Eurochild conference Declaration delivered by young people

Categories: Best interests of the child and Respect for the views of the child

12th July 2016

From July 5-7th 2016, the children's rights community in Europe gathered in Brussels to answer the question "Why Europe needs to invest in children". From this conference, children and young people have published a declaration entitled "Doers should start speaking, speakers should start doing".

The Eurochild conference 'Children's Rights Matter: Why Europe needs to invest in children', aimed to take stock of progress, address on-going challenges, share good practice, and bring together different perspectives of UNCRC implementation. Not only policy makers, professionals working with children and politicians, but children and young people themselves were actively involved in this event, which was held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen of the Belgians.

Children, ages 12+, were involved in the design, organisation and implementation of the conference. Children and adults worked together jointly during this conference as chairs, speakers, facilitators and rapporteurs. There were over 270 participants who attended including 60 children, 34 country representatives, 15 workshops and 14 study visits.

Most importantly, a declaration delivered by the children and young people was presented to leaders and public officials. "Doers should start speaking, speakers should start doing" was drafted by a team of young people with input from the conference participants. It demands European governments, Members of the European Parliament and individuals to invest in children through 4 specific ways:

  • Involve children and young people in decision making; making it a requirement in all EU countries and those wanting to join the EU;
  • Monitor and report on how public money is spent on children, and allow children to engage in budget planning;
  • Develop rights training with children and offer every child a children's rights passport to inform them of their rights; and
  • Integrate refugee children and those affected by migration; ensure they receive equal protection and access to their right to grow up in a safe environment, ideally with their own family.
  • Read the young people's Declaration here.

 

Public officials then responded:

Elke Sleurs, Belgium State Secretary for Combating Poverty, for Equal Opportunities, for Disabled People, for Science Policy:

"We must realize that we're not talking about 'children in poverty', but rather 'families with children in poverty'. We therefore have to break the cycle of poverty. If not, the children are liable to spend the rest of their lives at a disadvantage. Through the lack of education, people find it difficult to find work, continue to live in unhealthy conditions, risk to get exposed to drugs, etc. We must prevent this happening at all costs. We do this by drawing up a national child poverty plan, for which all existing services and all political levels are mobilised."

Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:

"Investing in children as early as possible is one of the best and most valuable long-term investments we can make in Europe. This is particularly true for the 25 million children living at risk of poverty, and the thousands of refugee children or children in institutional care in the European Union. The Commission has made €10 billion available to spend on children and supports Member States in their actions to prevent poverty, move away from institutionalisation and make sure all children can benefit from quality services and promote children's rights to participate in society."

Council of Europe:

"Cutting social benefits, family support, spending on schools, tax benefits for families, in order to balance the states' books or save big banks is a dead-end scenario. Salvaging the economy and pursuing long-term goals may take years, and children are living their lives now. The return on investment into children's rights by far overweighs the potential costs of fixing in future what has gone wrong. So, it is not only socially, but also economically beneficial to invest into children," said Gianluca Esposito, Head of Equality and Human Dignity Department of the Council of Europe.

EU Fundamental Rights Agency:

"We have an obligation to honour our human rights commitments and fulfil children's rights. This includes implementing the European Commission's recommendation on investing in children and building an integrated child protection safety net, especially for those children most at risk: when they cross the seas to find refuge from war, when they find themselves alone in the streets, when they are exploited or abused. Our Agency will continue to assist the EU's institutions and Member States with robust, evidence based expertise to support them in taking more effective measures to tackle child poverty and protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse." Ioannis Dimitrikapoulos, Head of Equality and Citizens' Rights Department, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

More materials from the conference will be published via Eurochild's website.

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