Reflections from Sofia
Last week I was in Sofia, Bulgaria. The city has proudly lent its name to the newly launched 6-year strategy of the Council of Europe on the Rights of the Child. The conference attracted some 350 participants, some 17 high-level government representatives, children’s ombudspersons, experts and NGOs.
The highlight of the conference was undoubtedly the involvement of 10 young delegates who reported back from each of the 9 thematic sessions, as well as providing substantive inputs such as on LGBTI rights, access to justice and child participation. Meaningful child participation is possible and I’m proud that Eurochild played a key role in enabling it to happen.
For Eurochild – a network that usually orbits the European Union institutions and inter-governmental meetings – the event gave much needed reason for optimism! The commitment of government representatives to children’s rights was clearly visible. The debates were broad and forward looking. There was a strong, impassioned call for protecting the rights of children in the current migration crisis.
The conference addressed issues of poverty and inequality. The rise of violent extremism was clearly framed in a child rights perspective in particular by reclaiming the word radicalisation: “we are all radicals” said Gianluca Esposito, Head of the Human Dignity and Equality Department, Council of Europe at the closing session!
Our challenge now – as clearly articulated in the previous blog by Regina Jensdottir, Head of the Children’s Rights Division of the Council of Europe – is implementation. How can we ride on the wave of this new strategy to keep its priorities high on the political agenda and support its implementation at national level? Can we as Eurochild network engage more with the Council of Europe instruments to help reinforce our advocacy objectives? We are taking steps in that direction.
In Autumn 2016 the meeting of National Partner Networks, Eurochild’s national coalitions of children’s rights, will take place in Strasbourg, hosted by the Council of Europe. We’ll focus on capacity building as well as exploring the synergies with EU funding & policies.
For now congratulations to the children’s rights team in Council of Europe in creating a strong and growing community dedicated to the realization of children’s rights. We look forward to taking the strategy forward with you.
• See the photos of the children and young rapporteurs here
Jana Hainsworth, Eurochild's Secretary General