Some words by Regína Jensdóttir, Council of Europe Coordinator for the Rights of the Child, Head of the Children’s Rights Division
On behalf of the entire Children’s Rights Team in Strasbourg I would like to first wish all our member states and stakeholders a very Happy New Year 2022. In my capacity as the Council of Europe Co-ordinator for the Rights of the Child I am looking forward to seeing a new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2022-2027) become effective. The efforts we have put into the elaboration of this new strategic instrument for our organisation and our member states have shown their results. The document is now branded with objectives aimed at pursuing the implementation of key Council of Europe standards that uphold the human rights of children, and at continuing to innovate for the rights of the child. The past years have challenged the way in which we work but have also allowed us to see new issues emerge which we need to address urgently. Many organs, entities and Committees of the Council of Europe have contributed to the elaboration of this Strategy and it has also received valuable input from about 220 children in ten member states. I would like to thank them most sincerely for their support. It is our ambition to launch this new Strategy, once adopted by the Committee of Ministers, in Rome on 7-8 April, under the Italian Presidency to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Looking ahead I am pleased to announce that the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child (CDENF), with its Terms of Reference approved by the Committee of Ministers at the end of 2021, has been given a very pertinent work programme. We look forward to engaging with all our internal and external partners in launching this important work. Furthermore, the Committee of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Committee) is expected to adopt in March 2022 the Implementation report on its 2nd monitoring round: “The protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICTs)”. Its recommendations and promising practices will guide state Parties in better aligning their legislative and policy framework and practice with the requirements of the Lanzarote Convention, thus enhancing effective protection of children against ICTs facilitated sexual abuse. In the field of co-operation, we continue actively supporting our project partners with strengthening child rights protection mechanisms in line with international and Council of Europe standards, and working on new projects to assist interested member states with introduction/implementation of Barnahus (Children’s House) model.
Wishing you all a very fruitful 2022!
On 22 November 2021, the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child (CDENF) organised its 2nd and 3rd webinars on the challenges related to: “Children’s mental health” and “Intrafamily violence” in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CDENF national delegations, participants and observers, as well as international experts, held an exchange on new challenges and good practices in these areas, and heard the voice of a young activist having participated in the child consultations led by Terre des Hommes in 2021 under the #CovidUnder19 initiative.
On 23-24 November 2021, the Working Group on responses to violence against children (CDENF-GT-VAE) held its 5th meeting online. The meeting report provides some insight into the work achieved by the international experts represented on the Group towards a draft Recommendation on reporting systems for violence against children, which shall be pursued and concluded in 2022.
On 29 November 2021, the new Drafting Group on Child participation in the biomedical field (BIO-ENF/CP) convened for the first time. CDENF members and members of the Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO, as from 1 January 2022 CDBIO), together with experts, exchanged on a first outline of a guide concerning the participation of children in the decision-making process on matters regarding their health and agreed on the methodology, timeline and organisation of its future work.
On 15-16 December 2021, the Committee of on Counter-Terrorism in collaboration with the Gender Equality Commission (GEC), the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child (CDENF) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held an International Conference on the Roles of Women and Children in Terrorism. The Conference focused the questions related to the involvement of women and children in terrorist activities and the challenges linked to their repatriation and reintegration into societies
Exchange of views between the Lanzarote Committee Chairperson and the Committee of Ministers' Deputies
On 10 November 2021, Ms Christel De Craim, Chairperson of the Committee of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Committee) exchanged views with the Committee of Ministers’ Deputies on large variety of issues, providing in particular details on the Lanzarote Committee’s reflection to strengthen its monitoring procedure and to address the potentially global outreach of the Convention. She also informed about opportunities to support Parties in building capacities to prevent and combat sexual exploitation and sexual abuse against children through cooperation activities.
Lanzarote Committee Plenary Meeting
The Lanzarote Committee held its 35th meeting remotely on 30 November – 3 December 2021. It progressed, in particular, in the analysis of the assessment in Parties to the Lanzarote Convention of the challenges raised by child self-generated sexual images and/or videos, and plans to adopt its monitoring report in March 2022. The Committee also continued its work to assess the extent to which Parties to the Convention have implemented the recommendations contained in its special report “Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and sexual abuse” and adopted 2 additional compliance reports on prosecution of offenders (R12) and on information and advice to children (R15). These will soon be available on the Lanzarote Committee's webpage. It also held, a panel showcasing of Lanzarote Committee civil society observers recent and up-coming work.
European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
7th edition of the European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (18 November 2021) was dedicated to “Making the circle of trust truly safe for children” since the vast majority of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by those people children most trust, including their parents or carers, members of the extended family, persons with care-taking functions and their peers. In order to raise awareness on the issue, the Council of Europe has prepared a detailed concept note and identified many promising practices to prevent abuse in the circle of trust and protect its victims. Many of these practices have been highlighted by the Lanzarote Committee when monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Convention).
The various activities carried out by partners from all over Europe as well as those from various sectors in the Council of Europe, are promoted on the European Day website. They are extremely useful to raise awareness of the public at large on the scourge of sexual violence against children and may serve as a source of inspiration for activities in future years.
Children's house - Barnahus
On 4 November 2021, the Council of Europe standards, guidelines and best practices regarding the set up and operation of a Barnahus (Children’s House) were presented at the Montenegrin Children’s Rights Council attended by seven line ministries, the Ombudsperson, as well as UNICEF Montenegro. The discussion took place in the framework of a strong will by the Montenegrin authorities to set up a Barnahus with the support of the Council of Europe and UNICEF Montenegro.
On 17 November 2021, the Steering Committee meeting of the joint EU DG Reform-Council of Europe project to support the implementation of Barnahus in Slovenia discussed the progress made and results achieved since the last meeting in March 2021.
Steering Committee members, together with the Minister of Justice, visited the Barnahus premises in Ljubljana, which has been fully refurbished and started the piloting stage in December 2021.
On 25 November 2021, the Joint EU DG Reform-Council of Europe project on Finland Barnahus kicked off with its first Advisory Group meeting to present the project outputs and the main findings of the inception report.
On 2 November 2021, the Council of Europe project “Combating violence against children in the Republic of Moldova" organised an online meeting on shaping a coordinated approach towards the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Lanzarote Convention) in the Republic of Moldova. As a result, the Ministry of Internal Affairs took the leadership in the process of establishing the coordination mechanism for the implementation of the Lanzarote Convention at national level.
In the framework of the same project, an online seminar organised in cooperation with the National Institute of Justice of the Republic of Moldova contributed to enhancing professional capacities of 40 prosecutors and judges in investigating/adjudicating online child sexual abuse cases in line with the Council of Europe standards. A National Conference on Protecting children in the Republic of Moldova from violence was held on 25 November to present achievements and remaining challenges, with more than 80 participants attending online.
On 4 November 2021, the European Union and Council of Europe joint project Improving the juvenile justice system and strengthening the education and training of penitentiary staff in Slovenia kicked off with a hybrid meeting to present the project and its two different components. The Minister of Justice expressed his full support to the project. The event was followed by a roundtable bringing together relevant stakeholders, who exchanged views on the main shortcomings of the juvenile justice system in Slovenia.
On 9 December 2021, the “CP4Europe – Strengthening National Child Participation Frameworks and Action in Europe” hosted an online webinar on "The theory and practice of involving vulnerable children in decision making". The webinar offered an excellent opportunity to take stock of lessons learned in the area, as well as existing tools and methodologies which have been successful so far in including children who are seldom heard in decision-making processes.
On 10 November 2021, the Council of Europe met with the Andorran authorities to take stock of the progress made in the Youth Action Plan and its Index of contents, and to discuss the activities to be carried out by the Council of Europe experts for the rest of 2021 and 2022. On 19 November, the Andorran Commission for Childhood and Adolescence discussed potential actions to be included in their first National Action Plan on Childhood and Adolescence, which was drafted with the support of Council of Europe experts.
Event to come - Rome conference
Progress has been made towards the organisation of the High-level launching conference for the new Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2022-2027) which shall - subject to the adoption of the Strategy by the Committee of Ministers in early 2022 - take place in Rome on 7-8 April 2022. The event is co-organised with the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers and will address some of the key strategic objectives to receive guidance from international experts for the effective implementation of the Strategy at the European and national levels. See the draft programme for more details.
Child adoption without taking account of the mother’s wishes breached her human rights: Abdi Ibrahim v. Norway
State school, unaware of pupil’s health vulnerability, not responsible for his death due to lack of evidence, following unexpected beating, in teacher’s absence, by classmates with no record of violence: Derenik Mkrtchyan and Gayane Mkrtchyan v. Armenia
Placement in care and mother’s contact rights decided on basis of child’s best interests: no violation of Article 8 of the Convention: G.M. v. France (in French only)
No violation in court hearing on parental responsibility where father was not granted visa to attend: Jallow v. Norway
Justified temporary suspension of parental authority and limitation of contact with vulnerable child, in context of uncooperative parent: No violation of Article 8 ECHR (right to respect for family life): R.M. v. Latvia