EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child

All children have the right to be protected from harm (violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation) and the 7th European Forum on the Rights of the Child aimed to explore how the EU, by implementing the EU Agenda for the Rights of the Child, can best support child protection systems. EU policies and actions outlined in the EU Agenda are guided by the standards and principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), ratified by all EU Member States. Nineteen articles in the UNCRC are applicable to child protection matters.

The Forum, which took place in Brussels on 13-14 November, brought together almost 200 representatives from national authorities, human rights institutions, NGOs and the European Commission. However, few representatives from local and regional child protection services and professionals participated. Marie-Paule Martin Blachais, Director of the French National Agency for Child Protection (GIPED), an ESN Member, contributed on ESN’s behalf.

The Forum took place over one and a half days.The first part included high-level political messages from Commissioners Vivianne Reding (DG Justice) and László Andor (DG Employment), as well as expert interventions on the functioning of child protection systems, while the second part looked at children’s rights issues but not necessarily focused on child protection; for instance, child friendly justice, children with disabilities and children on the move. A number of cross-cutting principles and themes identified in the EU Agenda, such as the best interests of the child, child poverty, child participation, and the need for better data, were addressed in the workshops.

Way Forward
The Commission seeks to address the outlined issues in cooperation with relevant organisations and institutions. Taking into account that many ESN member representatives are directors of child protection services, ESN has approached DG Justice to follow up on the results of the Forum. The participation of regional and local public authorities responsible for child protection and the professionals’ views are essential. According to Marie-Paule Martin Blachais, “it is necessary to address both local and regional public policies and pay particular attention to the cases of children with more than one problem, for instance, disability and at risk of harm, because in many cases it is not clear with whom the responsibility for their care lies - is it social, is it psychiatric or legal services? An integrated approach and the pooling of budgets should be examined.”

ESN believes that there should be an analysis of child protection systems to look at gaps and suggest courses of action. Since child protection systems are a national and regional matter, involvement structures should also include representatives from national and regional public child protection systems and professionals, together with civil society, families and children representatives.