The Council of Europe hosted its first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Rights of the Child (CAHENF) on 28-29 September in Strasbourg with participants from 37 Member States, as well as Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, and Maud de Boer de Buiquiero, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and various international INGOs and NGO, including Eurochild.
Two working groups, including the opportunity for the involvement of civil society will be established to work on realising rights of children seeking asylum, and protecting children in the digital environment. Greater participation of children in the different working groups and committees is also expected.
CAHENF is set up by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to support the implementation of the new Strategy on Children’s Rights (2016-2021). Deputy Secretary-General Ms Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni mentioned that the previous child rights strategies have mainstreamed children’s rights throughout the organisation and has driven changes in different aspects of children’s rights, including children’s participation, violence and health care.
The Member States shared their three key achievements of the past half year and current key challenges for children’s rights. These will be shared next week.
The evaluation of the conference launch of the Child Rights Strategy showed that the child and young speakers were rated as the best. The Member State delegates all appreciated the participation of children and young people and agreed that this should be continued in the activities and work of the Council of Europe.
Eurochild and National Network for Children, Bulgaria were thanked for the organisation of the involvement of children and young people. It was the first time that children and young people were given the space to offer their own input and decide how they wanted to report back on the different working sessions – which worked out very well. Mieke Schuurman represented Eurochild and presented what it means to do meaningful children’s participation by sharing practical experiences, including the organisation of its conference in July 2016 with and for children, which was warmly received by the delegates.
Certain key issues raised around children’s participation by the Member State representatives included the selection process of children, the need to involve children in vulnerable situations and language barriers. Two rapporteurs were appointed from Bulgaria and Iceland with the task to develop proposals for CAHENF on child participation and to ensure children’s participation will be integrated in the other CAHENF working groups (refugees and digital environment) and committees.
The Council of Europe is providing accessible information through its child-friendly webpages in the different languages of the Council of Europe and with a child-friendly version of the Strategy on the Rights of the Child.
The meeting focused on two themes: migration and refugees, and the digital environment.
Tomáš Boček: ‘If we fail to act now, we will be held accountable by future generations.’ Marta Santos Pais: ‘There is no second chance for these children’.
Civil society will be invited to join a working group (CAHENF – Safeguards) to support and give input to the Action Plan on unaccompanied and other children affected by the migration and refugee crisis. The key issues to be discussed by CAHENF in relation to the refugee crisis are guardianship of children, age assessment and the need to end detention of asylum seeking children. The Action Plan is aimed to be ready for adoption by the Committee of Ministers by the end of 2017.
The theme of the digital environment was discussed on the basis of a presentation of a background paper ‘Policy guidance on empowering, protecting and supporting children in the digital environment’, which made clear links with the UNCRC.
A drafting committee will be formed to develop Guidelines on children’s right in the digital environment to which children and civil society can also contribute and a CAHENF working group on digital education (CAHENF – IT) will be set up.
The Ad Hoc Committee will next meet on 29-30 March 2017 (TBC) in Strasbourg. Eurochild aims to actively support the implementation of the new Strategy on the Rights of the Child and engage its members to ensure policies reflect the challenges on the ground.