EUROPEAN NETWORK OF OMBUDSPERSONS FOR CHILDREN (ENOC) REPORT OF THE 9TH ANNUAL MEETING WARSAW, POLAND, 21 - 23 SEPTEMBER 2005 ENOC Annual Meeting Warsaw, 21-23 September 2005 Introduction The ENOC Annual Meeting took place on 21-23 September 2005, and was hosted by the Ombudsman for Children in Poland, Pawel Jaros, and his team. There were 59 participants at the meeting, including 25 from various Ombudsperson‟s Offices (covering 22 countries) and 16 observers (see list of participants in Annex 4). The meeting was opened by Pawel Jaros, who welcomed all participants to Poland. A welcome address was given by Stanislaw Trociuk, Deputy Commissioner for Civil Right Protection in Poland, who expressed his satisfaction on the fruitful cooperation between the Polish Ombudsman and his office in the advocacy of child rights within the family environment. The ENOC activities update was presented by Rhian Davis, Assistant Commissioner for Wales on behalf of Peter Clarke. Ms. Davis reported the major activities and initiatives undertaken by the Chairperson on behalf of ENOC (see Annex 1). An official letter to request funding for a permanent Secretariat for ENOC was send to the European Commission. However, despite all efforts a reply is still pending. Ms. Davis also mentioned that the Chairperson presented and represented ENOC at the UN Regional Consultation in Slovenia, and noted that several governments have contacted ENOC with regard to establishing an Ombudsperson‟s office in their countries. Ms. Davis concluded by expressing her particular appreciation for Lesley Miller‟s tremendous support and encouragement to the Network providing the Secretariat on behalf of UNICEF since the first meeting in Trondheim in 1997; Lesley has left to take up a post in Cambodia and is replaced by Caroline Bakker. Country Updates Each office gave a brief update outlining the past year‟s major achievements, initiatives, and events (see country updates in Annex 2). Session on Preventing Family Separation: Strengthening Children’s Right to Protection Within the framework of the Committee on the Rights of the Child‟s 2005 General Discussion Day on “Children without Parental Care”, ENOC organised a thematic session on necessary measures to support families and to ensure children‟s rights to remain in their family environment. Ms. Carmen Gonzales, Deputy Ombudsperson of Madrid, Spain, spoke on preventing the separation of children from their families before, and during, as well as after separation (see annex 3). She began by stating that the family is the fundamental group of society and provides the natural environment for the growth and well-being of its members, particularly children. She stressed the importance of efforts to ensure that children remain with their parents and suggested that assistance should be provided to families that require it in order to keep their own children. She emphasized that the close coordination between the different offices involved with assisting children in the case of a separation from the family was of utmost importance. Common criteria for the children before, during, and after separation should be developed respecting the best interest of the child as well as the views of the concerned child. Ms. Gonzales finalised her presentation by presenting statistical information on the child care situation in Spain and indicating that a significant number of children without parental care live in foster care, with the remaining children living in residential care. The second presentation was made by Professor Józefina Hrynkiewicz of Warsaw University. She gave an overview of legal and social measures related to the care of children in Poland. She noted that ILO labour conventions contributed to the strengthening of the rights of the family and formed the framework for social and family policies. Poland incorporated these international directions into its constitution, including family benefits and support. Professor Hrynkiewicz noted, however, that the financial benefits provided to unemployed families are not sufficient to alleviate the financial burden that the care and upbringing of children can and does represent. The protection of children against violence, abuse, and exploitation is reflected in other legislation. She mentioned that family support, and support via protection centres, education, sports, and recreation, to disabled persons, and children without parental care were decentralised to the local level. Children living with their families also includes children living with their grand-parents. Professor Hrynkiewicz noted that in Poland there is a lack of awareness for the provision of appropriate care to children in the family and that there are not sufficient activities undertaken to prevent children being separated from their families. Foster care and the conditions of that care are administered by the family court and should be similar to the care that might/should have been provided by the child‟s family. Support and assistance to the foster family is provided to meet these requirements. Mr. Miroslaw Kaczmarek of the Ombudsman‟s Bureau in Poland presented his assessment of the right of the child to care. He began by stating that the child has the right to stay within his/her family and that alternative care should be based on the best interests of the child, keeping in mind the emotional, social, and physical development of the child. Based on the analysis of the current care system for children, he recommended that change or reform should take place with the aim of encouraging further reintegration of children into their natural families, and to shift the emphasis of child care away from institutions. Such reform should also be combined with adequate support and assistance to families. Mr. Kaczmarek concluded by advocating the importance of a systematic approach to child care, and the need for alternative forms of care, such as foster families and small-scale family-based care. During the plenary discussion several countries highlighted the specific situations in their respective countries, reasons for the separation of children from their families, and measures to be undertaken so as to assist families, whether or not children were to be separated. Common issues raised were poverty, unemployment, addiction to alcohol and drugs and migration. On the issue of whether or not to separate a child from his/her family, it was agreed that this should be determined by the best interests of the child and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Several representatives emphasized the need to provide support and assistance to families through counselling, mediation, family therapy or mentoring, and financial support. A focus on the role of the family instead of the right of the family was seen as an important component in the prevention of child-family separation. Results of Working Groups on Preventing Family Separation A working group session was held on the prevention of child-family separation, which sought to formulate effective strategies to address issues outlined by the various Ombudspersons‟ offices, as well as a collective ENOC response. The ombudspersons outlined the following key issues: Deficiency of provisions and inability of social services to cope with present needs Insufficient numbers of foster families Use of crisis management instead of prevention and early intervention Conflicts between practice and policy Insufficient quantity and ineffective quality of care Lack of reintegration of the child into the family where possible Lack of taking into account the child‟s opinion and perspective Decisions taken on children that are not in the best interests of the child (professionals not consulted in court procedures) Delays in the decision-making process Child-family separation without preparation of the child Conflicts between biological and foster families Lack of regular contact with biological parent(s) Prevalence of violence against children by care providers Different strategies were used and proposed to address the issues encountered. These varied from awareness-raising and lobbying for policy and legislative development to the monitoring, review, and development of legislation; the development of a national programme and plan for the support of children; adequate preparation for the child; sharing good practices; the training of social workers, court workers, and others involved with child care cases; the establishment of „half-way‟ homes; and the involvement of youth organisations. Concerning a collective ENOC response, it was suggested that ENOC could develop and set standards for proceedings related to child care; help in the sharing of good practices and in the cross-country coordination of migration cases; draft a declaration or resolution (for approval at next annual meeting); publish important information on the Internet and/or submit such information to the Council of Europe; and stress the participation of children in decision- making processes related to care issues. Session on examples of prevention activities The session on preventing family separation continued with two presentations on examples of current prevention activities in Poland. Ms Joanna Kluuzik-Rostkowska, President of Warsaw‟s Proxy for Women and Family, gave an overview of the municipal policy with respect to children and families. She mentioned that a website for women, children, and families has been established to provide information on municipal programmes for these groups (including courses on how to raise children, etc.). Furthermore, she explained the different campaigns related to the quality control of kindergartens, on equal opportunities at school, and on how to cope with family violence. She also mentioned that there are specialised therapeutic groups for women that have been victims of violence. This presentation was followed by one from Mr. Pawel Wypych, Director of the Municipal Office for Social Policy, on the campaign to promote foster care. Mr. Wypych explained that the campaign entailed different components, such as: mass media, with the slogan „Don‟t turn them away, give them a future‟ put on buses and advertisements in other public transport; a hotline; training programmes for foster families; the organisation of events (including, for example, family picnics); all of which were intended to encourage more people and families to become foster parents. Furthermore, he noted that research indicated that attitudes in schools towards children living in residential care are negative and that programmes have been ineffective in influencing these attitudes. Protecting the Rights of Unaccompanied and Separated Children This session focussed on ensuring the rights of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) outside their country of origin, including refugees, asylum seekers, child victims of trafficking, and others. A series of presentations were given. Mr George Moschos, Deputy Ombudsman in Greece, gave a presentation on why and how Ombudspersons can deal with the rights of unaccompanied children (see annex 3). He started with the definitions and categories of unaccompanied and separated children and cited the CRC articles related to the entitlement to special protection. He proposed a full list of questions for examination of UASC cases by ombudspersons, which covered the issues of proper identification, registration, and treatment. He stressed that the treatment of UASC at the national level should ensure respect tfor the various existing international rules and standards, especially for illegal child immigrants, child asylum seekers, child victims of trafficking, and arrangements for the deportation of children. Mr. Moschos continued his presentation with facts and figures concerning Greece and the challenges faced by Ombudspersons at the national level. He indicated that Greece faces many challenges with respect to issues of migration. Immigrants make up 10% of the total population of Greece, less than half of which have official residency permits. In addition, more than 99% of applications are rejected by the Greek authorities, while 200-300 illegal UASC are arrested on an annual basis, and, with the exception of a few cases, deported. He concluded his presentation by addressing the challenges faced by the Ombudspersons collectively. He advocated the abolition of detention of UASC and the introduction of clear rules, instruments, systems of identification, as well as the investigation of needs and the protection of formal registration. He mentioned that minors should be informed of their rights in a language that they understand, that the child‟s opinion should be heard and considered, and free interpretation and legal assistance should be provided. Mr Moschos believed that the appointment of a temporary guardian, family tracing, access to health, education and welfare placement, and accompanied repatriation, were important considerations for all Ombudspersons. He also noted that personnel dealing with UASC should be properly trained and informed so as to respect child rights. The second presentation was given by Mr. Jaumes Funes, Deputy Ombudsperson for children in Catalonia, Spain (see annex 3). Based on his experience in Spain, Mr. Funes gave a presentation on migrating unaccompanied teenagers, highlighting the different components of the Spanish government‟s response to this increasingly challenging situation. He introduced the subject by pointing out that the characteristics of migrating unaccompanied minors (UAMs) are changing, especially with respect to the place of origin, age, methods of migration/arrival, and numbers. Through new investigation methods more information on UAMs has been collected and includes the minor‟s own perspectives on their situation. UAMs were often from poor family circumstances; were attracted to the migration „adventure‟ and dreaming of a better future; lacked proper care by adults; were forced to migrate for survival; and often had trouble integrating in destination communities. Nonetheless, many differences were found in the origin family environment, vital possibilities and available social and educative resources, life experiences, and expectations from their families and themselves. Mr Funes noted that a proper assessment needed to be made on a case-by-case basis, being guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, regional protection acts, and national migration laws and legislation. The state should provide care for UAMs, including education, for the duration of the UAMs assessment process. The assessment should also explore the possibility of return and reunification with the family. He noted that the return and reunification of UAMs should not only be based on the existence of the family of the child, but should include the following aspects: - family and origin environment conditions - the child‟s present situation and the impact of his/her vital experience - real possibilities of assistance in their place of origin - real help and proposals. It was stressed that in the decision-making process the child‟s wishes and opinions should be seriously taken into account and that the Ombudsperson should monitor, support and if necessary, debate decisions with the state. Mr. Funes concluded his presentation by stating that there is a need for a new child protection system and new child policies that address the actual situation, given the changing characteristics of UAMs, As third presenter, Mr Brent Parfitt, member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, chose to illustrate the importance and the role of the ombudsperson with an actual example from Canada. Mr. Parfitt described a real case that happened several years ago in Canada in which a boat was stopped that was transporting five adults and 50 UAMs, all of whom lacked any official papers whatsoever. Nobody knew what to do and the media was pushing towards deportation of these children. The inquiry, and interviews with the minors, gave the impression that the children were on their way to the US for a job (probably in the prostitution industry), that parents had paid „snake heads‟, and that the children didn‟t want asylum, but rather, „opportunities‟ (housing and jobs). This situation was conflicting as the children wanted to go to the US and this was not in their best interest nor was there any child policy in Canada at that time on how to/who should deal with these children. This was/is a clear situation for the Ombudsperson‟s involvement. In the absence of any relevant legislation or policy the Convention on the Rights of the Child was extremely helpful and was invoked so that the children were treated as „in need of special protection.‟ A facility was constructed and staffed 24 hours a days and seven days a week for the care and assistance of all the children concerned. Over the months some of the children sought asylum, others left for their final destination, and some eloped. Based on this example, Mr Parfitt stressed the fact that ombudsperson need to keep in mind that children can be trafficked or abducted. Repatriation processes could have serious consequences (e.g. re-trafficking, or forced enlistment into armed forces/groups) for the children. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is very concerned about this issue. Mr. Parfitt concluded his presentation by stressing the applicable principles on the treatment of unaccompanied and separated children outside their country of origin (CRC General Comment no.6, 2005), namely: - Legal obligations of States parties for all unaccompanied or separated children in their territory, and measures for implementation - Non-discrimination - Best interests of the child as a primary consideration in the search for short and long- term solutions - Right to life, survival, and development - Right of the child to express his or her views freely - Respect for the principle of non-refoulement - Confidentiality. Mr. Julien Attuil from the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe gave the last presentation on the protection of the rights of unaccompanied and separated children from the European perspective (see annex 3). He began by stating that there is not yet a comprehensive and legally-binding instrument which provides definition and rights for separated migrant children. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, however, adopted two non-binding recommendations, on the situation of young migrants in Europe (Recommendation 1596, 2003 and on protection and assistance for separated children seeking asylum (Recommendation 1703, 2005). These texts are available at http://assembly.coe.int Mr. Attuil explained that there is no agreement on the term and definition of „separated children‟ in Europe and not all countries make use of the notion of „separated children‟ but use the expression „unaccompanied minors‟. A common name and definition was adopted by the UNHCR/Save the Children joint programme on “Separated children in Europe”, where „separated children‟ were defined as „children under 18 years of age who are outside their country of origin and separated from both parents or their legal/customary primary caregivers‟. Mr Attuil continued by stating that the question of separated children is often seen by authorities as an issue of asylum. This group includes both girl and boy victims of trafficking in human beings. Such children have left their country to escape poverty, persecution, and violence, but also included are those travelling children/youths, and those working or studying abroad. Another issue raised was how the definition of „separated children‟ is interpreted and applied, especially related to age assessment, for which, again, no common standard exists in Europe. Mr Attuil continued this presentation with some figures on separated children in Europe. In 2003 some 12,800 separated children applied for asylum in 28 industrialised countries (UNHCR, 2003). Afghanistan was the main country of origin of separated children (13%) and the age and gender of separated children was often 16-17 years, with the vast majority being young boys. In addition, he mentioned that European states have a tendency to view migration only through the asylum angle and stressed that the right to education and rights to protection should be accorded to all separated children. Mr. Attuil informed the meeting that on 16 May 2005 in Warsaw, Heads of States met to sign and ratify the CoE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. While the Convention has not yet come into force, since only 15 States signed it (and none have yet ratified it), it will nevertheless provide a framework that makes important reference to children and their need for specific protection. The text of the Convention (no.197) can be found at http://conventions.coe.int Ms. Agnieszka Kosowick, External Relations Officer for UNHCR, Poland spoke on the situation of refugee children in Poland and gave suggestions for Ombudspersons to safeguard the best interests of children. According to UNHCR, major improvements in the situation of children seeking asylum have taken place in Poland. Legislation on protection of aliens now includes provisions specifying accommodation and qualifications for personnel working with separated children, as well as the introduction of a system of legal guardians. She noted, however, that many aspects of children seeking asylum remain a challenge, and she expressed her concern about the identification of unaccompanied children who have grounds to seek asylum, about access to education and health care (including psychological assistance), and about the limited integration possibilities for recognised refugees, including children. Ms. Kosowick outlined some practical suggestions for ombudspersons‟ involvement, such as: contacting the embassy of the country of origin of the child, assisting with the recognition/provision of translators, psychologists, and qualified guardians, being vigilant for negligence on the part of welfare/social staff, and by regularly following up on cases. Furthermore, she advised ombudspersons to cooperate with human rights commissioner or ombudspersons in the country of origin of the child to ensure assistance to the child after return. There was an unannounced intervention from a child who had fled from Chechnya, telling his story. He appealed for the protection of his people and for access to social services, and especially education in his home country, and in Poland, as a refugee. The Children‟s Ombudsperson for Poland apologised to members that there had been no announcement of this intervention. Results of Working Groups on Protecting the Rights of Unaccompanied and Separated Children A working session was held on the protection of the rights of unaccompanied and separated children to discuss: the rights-based issues the various ombudspersons‟ institutions had addressed; successful advocacy and effective strategies to change these issues; and suggestions on a collective ENOC response. Different rights issues with little common ground had been encountered in different countries. Rights issues mentioned by the various institutions included: - nomination of qualified guardians - appropriate institutions for the placement of children - working permits for UAMs - „apathic‟ UAMs - Lack of access to schools and lack of respect and segregation of UAMs in schools - birth certificates - collaboration with embassies of the country of origin of UAMs - legal residency - financial resources and/or nomination of legal representatives for legal matters - behaviour and attitudes towards asylum-seeking or refugee children The personal intervention of the Ombudsperson, the use of media, the focus on individual cases, being informed as UAMs arrive, and raising issues and particular cases directly with the Government, have proved to be successful advocacy strategies. However, it was explained that strategies that were successful in some countries were not always successful for all countries. It was suggested that ENOC could make a statement on UAMs, share good practices, and exchange information (legislation, policies, and standards). ENOC could raise the issue of the need for UAMs to be treated as children in need of special protection, as per the CRC. Furthermore, it was suggested that every year, during the ENOC annual meeting (as a standardised agenda item), the application of principles regarding the topic of the meeting should be discussed. The Ombudsperson of Greece initiated a follow-up on the suggestion to make an ENOC statement on protecting the rights of unaccompanied and separated children. He volunteered to form a small working group with Catalonia and others that will develop a short questionnaire to collect different opinions on the content of the statement and shortcomings in the various countries, on the basis of which the ENOC statement will be drafted. Cooperation with the Committee on the Rights of the Child Mr Brent Parfitt, a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, informed the participants about the existence of a similar network of Ombudspersons for Latin America, called „FOI.‟ He pointed out the common role and function of the Committee and ombudspersons, which both provide independent monitoring of the CRC. He stated that the Committee rigorously questions States parties‟ governments during its examination of their reports on the independence of ombudsperson institutions, including their role in independent investigations and control of budgets. He suggested that ombudspersons use the concluding observations and recommendations issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child as an important advocacy tool. These observations highlight weaknesses in the implementation of the CRC and can be used to raise the issues with governments. He recommended the sharing of concluding observations with all other relevant partners, so as to ensure/encourage collaborative advocacy. Mr. Parfitt encouraged ombudspersons to report independently on the implementation of the CRC to the Committee, rather than be co-opted into the government‟s reporting process. The information provided by ombudspersons to the Committee can be treated as confidential and the Committee ensures that issues raised by ombudspersons are brought to the attention of governments without mentioning or referring to the source). There are no specific rules on the Committee having separate meetings with ombudspersons and with NGOs and the Committee. But if deemed necessary, it is possible to have separate meetings, along time is very limited. The Committee would like to seek support from ENOC, so that during its sessions it could refer governments directly to ENOC for support and advice on the establishment of independent ombudspersons‟ institutions in their country. Furthermore, Mr. Parfitt encouraged ENOC to contact similar networks of ombudspeople and national human rights institutions, so as to discuss common issues such as: fund-raising and the establishment of a secretariat. He made particular mention of the International Ombudsman Association (IOA), which publishes books related to Ombudsmen (work, organisation, etc). Notwithstanding the fact that IOA focuses more on general ombudspersons, ENOC could provide IOA with a children‟s rights focus. Some questions were raised on the format of independent ombudspersons‟ reports (no guidelines were given, but it was recommended that they be short and to the point), and on child participation (meaningful participation of children in reporting processes and the inclusion of their views and recommendations). A concern was expressed by ENOC members that ombudspersons and NGOs should have a balanced time allocation during the pre- sessional working group. Update from the Council of Europe (CoE) Mr. Jean-Pierre Titz, Coordinator, Task Force on Children and Violence for the Council of Europe, gave an update of CoE activities with regard to children. He highlighted the launch of the Programme „Children and Violence‟ 2005-2007. This programme seeks to assist member states to fulfil their commitments made under various relevant international legal instruments. It will focus on directly involving children in policy development against violence, ensuring the application of relevant European and international standards, and framing strategies for practical action in the family, school, residential institutions and the community. The programme will also frame national prevention strategies, make proposals for local integrated prevention strategies, build awareness, and disseminate information on children‟s rights. The Resolution „Preventing everyday violence in Europe: responses in a democratic society‟ was mentioned. It contains 12 principles for an integrated policy response to violence in everyday life, these being: an integrated, preventive and victim-oriented approach; a systematic reliance on partnership; democratic accountability and the participation of civil society; offender-oriented prevention; developing the use of mediation; giving priority to local prevention programmes; planning and continuous evaluation; sustainability; training for all partners; and interdisciplinary research policy. Report from the CoE Youth Summit In Warsaw Ms. Agnieszka Komar-Morawska, Director of the Ombudsman‟s Office, Poland presented briefly on the 2nd European Youth Summit that was held in Warsaw on 15-16 May 2005 and organised by the European Youth Forum and the Polish Senate. Around 100 Youth workers from 43 member states of the CoE participated in this meeting. They called upon heads of state and government to recognise the crucial role of the Council of Europe in supporting and sustaining democracy, and to implement the principle “All Different, All Equal”, as the basis of their shared values. They also emphasised the importance of recognising and supporting the role of young people and youth organisations as key actors in the building of Europe. UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against children regional consultation in Ljubljana Ms. Ankie Vandekerckhove, Children‟s Rights Commissioner of the Flemish Community, Belgium, gave a briefing on the Regional Consultation for Europe and Central Asiawhich was held from 5-7 July 2005 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. She went on to highlight ENOC‟s involvement in this meeting. ENOC as a network was invited and represented by the three members of the Bureau. Mr. Peter Clarke, as chair of ENOC, presented the ENOC statement „Violence in a Children‟s Rights context‟ in the plenary, which really demonstrated the importance of ENOC‟s work and function. ENOC made a substantial contribution to the working groups and to the finalising of the “Final Conclusion” (declaration), by strengthening the text and including the protection of the children‟s rights. She mentioned the good participation of children and young people in this meeting and reminded all ombudspersons that the involvement of children always needs to be followed through by ensuring children‟s views are respected in actions. Ms. Shirin Aumeeruddy-Cziffra, Ombudsperson for Children in Mauritius, mentioned that she was a member of the Editorial Board of the UNSG‟s study. She encouraged ombudspersons to follow up the outcome of the regional consultation in Ljubljana and of the UNSG‟s study at a national and regional level. Ombudspersons could assist in addressing the various issues related to violence against children and undertake concrete action. She committed herself to campaign in Mauritius and its sub-region. Prohibiting corporal punishment Peter Newell, Coordinator of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment, United Kingdom and Adviser to ENOC, gave a briefing on the status of banning corporal punishment. The Global Initiative submitted to each regional consultation of the UN Study on Violence Against Children, including Ljubljana, a report on the status of corporal punishment in each state in the region, including recommendations for its prohibition and elimination. More than a third of the 46 CoE member states have prohibited all corporal punishment and at least 5 more countries (The Netherlands, Greece, Luxembourg, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia) are committed to doing so. In 2004, the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE called for action to make Europe a corporal punishment-free zone for children. However, still 10 Council of Europe member states with ENOC members have not prohibited corporal punishment. Peter reminded ENOC members of the ENOC position statement that was adopted in 2000, which called for collective action to push governments hard to fulfil their human rights obligations to children and to prohibit all corporal punishment. Progress report on independent children’s rights institutions in Europe Dr. Peter Guran of the Slovak National Centre for Human Rights gave a presentation on the responsibilities and main activities of the Centre. The Centre was established in 1994 by a special law and engages in activities related to the promotion and protection of human rights in Slovakia. In 2003 its scope was expanded to encompass the monitoring and assessment of human rights and fundamental freedoms (including the rights of children), and the production of an annual report on the observance of human rights in the Slovak Republic for the previous calendar year. Last year‟s amendment to the Act on the establishment of the Centre (Article II of Act no. 365/2004, the Anti-Discrimination Act) provided the Centre with an important role to play within the area of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Centre undertook investigative and advisory research with regard to children‟s rights. Educational activities of the Centre include education and awareness-raising among children on human rights/children‟s rights. Also, the Centre provides services (advice and representation) on matters relating to discrimination, expressions of intolerance, and violations of equal treatment and human rights. The Centre also conducts an information campaign to prevent discrimination. Besides continuing the ongoing activities, the Centre is planning a project on the de- institutionalisation of care and the prioritization of family-based care. Training of staff and experts on children‟s rights to deal with complaints, as well as increase the cooperation with NGOs, are also planned. The Centre will prepare a special law on the Ombudsperson in Slovakia; an institution that Dr Guran hoped would apply for membership of ENOC. Mr. Rasa Sekulovic, Representative of Save the Children UK in Serbia and Montenegro, gave a chronological overview on the process of introducing a Children‟s Rights Ombudsperson in Serbia. This initiative was launched in June 2004 at a conference organised by the Children‟s Cultural Centre in Belgrade. Ms. Lena Nyberg, the Swedish Ombudsman for children, participated in the conference and supported the process by meeting key high- ranking officials from the Serbian Government. This conference resulted in creation of a working group to prepare the ground for the establishment a Children‟s Rights Ombudsman in Serbia. From September 2004 to March 2005, consultations with children from 20 towns across Serbia, and including 20 locations in greater Belgrade, were facilitated by the Children‟s Cultural Centre with support from Save the Children UK. Children were informed about the institution of a children‟s rights ombudsman and its mandate, and were consulted on the most common children‟s rights violations, as well as on responsibilities and actions they would expect the ombudsperson to take. Results of the consultation process were published in both Serbian and English. In June 2004 a working group on the Children‟s Rights Ombudsman was established to explore different models of children‟s ombudspersons institutions across Europe, and to identify the most suitable and adequate model to be adopted in Serbia (in accordance with its country specifics). The working group also lobbied relevant ministries, in order to formalize their efforts and involve them in the process. An International Conference “Experiences of Children‟s Ombudspersons and how to gain them – a European Perspective” was organized in May 2005 in Belgrade by the Children‟s Cultural Centre for ombudspersons from different parts of the Balkans region and Europe, responsible ministers from the Serbian Government and representatives of children‟s and civil society organizations. At the conference a strong commitment was made towards the establishment of an independent children‟ rights ombudsman in Serbia, and a number of international organizations offered their support for this process. In June 2005, the Working Group on a Children‟s Rights Ombudsman was established officially at the Ministry of Labour, Employment, and Social Policy, comprising most of the members of the original working group established by the Children‟s Cultural Centre. From June to September 2005 the Working Group drafted a law on the Children‟s Ombudsman in consultation with children and young people from different parts of Serbia. The draft Law was presented to the Parliament and is currently (autumn 2005) the subject of debate, pending its final adoption. It is expected that the Law will pass by mid-October and that the Children‟s Ombudsman will enter into office by end 2005/spring 2006 at the latest. SIDA, SCF, and UNICEF have committed themselves to provide funding for the establishment of the Office for the Ombudsperson; the Ministry of Social Affairs also gave a long-term commitment of funding for the Ombudsperson. Mr. Sekulovic expressed great appreciation for the support that ENOC has already provided in this area, but suggested that further (technical) support would nevertheless be most welcome. Commercial and media pressure on children This session focussed on children‟s rights to protection from commercial and media pressure harmful to their development, and, on the follow-up to the ENOC resolution on the prevention of media/commercial pressure on children, which was adopted at the annual meeting in Stockholm in 2003. Ms. Audrone Bedorf, advisor to the Children‟s Rights Ombudsperson in Lithuania presented the situation of commercial and mass-media pressure on children in Lithuania (see annex 3). In Lithuania there are many different pieces of legislation that regulate the safety of products for children, as well as the commercial advertising of products for children. The use of alcohol and tobacco is prohibited for children and special education („the European Diary‟) is being provided in 54% of the schools. Despite the existing protection and efforts the reality continues to present challenges and media exposure remains harmful. Therefore Lithuania created a body that supervises the implementation of the laws regulating public information. This body consists of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics, the Radio and Television Council, the Radio and Television Commission, the Ethics Commission of Journalists and Publishers, and, the Controller for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. This body and its work has made cooperation between the Controller and the mass media quite successful, and recommendations of the Controller are being taking in account in the work of the media. Ms. Bedorf noted the importance of children‟s perception of media. Research has showed that children have a profound knowledge about the information provided by the media, however, they are not always capable of analysing, comprehending, or judging the information provided. In addition, the level of trust in the media by people, including children, in Lithuania is high, which makes children extremely vulnerable. Mr. Reidar Hjermann, Ombudsman for Children in Norway, gave an entertaining presentation with many relevant examples of commercial pressure on children and young people to consume (see annex 3). He stated that commercial pressure manifests itself by defining a worthy person by what s/he has and not by what s/he is. Children have become an important market segment and have increasing influence on their parents‟ purchasing behaviour. Commercial pressure plays on the new parent-child relationship and pushes for more purchase-power for families. Norway has clear legislation with strong consumer protection. Advertisement on alcohol and tobacco for children are prohibited, as well as advertising directly to children via TV. Mr. Hjermann expressed his concern that the new EU directive could weaken consumer protection, especially in relation to advertising and the protection of children. A new joint initiative by the Ombudsman for Children, the Ombudsman for Consumer Affairs, the Teachers‟ Union, the Parents‟ Union and the Creative Forum took place to promote prohibiting all forms of advertisement in schools. The initiative proposed that a new law be drafted. The Government of Norway agrees in principle; however, there is a limited budget. Therefore the Government will not regulate this by law, but urges the municipalities not to allow advertisements in schools. At the same time, municipalities have limited budgets and allowing sponsored textbooks for schools is tempting. Norway faces a new and big challenge for young people with regard to alcohol consumption. Creative advertising for alcohol that indirectly targets children and young people is widespread and visible across various media channels. This was illustrated by Mr. Hjermann who showed many examples that illustrated how advertising tempts young people to buy products by using attractive designs, sexuality and beauty, encapsulating a current trend or other appealing issues for youths. Ms. Elzbieta Blonska-Grzesiak, President of the Good Media (Media without Violence) Foundation of Poland, presented a successful example of protecting children from harmful information. Ms Blonska-Grzesiak explained that in Poland it came to the attention of many that the media had a negative impact on the behaviour of children. In addition, with the evolution of the media the legal provisions that existed where not adapted to the actual situation. A spontaneous movement evolved and a voluntary committee was established against violence in the media. 160,000 signatures were collected to support the Act on the protection of minors from the harmful impact of the media. The Act should cover all forms of media, including the Internet, films, advertisements, mobile telephones, and computer games. Ms. Blonska-Grzesiak highlighted several issues that needed consideration, including: - a classification system for the media - a warning system for parents on harmful messages to children - a unified set of principles for the media - the content of media messages. The discussion on commercial and media pressure focussed mostly on alcohol use by children. It was felt that the prohibition of alcohol was not always achieving the desired result, but even making alcohol more attractive. In some countries they try to raise the minimum age for consumption of alcohol. The ombudspersons felt that they could play a role in advocacy for regulation of the issue. In some countries it was noted that violence on TV also had also impact on the behaviour of the children. Two proposals were made for further discussion at next year‟s annual meeting: - children‟s use of drugs and alcohol - the development of guidelines on the use of children in TV shows ENOC Website There was no progress to report on the ENOC website. Reidar Hjermann announced that the Norwegian Office would revive the management of the website. ENOC Standards On behalf of the Bureau, Lena Nyberg introduced a proposal and paper on the development of more detailed criteria for accepting or rejecting new members of ENOC. This proposal, however, directed discussion towards the more fundamental issue of the formal registration of ENOC as a legal entity in Belgium. Several attempts by different ENOC members have been made to contact the Délégué général aux droits de L’Enfant of the French Community in Belgium to find out whether the Statutes have been formally registered ―all without success. . ENOC Secretariat Nigel Williams, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, presented a motion based on an informal meeting between some ENOC members. Mr. Williams presented a resolution that noted previous ENOC decisions about the purpose of the network and the need for a permanent, funded secretariat to serve its growing membership. In order to facilitate the effective operation of the network, the resolution proposed that two working groups should be established immediately. These groups would consider: How the network operates: including the statutes, structure of leadership, membership criteria, organisation of meetings, and participation of young people Financial support for the network: including funding arrangements that will enable the establishment of a sustainable secretariat The working groups should report by the end of March 2006 with clear recommendations to the membership. These would be considered, and decisions taken, by a special meeting devoted solely to these issues (to be held before the end of May 2006). Each institution would be represented by only one person at this meeting. The resolution was adopted and the constitution of the working groups was agreed upon, as follows: Working group (1) on operational issues: - Ankie Vandekerckhove (Belgium) and initiator of first working group meeting - Peter Clarke (UK-Wales) - Sophie Magennis (Ireland) - Jaume Funes (Spain - Catalonia) - George Moschos (Greece) - Peter Newell (Adviser) Working group (2) on funding issues: - Nigel Williams (Northern Ireland), Chair - Lena Nyberg (Sweden) - Pawel Jaros (Poland) It was also decided that the Council of Europe, UNICEF, and Peter Newell will be invited to participate as observers in the special meeting. ENOC Meeting 2006 During the ENOC meeting in Warsaw it was also unanimously agreed that ENOC‟s annual meeting in 2006 will be held in Athens (Greece) and in 2007 in Barcelona (Spain). The next Chairperson (assuming office at the 2006 meeting) will be George Moschos from Greece.
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