Some words by Regina Jensdottir, Head of the Children's Rights Division
Welcome back to the quarterly Newsletter of the Children’s Rights Division. While the recent period has confined people and children in their homes, the Council of Europe made efforts to maintain it activities and to respond to member states and stakeholders needs to uphold the rights of the child. After a short setback the Newsletter will be sent out at quarterly intervals allowing our audience to be updated regularly on child rights activities in the Council of Europe. The big milestone ahead for the months to come will be the finalisation of the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child for 2022-2027 which is expected to continue to strengthen the place of children as a political priority in our states, to ensure that our legal standards are upheld and that we are able to support our states, upon request, in changing their legislation and practice to meet the needs of children. The new Strategy is to be launched under the Italian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, in Rome from 7 to 8 April 2022. We look forward to continuing to share with you our progress step by step.
Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child
The Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child (CDENF) approved the next Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2022-2027) during its Plenary session 15 October. The next step will be the submission to the Committee of Ministers for adoption at the beginning of 2022. The Committee also examined, on 16-17 September, a Draft Recommendation relating to Human Rights Principles and Guidelines on age assessment for children in the context of migration, together with its Explanatory Memorandum, and a Draft Explanatory Memorandum of Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on Effective guardianship for unaccompanied and separated children in the context of migration. Read more.
Save the date - European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (18 November)
As every year, the Council of Europe invites its partners to focus on the occasion of the European Day and organise activities to raise awareness on sexual violence against children
The theme retained for the 2021 edition of the European Day is “Making the circle of trust truly safe for children”. Indeed, the vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs in the child’s circle of trust. When the harm is done by a person they know, admire, trust and even love, children find it particularly difficult to disclose and overcome the abuse. During the lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the Covid-19, children closed in with their abusers had even less chances to seek help. But this is not a fatality. You are all invited to celebrate this year’s edition of the European Day, organise activities to raise awareness on child sexual violence and inform us (EndChildSexAbuseDay@coe.int) so that we can promote them on our website.
Three new European Union/Council of Europe joint projects launched: Finland Barnahus, Improving the Juvenile Justice System in Slovenia (September 2021) and CP4Europe (April 2021)
Finland Barnahus "Improve access and quality of justice for children"
The project's goal is to improve the access and quality of the justice system for child victims and witnesses of violence in Finland in line with international standards. In preparation of the kick-off meeting on 25 November 2021, a dedicated Advisory Group has been set up and bi-lateral consultations will take place with the main stakeholders of the project, namely the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Social Affairs and the five existing Barnahus-units in the country.
The project "Improving the juvenile system and strenghtening the education and training of penitentiary staff in Slovenia" consists of two components: the reform of the juvenile justice system and the reform of the penitentiary system and human resources of penitentiary staff. Component I, implemented by the Children's Rights Division, aims at supporting the Slovenian authorities to pursue a comprehensive review of the national legal framework on juvenile justice with the objective to harmonise it with the latest European and international standards and good practices. In September 2021, consultations with the beneficiary, namely the Ministry of Justice, took place in view of a coordination meeting with Directorate General I and the European Commission. The first Steering Committee took place at the end of October 2021, following the kick-off meeting on the same day.
The project CP4Europe "Strengthening National Child Participation Frameworks and Action in Europe" aims at assessing and improving child participation in decision-making in 5 partner countries – Czech Republic, Finland, Iceland, Portugal, Slovenia – in line with European standards, in particular the Council of Europe child participation tools. At the moment, the project is being implemented at the national level through kick-off events and the finalisation of Child Safeguarding Policies in each partner country. On 21 October 2021, the Children's Rights Division hosted the 1st online High-level International Conference to promote debates about child participation in Europe.
Slovenia Barnahus - A response model to child sexual abuse
The Council of Europe - European Commission Slovenia Barnahus joint project sets to establish in Slovenia a Barnahus, the leading European response model to child sexual abuse. During September 2021, consultations with children on the premises of the Barnahus took place to ensure the architectural solutions and the furbishing of the building are child-friendly. Currently two by-laws on interagency cooperation and training for Barnahus staff are in the process of being finalised and going through official government approval process to complement the Barnahus Law.
The project supports Ukraine in strengthening its response to child sexual exploitation, including in the digital environment, promoting child-friendly practices with focus on ensuring the rights of child victims and witnesses in proceedings and promoting the rights of the child in the digital environment.
National Police of Ukraine participated in an online training on "Investigative Interviewing of Children”, based on the Methodological Guidelines and Investigative Interview Protocol of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development prepared jointly with the Council of Europe Experts. The Guidelines improve interviewing proceedings involving minors in accordance with the provisions of the Lanzarote Convention and other European standards on child-friendly justice and will be further be used by professionals with the support of the National Police.
In October, the project launched the HELP course "Family Law and Human Rights" in cooperation with the Coordination Center for Free Legal Aid and the National Bar Association of Ukraine.
The project supports the Republic of Moldova in strengthening child protection framework and judicial system with focus on the protection of children against sexual violence, promotion of child-friendly justice practices and the rights of the child in the digital environment. In September, face-to-face training sessions based on the Kiko and the Hand Manual for kindergarten teachers were organised to improve the skills of professionals to detect and prevent child sexual abuse, provide them with tools to address children, parents and kindergarten administration. In October, several workshops for professionals were organised by NGOs which have received grants within the project, as well as a presentation of the Handbook for policy makers on the rights of the child in the digital environment.
Webinars on Children's Mental Health and Intrafamily Violence.
At its plenary session in November 2020, the Steering Committee of the Rights of the Child (CDENF) decided to organise three webinars on "COVID-19 and the rights of the child" in 2021 to provide a space for exchange on the most pressing issues in the field of children's rights, as well as to facilitate focused discussions on national good practices to address specific challenges. Following the first webinar entitled "Overcoming the challenges of education" held on 22 March 2021, the 2nd and 3rd webinars will bring together CDENF members, participants and observers with other experts for an in-depth exchange of views on each theme on 22 November at 10:30 am and 2:00 pm respectively.
High-Level Launching Conference Rome: 7-8 April 2022.
Organised in the framework of the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and hosted by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of Italy. This Conference will provide an opportunity for high-level representatives of member states and other international organisations to express their commitment to the new Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2022-2027) and present their vision on its implementation. More to come.
Recommendation CM/Rec(2021)7 of the Committee of Ministers As some children may be particularly vulnerable to messaging by terrorist associations and groups, including via social media, the Council of Europe has recommended a set of measures to help its 47 member states better protect children against radicalisation for the purpose of terrorism. Press release.
Case-law of the European Court of Human Rights Discrimination in custody case based on mother’s relationship with another woman: X. v. Poland
ECtHR calls for less strict procedural rules for children’s testimony: R.B. v. Estonia
The Austrian authorities did not fail in their obligation under the Convention to protect the lives of the applicant and her children: Kurt v. Austria
The Children’s Rights Division launched a number of interesting publications, tools and audio-visual materials which proved highly relevant and useful for policy makers, professionals working for and with children, parents and children themselves.