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Does Europe do enough to protect children’s rights?

A major international conference examining what European countries can do better to promote and protect the rights of children is underway.

Governments, members of parliaments and child rights experts have come together under the banner of the Council of Europe (CoE) for the two-day event in Strasbourg, which will also hear a group of ‘young delegates’ give their unique perspectives on life as a young person.

Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe; and Adrien Taquet, Secretary of State on Child Protection for France opened the conference by saying there were still ‘blind spots’ in the protection of children’s rights.

‘A difficult question to answer’

There remain clear areas where ‘action is insufficient, often because the issues are controversial and those in power are uncomfortable dealing with them’, she told delegates.

Among the ‘taboo’ issues are children who are perceived as a danger to society, minors in conflict with the law, those growing in radicalised families or children sexually harming their peers, added the Secretary General.

She also talked about the importance of knowing how to treat and protect both the victims and the aggressors who first and foremost need support, but are often deprived of liberty and face criminal justice systems designed for adults. This, she added, was a ‘particularly difficult question’ to answer.

‘Protecting children from online crimes’

Additional issues which need a rethink include safeguarding child activism as an expression of children’s right to participate in decisions concerning them, ensuring that children do not become a bargaining chip in acrimonious separation of parents, and protecting children from online crimes.

Other key speakers include Liliane Maury Pasquier, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, President of the European Court of Human Rights; Kasimierz Kuberski, Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Policy of Poland and Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General on Violence against Children.

A report of the mid-term evaluation of the Council of Europe’s Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 will also be presented, of which the five key strategies are equal opportunities, participation, a life free from violence, child-friendly justice and the rights of the child in the digital environment.

The conference is being webcast at https://www.coe.int/en/web/children/ where you can also find more information about the CoE’s work on children’s rights.

Author: Simon Weedy

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