: we seek to re-establish the family as the social nucleus where individuals can grow and develop. We believe that the most important values of mankind reside within the family: honesty, respect, ethics, and solidarity. It is also the family that transmits culture, language and traditions. We seek to re-establish its importance in strengthening both individuals and society.
Working with families can help prevent psycho-social disorders, and help form citizens to be responsible for themselves and their community. The family is the basic support unit during childhood and an ally in prevention.
On the other hand, the phenomenon of child sexual exploitation is an extreme abuse of power of the weakest and most helpless human beings.
Mexico is convinced that in order to prevent and combat child abuse we must work on issues such as education and the defence of children’s rights. Since 2002, Mexico has focused on stimulating child participation by disseminating and promoting knowledge of children’s rights.
We would like to share our experience of the National Network of Children Promoters with you. These are children and young people, ages 10 to 17, that promote children’s rights within their communities.
Promoter children set up projects and then invite other children to join them, and together they decide on actions to take, according to their needs, desires and worries, adapting these to their social, historical and cultural environment in order to promote and enable them to claim their rights.
Through the National Network of Child Promoters and the Family and Community Perspective, we are developing instruments to build a better country by creating participation spaces and defending children’s rights, for the full development of childhood.
However, no country’s efforts are enough if these are unilateral. That is why we call for international collaboration to defend our children wherever they may be.
Mexico like many other nations wants to share its experiences.
To focus effectively on vulnerable children, it is crucial that prevention efforts use a family and community approach.
It is important to strengthen legal frameworks and ensure that every person in every country observe the law, as well as to intensify and promote international co-operation in this interdependent world to defend children from all kinds of abuse or exploitation wherever they may be, because the future of humanity depends upon them.
We should turn our attention towards families: it is there that we find our roots and it is there that we will find the answer to our questions.
We believe the essence is at the origin. That origin is in the family, in the coexistence of people who create social capital and human values that go far beyond contact with instruments and technologies.
Under the present government, we have been able to change from a unilateral assistance system to a system of joint social responsibility, emphasising planning that includes a family and community perspective, with the participation of children and families in order to defend their rights.
We have clear objectives and we know that our greatest asset is our families. The greatest ally of those in vulnerable situations is a family structure upon which to lean.
Let’s tackle our barriers – those walls impeding communication with our children and young people!
It is time to build bridges, to join our ideas and concepts so that we all work together in harmony among nations to build a world free of violence!
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the almost universally ratified human rights treaty. Violence against children is the universally practised violation of the rights of the child. It is not only a violation of all the provisions of the CRC that provide the child with the right to be protected from abuse, maltreatment, and sexual, economic and other forms of exploitation (Articles 19, 32-38), but also of many other provisions. Violence against a child has a negative, often detrimental impact on her or his enjoyment of: the right to be cared for in her or his family or in an alternative form of care (foster care, institutions); the right to the highest attainable standard of health (Article 24), the right to education and the realisation of the aims of education (Articles 28,29), the right to freedom of expression (Article 13); the right to engage in play, recreational and cultural activities (Article 31); and for children in conflict with the law, the right to be treated in a manner consistent with her or his sense of dignity and worth and which reinforces her or his respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others (Article 40).
More than enough reasons for the CRC Committee to devote two of its annual days of general discussion to violence against children (2000, 2001) and to recommend that the United Nations General Assembly request the Secretary General to undertake a study on violence against children (see Article 45c). This study has been carried out over the past two years and has generated considerable momentum via regional consultations with significant participation of children and young people, and via a questionnaire meant to collect information from UN member states and which has been responded to by more than 130 governments. An unprecedented response in the UN indicating the interest of its member states and their willingness to address violence against children as an important social problem.
The study will be completed at the end of 2006 with a report to the UN General Assembly that will contain not only an analytical assessment of the various aspects of violence against children and the different settings in which this violence takes place, but more importantly, a set of concrete recommendations with (I hope) time-bound targets where appropriate. Of course, I cannot present these recommendations today. It is Mr Pinheiro’s responsibility to decide on the content of these recommendations. But as requested, I will give you some of my thoughts on priorities in our efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against children and the possibilities of co-ordinating these efforts.
It is impossible to give a full picture of all the actions that should and could be undertaken. One can find this for example in Act Now! Regional consultation for the UN Study on Violence against Children, the report on the consultation which took place in Ljubljana on 5-7 July 2005 for Europe and Central Asia.
Before presenting some of the priorities as I see them and which are also based on the CRC Committee’s Concluding Observations, I would like to make some introductory remarks.
There has been an impressive body of resolutions and recommendations adopted by the Committee of Ministers and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe over the past 25 years on various aspects of violence against children. (1)
The most recent product in this regard is the action programme “Children and violence”, initiated in the wake of the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe. This conference is meant to launch the effective implementation of this action programme, inter alia, by breaking down the wall of silence surrounding violence against children with a focus on sexual abuse and corporal punishment. But given the information (in the background document for this conference) that fighting sexual abuse of children has been a priority of the Council of Europe over the past ten years, one wonders why, still today, we are trying to break the wall of silence surrounding this form of violence against children.
What I am missing after 25 years of resolutions and recommendations is a sense of urgency expressed in concrete and time-bound targets of action. The recent action programme “Violence and children” is again another well-appreciated expression of commitments, but again without the urgency needed to make real progress in the prevention and elimination of violence against children.
We already have enough knowledge and experience to allow us to identify priorities at the national and/or international level. But the real challenge is to combine these priorities with reasonable but concrete time-bound targets. This would create the necessary sense of urgency and allow us to systematically measure the (lack of) progress made.
Priorities and co-ordinated efforts
It is not easy to identify priorities that apply to all UN members and states parties to the CRC. Per country priorities may differ depending on which form of violence is perceived as the most serious one, while at the same time political will and available resources are also important factors in this regard. But it should be safe to assume that every state in the world would subscribe to one overarching principle: all forms of violence against children are unacceptable from a human rights perspective (and in my opinion from all other perspectives) and that violence should be prevented, reduced and eliminated.
So priorities one through five are prevention, prevention, prevention, prevention and prevention.
These priorities require the creation and maintenance of a non-violent culture when it comes to the upbringing and treatment of children. Violent behaviour against children is as unacceptable as it is when perpetrated against any other human being.
To create this culture, various measures are needed. Let me just mention some of the key measures.
Confirm the international norm that violence against children is a serious violation of their rights by introducing and enforcing prohibition by law of all forms of violence against children. This may require strengthening the provisions that criminalise assault (provisions that exist in every criminal code) and/or a specific norm-setting provision in civil law (for example in the section on parental responsibilities and rights). It may require specific provisions in, for example, education law, labour law and the law(s) regulating care in institutions. I am aware of the fact that in many (European and other) countries the prohibition of violence against children in the family is a particular problem because it has to include the prohibition of corporal punishment. A recent survey shows that out of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, 16 have a straight and full prohibition of all forms of violence against children (including corporal punishment). But more than 15 member states still lack firm prohibition of all forms of violence against children in care institutions. In addition, 30 member states have not prohibited violence against children in the family. With reference to what I said before, it is time to set concrete and time-bound targets. Let me suggest to the Council of Europe (and the European Union) the following targets:
· by the end of 2010, all member states of the Council of Europe will have enacted the necessary legal provisions containing a full prohibition of violence against children in schools, care institutions, the workplace and juvenile justice practice;
· by the end of 2012, all member states of the Council of Europe will have enacted legal provisions on violence against children – including corporal punishment – in the family setting.
These legal provisions and their enactment must go hand in hand with the following measures:
· awareness-raising and educational campaigns, which are needed not as one time events, but as ongoing measures directed at the public at large, with a special focus on parents and children, and all professionals working with and for children;
· professionals working with children should be taught, as part of the regular curriculum of their education, the importance of non-violent behaviour towards children and how it can be practised in various settings. In addition, ongoing in-service training is required to maintain the non-violent approach of staff.
All these measures should be developed in close consultation with children themselves, parents, professionals and where applicable, traditional and/or religious leaders.
Finally, in this regard, some remarks about enforcing the prohibition of violence against children. The first and most important enforcement instruments are awareness-raising, education and training measures. Other measures to enforce prohibition are disciplinary measures, for example in school and institutional settings, and ultimately and when necessary, prosecution. The suggestion that prohibiting of all forms of violence against children, including corporal punishment, will result in the imprisonment of many parents is wrong and is most likely meant to make the public afraid of the consequences of such prohibition.
In most if not all countries around the world, prosecution authorities have the power (subject to certain conditions and/or limitations) not to prosecute very minor offences. In other words, it is very unlikely that a parent who gives a child a slap on the buttocks will face prosecution.
Prosecution should be an ultimate remedy to be used in more serious cases of violence against children. In that regard, the non-violence norm means that parents and other caretakers will no longer be able to hide behind their right to use “reasonable chastisement” in the upbringing of their children.
Intervention is the other major area where specific actions are necessary and priorities should be set. Every child who is a victim of abuse, exploitation or any other form of violence is entitled under the CRC to the most effective forms of protection. This requires immediate action as soon as such an incident occurs or if there is suspicion that it has occurred, in order to provide the child with the support, treatment and counselling he or she may need, and to prevent further violent acts.
States parties to the CRC and other members of the United Nations should, with reference to Article 19 of the CRC, develop and implement an effective system of reporting, referral, investigation treatment and follow-up to all instances of violence against children. Let me identify some of the measures that should be taken as a matter of priority in general and for each of the settings in which such violence may occur.
· establish a national toll-free child help line to allow children to talk about and report violence they have been subject to in the home, in institutions, in the workplace or elsewhere. Make this help line known to children via flyers, posters, radio and TV. Make sure that the help line is staffed with well-trained professionals and volunteers, and that children’s complaints can be referred when necessary to services able to provide support and intervention. Experience has shown that help lines can be a good starting point for appropriate actions dealing with violence against children. The CRC Committee regularly recommends that states parties set them up and a growing number of states has done so already or are in the process. All Council of Europe member states (and the EU) should have operational help lines in place (with the necessary support from governments and (private) telephone companies) by 2012. In this regard, I would like to refer to the European Union plan mentioned yesterday by Mr Trousson to establish special help lines in all EU states, using the number 116 plus an extra digit for special categories. I urge the EU to give the highest priority to child help lines. So far, experience has shown that help lines set up exclusively for children are the most effective.
· develop and implement an effective reporting system for all professionals working with and for children. This could be a system of mandatory reporting based on law as is the case in the United States of America, Australia, Canada and some European countries. It can be a semi-mandatory or voluntary system based on codes of conduct for professionals. But in both systems, the failure to report should have consequences, such as disciplinary measures or when appropriate, civil lawsuits or prosecution. An important element of both systems should be a rule that professionals who report in good faith will be protected from legal action. The effectiveness of this type of system would be enhanced if reports were to be received by a service established for that purpose, and which had the power to investigate reports and take the necessary measures to provide a child and when applicable her or his family with any needed treatment and support, and prevent further abuse/violence.
· an effective reporting system, with the necessary legal provisions and the establishment of a service (or: designating one of the existing services) to receive and investigate reports on violence against children should be realised in all member states by 2012.
In the home:
· develop and implement rules that allow for the removal of the perpetrator instead of placing the child in an institution or other form of alternative care, which in fact means that the child is further traumatised;
· introduce, particularly in cases of sexual abuse, procedures for intervention which allow the child to provide information to the investigating officers in a manner that protects the child’s privacy and prevents further traumatism (video/audio taped interviews by well-trained interviewers; avoid court hearings when possible or establish hearing practice in separate audio-linked court rooms).
· allow children in institutions to file violence complaints with an independent body that is empowered to fully investigate such complaints and to make binding decisions. Make sure that the filing of a complaint has no negative consequences for the child concerned.
· ensure independent inspections of institutions with the possibility to make unannounced visits. Inspectors should have the right to interview children with a guarantee of confidentiality/privacy.
In the workplace:
· make sure that labour inspectors are well trained to inspect locations where child labour occurs, in particular in the informal sector. Facilitate and encourage unannounced visits and allow children to file complaints with the labour inspector (posters, toll-free telephone numbers and so forth ).
In the community:
· establish and enforce specific rules for police officers and other authorities in charge of maintaining public order with a view to preventing all forms of violent behaviour, in particular against street children and children arrested because they are (allegedly) in conflict with the law. These rules should not only apply to the arrest but also to interrogation and pre-trial detention at police stations or other detention centres (see also institutions).
There are most likely more and other measures that should be taken (such as for violence in schools) and some of the measures identified as priorities for the home, institutions, the workplace and the community have already been taken in some member states of the Council of Europe. But all these measures should be enacted and implemented in all member states by the end of 2012.
Co-ordinated efforts/national policies
All these priorities and the many other measures that should be taken to prevent and combat violence require a co-ordinated policy and practice involving all relevant governmental and other bodies (for example NGOs).
If each state is to develop and implement a comprehensive national policy with, where possible, time-bound targets, implementation requires well-co-ordinated efforts of all relevant governmental bodies: UN agencies such as Unicef (when applicable) and NGOs. At the same time, ongoing efforts should be made to have the best possible involvement of children and their parents.
But establishing such a policy cannot be an excuse to suspend all actions aiming at the prevention of violence against children. It should go hand in hand with the implementation of measures that should be considered as priority measures, some of which I have already suggested.
The study on violence should have a lasting impact on the policies and practices of all UN members/states parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This requires a full commitment to implement the recommendations that will be presented in the report to the General Assembly at the end of 2006. But the reality of the matter is that a commitment expressed in the General Assembly is not a guarantee that it will be adequately translated into concrete, time-bound actions at national level.
It is therefore essential that members of parliaments, NGOs and other members of civil society take all possible measures to help governments meet their commitments. But reality also tells us that in some states parliaments have either limited power or lack the political will required and that NGOs hardly exist and/or lack the capacity to be as effective as they would like to be.
In addition to the emphasis that should be placed on national actions, it is equally important that the UN General Assembly request the Secretary General to appoint a special representative for the prevention of violence against children for a minimum period of five years. Without such a representative, it is very likely that in many states the report on the UN Study on Violence against Children, and in particular the recommendations it contains, will gather dust somewhere on governmental desks. The representative should report annually on progress made and the obstacles remaining to the General Assembly and to the new Council on Human Rights.
In this regard, I would like to suggest that this UN Representative be supported by regional special representatives. The Council of Europe could take the lead in this respect. The Council should appoint a clearly mandated special representative/rapporteur (even if the UN does not agree on the appointment of a UN special representative) for the period 2007-12. The core task of the rapporteur should be to monitor, promote and support the recommendations of the UN Study in the member states of the Council of Europe. And, if the Council of Europe is willing to add some time-bound targets (as I suggested) to the recommendations of the UN study, the Council of Europe special rapporteur should report annually on the progress made in that regard. I strongly recommend that the Council of Europe and the European Union co-operate closely and co-ordinate their efforts to prevent and eliminate all violence against children.
A sense of urgency is reflected in the slogan of the Ljubljana consultation “Act now!” Concrete and time-bound actions are urgently needed if we really want to create a world fit for children.
By the way, it will be a world fit for adults as well.
Notes and recommended reading
1. See for an overview: Council of Europe Actions to promote children’s rights to protection from all forms of violence. Unicef Innocenti Research Centre, 2005.
2. See Ending legalised violence against children. Report for Europe and Central Asia. Report prepared by the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children.
Dans quelques mois nous célébrerons le 15ème anniversaire de la Convention des Droits de l’Enfant, des Nations Unies.
Il s’agit d’un texte majeur qui a fait l’objet de la ratification la plus large. Les droits de l’enfant constituent pour ainsi dire une loi universelle.
Il est temps de s’interroger et de faire un bilan en ce domaine.
Vu sous l’angle international la situation des enfants dans le monde est marqué par le paradoxe.
Si d’un côté leurs droits sont désormais reconnus par la Convention, de l’autre, l’actualité proche ou lointaine nous montre qu’ils peuvent être les premières victimes de toutes les formes d’exploitation et de violence.
On ne peut pas se conformer.
Aucune société démocratique qui se réclame des valeurs et des principes fondamentaux, tel que le respect pour les Droits de l’Homme, ne peut tolérer la violation des droits de leurs citoyens les plus vulnérables – les enfants.
Que faisons-nous pour que chaque enfant puisse s’épanouir? En quoi et comment pouvons-nous mieux le faire? Toute société, tous les adultes, tous les gouvernements, tous les responsables, pourront se poser la question.
Le Portugal d’aujourd’hui se pose aussi ces questions et le débat sur ce sujet dans notre société est à l’ordre du jour.
Pour le Gouvernement actuel la promotion et la mise en œuvre des droits de l’enfant fait rang de priorité politique.
C’est urgent pour nous d’établir une liaison effective entre la loi et la réalité.
Le temps des enfants passe très vite.
Réaliser les droits de l’enfant exige une politique dynamique, proactive, que puisse s’anticiper et pas seulement chercher à répondre aux situations déjà installées ou d’urgence.
Cela demande en premier lieu une action coordonnée, intégrant plusieurs dimensions: légale, sociale, économique, éducative et culturelle en vue de l’épanouissement de l’enfant.
Nous sommes engagés à construire une société en faveur des enfants, fondée sur leurs droits, leur participation et aussi respectueuse des responsabilités parentales de leur famille.
Bref, une société qui reconnaît pour chaque enfant le statut de «l’Enfant Citoyen».
Le Gouvernement du Portugal reconnaît de même le rôle fondamental de la famille et vient de poursuivre une stratégie globale, transversale presque à tous les domaines de la gouvernance, notamment ceux qui concernent l’éducation des enfants et le soutien au développement de la parentalité positive.
C’est dans ce cadre que mon Gouvernement accorde une très grande importance à la XXVIII Conférence des Ministres Européens Chargés des Affaires de la Famille, sur le thème «Evolution de la Parentalité: les Enfants d’Aujourd’hui, des Parents Demain», qui aura lieu a Lisbonne, le 16 et le17 mai prochains.
Nous sommes total et inconditionnellement engagés á l’organisation de cette Conférence, car nous sommes conscients de la responsabilité et du rôle que les États Européens détiennent, en collaboration avec le Conseil de l’Europe, à promouvoir les débats et l’échange de bonnes pratiques sur le rôle des parents et les droits de leurs enfants, dans une Europe qui change chaque jour.
Au delà de l’intérêt du thème, ma présence et ma participation à cette Conférence, à Monaco, en tant que responsable de la politique en faveur de l’enfance, en témoigne.
Donc, dans le cadre de cette réunion, il me paraît essentiel de faire connaître en quelques mots, les lignes de force des actions et des mesures qui sont actuellement conduites au Portugal.
D’abord il faut dire que nous venons de faire une très grande réforme du droit des mineurs.
La réforme qui a eu lieu depuis 2001 est basée sur trois axes :
· Les enfants sont des acteurs sociaux dont l’empowerment est indispensable á la construction de la société et de la cohésion sociale.
· L’État et la communauté ont le devoir d’assurer à tous les enfants leur épanouissement íntégral.
· C’est aussi indispensable une nouvelle relation de partenariat État/communauté qui puisse s’inspirer de la responsabilité sociale et de la solidarité.
Dix grands principes régissent la loi de Promotion des Droits et de Protection des Enfant en Danger qui représente «un nouveau regard sur l’enfant et un droit nouveau».
· Respecter l’universalité des droits de l’enfant,
· Respecter l’identité de l’enfant,
· Respecter la parole de l’enfant,
· Respecter la participation des parents
· Respecter l’histoire et les droits des parents,
· Responsabiliser les parents,
· Poursuivre une approche multidisciplinaire au niveau de l’administration centrale et locale aussi bien qu’au niveau communautaire,
· Mobiliser la participation de la communauté,
· Intervenir très précocement en ce qui concerne les enfants handicapés,
· Renforcer les ressources.
Depuis un an de la gouvernance nous sommes engagées à faire respecter ces principes et à promouvoir, avant tout, de manière effective la protection des enfants en danger conformément aux obligations de la Convention des Nations Unies.
Nous décidons de lancer un programme d’action quadriennal concernant des stratégies et des mesures au niveau des dimensions: sociale, juridique, éducationnelle et de santé, aussi bien que des mesures pour combattre les différentes formes de violence à l’égard des enfants.
Dans ce contexte je peux signaler quelques initiatives qui ont un double objective:
i) en premier, mettre en place les droits civils, sociaux, éducatifs et ceux qui relève des soins de santé des enfants, de leur naissance à l’âge adulte;
ii) d’autre part favoriser le rôle des parents en conciliant vie familiale et vie professionnelle.
iii) Et encore une initiative pour faire connaître les droits des enfants, aux enfants et à toute la communauté, avec leur participation, en développement par les responsables politiques de la Sécurité Sociale, Education, Jeunesse et Culture.
C’est le cas des initiatives telles que: i) naître citoyen, programme d’intervention précoce aussi fondamental pour soutenir les familles ii) le programme qui vise aboutir à un haut niveau de qualité aux services destinés aux tout-petits, que ce soit dans les crèches ou chez des assistantes maternelles agréées, iii) le renforcement du réseaux des jardins d’enfants, iv) l’école des parents, pour ne citer que quelques mesures en cours.
Je souhaiterai témoigner de l’importance que Portugal accorde à la participation de la communauté dans le développement des politiques en faveur de l’enfance.
Dans ce champ la priorité immédiate concerne l’organisation et le renforcement de l’intervention des Commissions de Protections d’Enfants et de Jeunes, qui sont des structures locaux au niveau de la municipalité.
Il s’agit des locales officielles, non judiciaires, basées sur un partenariat local, impliquant de façon pluridisciplinaire, les organismes et les institutions publics et privés, notamment les ONG qui interviennent dans chaque commune dans le domaine de la protection de l’enfant, ainsi que la participation active de la communauté, des parents, et des jeunes eux même.
Ces Commissions jouent un rôle très important dans le champ de la prévention de facteurs de risque et donnent aussi des réponses aux situations installées des enfants en danger.
D’autre part elles s’affirment comme des forums locaux, mobilisateurs de la communauté à l’universalité des droits de l’enfant, en permettant aussi le suivi de la mise en pratique, locale, de la Convention des Nations Unies.
Cette politique et ce plan, sans prétendre encore à la perfection, visent à donner effectivement aux enfants les droits par lesquels nous avons pris un engagement solennel, conformément à la Convention, et que sommes en train de valoriser et de renforcer.
Pour cela et surtout pour nos enfants notre détermination et notre engagement sont effectifs, comme, je suis sure, seront l’engagement de tous les participants à cette conférence de Monaco.
Je conclus en vous invitant à Lisbonne oú j’espère vous accueillir le 16 et le 17 mai prochaine.
The time has come to move from rhetoric to enforcement. Violence against children must be stopped.