Sunday

21st Apr 2019

Opinion

Strengthening child protection in the EU and globally

  • Children in Kosovo. Reform is the only way that European and other societies around the world will succeed in changing things for children. (Photo: Council of Europe)

Klajdi is a young boy who lives in Albania and is forced to collect chromium in the mines of Bulqiza. Hana in Bosnia-Herzegovina was forced to marry despite being a child, and had no-one to turn to when her husband beat her. Elen in Armenia lives in hope that one day her family will rescue her from the institution she lives in. Gabriela in Moldova has been waiting years for a family to adopt her. Elvis, Maria, and countless other Roma children live with discrimination on a daily basis.

These children are the future. It is difficult to deny this fact. Politicians say it, parents say it, and organisations like World Vision say it.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

But how do we translate our lofty declarations into sustainable systems which ensure that no child anywhere experiences and suffers from violence?

Reform is the answer. It may not be the most compelling idea or media-friendly message, but it is the only way that European and other societies around the world will succeed in changing things for children, for good.

In our experience acquired working with and for children, their families and communities but also with governments, the process of reform where child protection is concerned involves three key steps.

Simply put, these steps include agreeing to-do lists of actions, holding political leaders to account and maintaining the momentum of the reform process.

What do we mean by a to-do list where child protection systems are concerned?

The EU has great experience in agreeing such lists with candidate countries who wish to join the Union and in keeping them on track to deliver on their commitments.

Ensuring that politicians deliver

This is what we need for child protection – to-do lists that can be used by all actors involved to ensure that planned reforms are kept on track over years, and despite changes in governments.

In order to hold political leaders to account, there is a need to appoint relevant officials – for example a Children’s Ombudsman – with the responsibility to ensure that politicians deliver on what they say they’re going to do. If “end child marriage” is on a particular country’s to-do list, someone needs to hold its political leaders to account to ensure that this happens.

Finally there is a need to keep up the momentum where child protection reforms are concerned. This should involve reviewing progress where the implementation of the to-do list is concerned, agreeing new reforms and re-committing to the process of reform.

The EU’s enlargement process has revealed a tendency for countries that have recently joined the Union to relax and lose momentum on reforms. Indeed, child protection is a particular area where the pace of reforms in candidate countries significantly slowed once accession talks ended. These countries still need the right incentives to make long-term reform happen.

A long list of small steps

Whether it’s horrifying statistics about child abuse or violence against children that make you think twice, or stories of children who have been institutionalised or recruited as child soldiers, it is clear that we need to speed up reforms to protect children everywhere from violence, child trafficking, child labour, discrimination and other violations of their rights.

The European Union is key to this process. It can include and insist upon child protection reforms in its diplomatic agenda with all of its partner countries. It can use state-of-the-art methodologies such as the newly launched Child Protection Index, to develop child protection reform to-do lists for use by its own member states, and neighbours and partner countries.

The way forward to ensure the protection of children globally is through a long list of small steps that governments must take to ensure no child in Europe or anywhere else suffers a life of abuse, exploitation or fear.

Yes, the task seems daunting, but with the right support from the EU and its member states, the protection of children everywhere can become a reality.

Deirdre de Burca is director of advocacy and justice for children at World Vision's Brussels and EU Representation

Report: EU failing migrant children

Just under 90,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU last year, up from around 13,000 in 2013. A UK report said many were treated with "suspicion and disbelief" by authorities.

Child trafficking in EU on the rise

Around 67 percent of all registered victims of human trafficking in the EU are exploited for sex, 21 percent for labour, and the remaining 12 percent for things like forced begging or organ removal.

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us