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									                        EUROPEAN NETWORK OF


                                REPORT OF THE

                         9TH ANNUAL MEETING

       WARSAW, POLAND, 21 - 23 SEPTEMBER 2005

                          ENOC Annual Meeting
                      Warsaw, 21-23 September 2005


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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
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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