The expert conference “Europe de l’Enfance” welcomes the fact that on this occasion we had the first real chance to meet and exchange between experts in the fields of children’s rights and youth. Moreover, we had an interesting mix of policy makers, practitioners and researchers.
The following key messages are the outcome of a process of plenary sessions and working group sessions on the three priority themes as identified by the Belgian EU Presidency: the European and international policy agendas on children, youth and children’s rights, the upcoming EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child, and Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services. The results of each workshop were described in a workshop report; this general report distills some key messages from across the different working groups.
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Who could we better speak to during lunch than the Flemish children Commissioner Bruno Vanobbergen?
Euroblog: “Let’s get straight to business: What is the importance of this conference?”
Vanobbergem : “I think it’s main importance is putting children’s rights on the European agenda. Last week we had a conference on children’s poverty. I heard many interesting ideas and opinions there. If you approach children’s rights, it is best to cover one specific topic at a time.
Euroblog: “What do you expect from Europe de l’Enfance?
Vannobergen: “Expect is a difficult term to use.. Because this conference is not the end. Europe is very diverse when it comes to children’s rights. Every policy is different. It is difficult to get an overview. That’s why I would rather approach this congress as a starting point. Next month there is a meeting with all the children’s rights commissioners in Europe. It would be great to use the results of this congress there.
Euroblog: What is the most important theme when it comes to children’s rights?
Vanobbergen: “Tolerance. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is 20 years old now, however I notice that society has become less tolerant towards children during the last decade. For instance towards undocumented immigrants, Roma Gypsies,… When earlier this week the youth detention centre in Tongeren was brought under attention in the media, we received many comments like: “You don’t have to give those guys a hotel, right?”, when we are actually talking about basic human and children’s rights.
Over a hundred youthworkers gather in Antwerp on September 8th, 9th and 10th for the European Conference about children’s rights “Europe de l’Enfance“. Yesterday all participants could attend a welcome evening. Today the Conference starts for real.
The Flemish Minister of Youth Pascal Smet opens the conference. “Although children rights are universal, children’s rights policy is as diverse as the Union itself,” he states. This conference is the very first time the European member states compare their policies when concerning children’s rights.
Ellen Desmet (Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre) shows us that the European Union, European Commission and the UN agree upon a definition of ‘children’: everybody that has not reached the age of 18 yet. They disagree however when a definition of ‘youth’ is concerned. 15-25 years old? Or 18-30?
“Children rights’ agendas focus more on protection, youth policy agendas focus more on participation,” she says, “but all agendas focus on the active involvement of children to provide valuable input for the further development of their policy.”
So this conference has everything to become remarkable in any possible way. Coordinator Jan Vanhee: “Apart from Youthwork and Employment for young people, Children’s rights are the third important theme that will be tackled during the Presidency of Spain, Belgium and Hungary” (the current EU-trio)